At the foot of the legendary Zmijanje plateau, hidden in a picturesque setting, stands still Gomionica Monastery. Its isolated location and modest appearance are perfectly matched with its ascetic monastic life. Some 40 km to the west of Banja Luka, the chant of prayers and the ringing church bells are the only sounds that interrupt the silence of serene nature. Amidst lavish woods and bountiful pastures, this spiritual center offers shelter to all those who are searching for peace, away from the bustle of life. Dating back to the 15th century, Gomionica is Serbian Orthodox monastery dedicated to the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary. This present-day nunnery preserves many medieval reliefs and icons, as well as other valuable historical artworks. Let’s see what this Serbian shrine hidden in Zmijanje offers to all history lovers and faith seekers.
Gomionica Monastery is situated in the village Kmećani, near Bronzani Majdan, by the eponymous river. Surrounded by lush forest and vivid pastures, this convent is an ideal spiritual escape. Not only is the place off the beaten path but also arriving there is an adventure in itself. The convent can be reached by following the road that goes from Banja Luka to Bronzani Majdan, but at some point, it detaches for an extra 12 kilometres of a macadam route towards the village Kmećani. During this ride, you might even think that you got lost when seeing only scattered houses, but eventually a secluded convent will appear in front of you in its full beauty. Being one of only two female Serbian Orthodox monasteries (besides Moštanica Monastery) in northern Bosnia & Herzegovina, Gomionica convent is a beautiful example of medieval ecclesiastical architecture, but also a pilgrim site for believers. The convent belongs to the Banja Luka Eparchy, founded in 1900, which covers the north-western part of Bosnia & Herzegovina.
There is no certainty when Gomionica Monastery was built and by whom, but it is very likely that there was a church on this site even in the late antique (a Roman coin was found in the archaeological excavations here). The shape and appearance of its church remind of those in Rmanj Monastery and Krupa na Vrbasu Monastery, and supposedly they could have been all built in the 14th century.One of the folk tales says that this monastery is an endowment of Grand Prince Stefan Nemanja and St. Sava, the founders of Serbian Empire in the 12th century. However, the complex was first mentioned in the 15th century, in the Ottoman sources as Zalužje Monastery. What we know for sure it that the monastery was in existence before 1536, and that the monastic community was well developed in the 17th century, when Gomionica was a true spiritual and cultural center of the region, with many artworks preserved to this day. Also, during the Great Turkish War, the sanctuary was abandoned. In the 19th century, a monastery school was established, where a famous writer, poet and politician - Petar Kočić got his first education. Sadly, the monastery was bombed and heavily damaged during World War II, after which it was converted into a nunnery.
During the centuries of occupation, Gomionica Monastery was burnt, pillaged and desecrated, but it always resurrected continuing its spiritual mission. In 1953, Gomionica Monastery was proclaimed a cultural monument of Yugoslavia, and in 2006, it became the National Monument of Bosnia & Herzegovina. Following these nominations, many restorations took place at this site – from the 1970s to the 1990s. The national monument of this monastic ensemble consists of a church, an old konak building, an old fountain, an old wall, a cemetery, and many artworks. Its movable treasure contains a number of icons from the 16th to 19th century, as well as a valuable collection of manuscripts and old printed books (Serbian and Russian) from the 14th to the 17th century. So, if you are a history lover or a faith seeker, you should not miss the authentic treasury of this Serbian shrine hidden in Zmijanje.
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