When hundreds of brave Serbian fighters decided to confront their Ottoman oppressors in 1814, they probably couldn’t imagine that a nearby unexplored cave would become an eternal home to their families.
Near the town of Cacak, in the west of Serbia, there lies an authentic historical monument, a burnout cave, that was turned into a church in order to immortalize a brave fight of the locals to gain control of their lives, land, and freedom. The peculiar cave church is called “Kadjenica” meaning “The smoked church” and serves as a spiritual reminder of the long history and a sad monument to freedom of Serbian people.
In the early 19th century, the Serbs were under the Ottoman oppression, but proud as they are, they tried to overthrow the tyrant rulers and reestablish a sovereignty of the Serbian state and their full freedom from the Turks. The Kadjenica cave church is a witness to the unfortunate events that took place during one of the uprisings called Hadzi-Prodanova buna in 1814. After the promising start, the uprising was quickly suppressed, but the oppressors wanted to punish the rebels and instill the fear of their rule, making the remaining people more prone to behave afflicted. As it was often the case in the history, they considered the terror as the best way to make people behave and listen.
In one of the villages where the uprising took hold, more than 100 people who were unable to fight, mostly women with children and elderly, chose to hide deep in the cave instead of confronting the enemies, and wait-out for them to pass. Was it the crying of the kids that revealed the hiding spot, or the sharp vengeful Ottoman eyes and ears, but they shortly discovered the hidden group and collected hay and dry branches, blocking the only entrance to the cave and setting the stack on fire.
The unfortunate group suffocated from the smoke, and the Ottoman soldiers waited for hours, preventing the people in the cave from escape. The remains of the victims were left intact for more than 120 years, covered in dust and ashes. In the year 1936, a bishop in charge of the western region of Serbia, Nikolaj Velimirovic, encouraged the locals to visit the cave and bury the remains into two stone sarcophagi and install a modest altar in the middle. Shortly afterwards, before the outbreak of the World War II, the local authorities cleared the path to the cave and set up a 50m tall cross at the very entrance to mark the sacred place and make it recognizable from far away.
Today, the church is easily reachable through an easy hiking trail, on a pleasant walk by the river, across the peculiar old railway bridge and relaxing nature. The cave church Kadjenica is a very peaceful place, a sad monument to freedom of Serbian people, which makes every Serb proud of and every tourist grateful to have discovered such a unique place and important history lesson.
Photo credits to Perisic Boro on bjbikers.com
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