Two millennia ago, the southernmost region of today’s Bosnia & Herzegovina had a significant historical role, as this area was on the road that first Christians used to travel to Rome. During the age of early Christianity, it is said that St. Paul and his apprentice St. Titus, on their way to Rome, stopped here to preach and christen the local people. In this rugged region of Herzegovina, close to the city of Trebinje, nowadays we have two legacies of that time – the Monastery of St. Peter & St. Paul , as well as St. Paul’s cave. So, if you are a pilgrim or just feel like immersing into the Christian history, following the footsteps of St. Paul in Trebinje is a must when you come to visit this region.
Located in the valley of Petrovo Polje, only 5 km southeast of Trebinje, the Monastery of St. Peter & St. Paul is one of the oldest, if not the oldest one, in the country. Dating back to the ancient times, the monastery complex consists of two churches close to each other. The larger one is the church of St. Peter, with the remains of the basilica from the 4th century. Entirely restored in 1906, this temple is very modest and typical for this Mediterranean region. The smaller church, dedicated to St. Paul, dates back to the 5th century. It was in ruins for centuries, before it got reconstructed in 2007, keeping the previous church and baptistery within. This monastery is also the southernmost shrine of Bosnia & Herzegovina.
Two kilometres from the Monastery of St. Peter & St. Paul, on the hill above, one can find another historical location – St. Paul’s Cave. According to the legend, on his way to Rome in 57 BC, St. Paul, also known as the Apostle, passed by the nearby valley and stayed for some time in this cave. While there, he was preaching and baptizing the locals in this cave, that was named after him later on. St. Paul’s Cave is pretty rich with stalactites and stalagmites. The original interior with a stone altar and the icon of St. Paul is still there. Every year on St. Peter & St. Paul’s day, many believers come for a pilgrimage to this place. Inside the cave, there is a small lake, whose water seems to be healing. The legend has it that this water helps women who can’t have children. Also, a folk tradition says that the girls, who desire to get married, need to wash their face with this miraculous water.
The monastery complex and its ruins from the early Christianity, together with the necropolis of stećak tombstones in Čičevo, are protected by the state of Bosnia & Herzegovina, as a national monument. Whether a pilgrim or a history lover, following the footsteps of St. Paul in Trebinje is an extraordinary archaeological experience. And if you are into spiritual centres, don’t miss the chance to visit other Orthodox monasteries around Trebinje, such as the most beautiful temple in Herzegovina – Gračanica, as well as Tvrdoš Monastery, famous for its gold-winning wines. However, if you prefer ancient bastions instead, don’t worry, you will be spoiled for a choice when it comes to the Old Town ramparts and other fortifications outside the city of Trebinje.
Photo credits: Tourism organization of Trebinje
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