When you come to Trebinje, the southernmost city of Bosnia & Herzegovina, you will be spoiled for a choice when it comes to historical and cultural sights. Wherever you happen to be in this Mediterranean gem, you will for sure notice a church that proudly stands on the top of Crkvina Hill, above the city. This magnificent edifice is a Serbian Orthodox monastery called Gračanica - the most beautiful temple in Herzegovina. Being an eternal home to Jovan Dučić, the most significant Serbian poet, writer and diplomat, it is also, by all means, the most impressive place to worship, and therefore strongly recommended for your bucket list.
Dedicated to Holy Mother of God, Gračanica of Herzegovina is located on the top of Crkvina Hill, on the eastern side of Trebinje. This historical hill, situated 2,6 km from the city centre, has been a pilgrimage site through centuries. Before Gračanica, this was a location of another temple, namely the Church of St. Michel, once a medieval endowment of Serbian King Milutin. As the history repeats, today’s Gračanica keeps attracting many pilgrims, being the most visited shrine in the eastern part of the country.
Besides the church, the complex includes a bell tower, bishop’s palace, a gallery of icons, museum, bookshop, fountain and a summer restaurant. Probably second most visited part of this complex, after the Church, is a nearby amphitheatre, that hosts a range of cultural and musical events. On the top of this, many visitors are attracted by its great location that gives the most splendid view of the city, the Trebišnjica River and its Arslanagića Bridge.
The Gračanica of Herzegovina has one extraordinary peculiarity. It is almost a replica of Gračanica from Kosovo and Metohija, a 14th-century church and an endowment of Serbian medieval King Milutin. Therefore, the shrine from Trebinje, erected in 2000, got the same name. But this Gračanica is not identical to the original one. Besides having one level less, the interior of the younger church differs from the original. Built in Byzantine style, the five-domed church has 16 pillars, out of which 15 are all square-shaped, while one is round-shaped with a cornerstone from the original Gračanica, symbolically bringing the old home’s spirit to the new church. The stone used for the base comes from Popovo Polje, while the iconostasis, made at the Tvrdoš Monastery, is a replica of the one from Hilandar, the most important Serbian Orthodox Monastery, located on Month Athos in Greece.
Jovan Dučić, who was born in Trebinje but died in the USA, is probably the biggest Serbian poet ever. As per the last wish expressed in his testament, Dučić wanted to be buried on one of the hills of Trebinje and in a church that looks like Gračanica Monastery from Kosovo and Metohija. So, the new temple and an eternal home to Jovan Dučić was built on Crkvina Hill to honour poet’s last wish. In 2000, by his desire and 47 years after the poet’s death, his remains were brought from the USA and buried in the crypt of the newly built church.
So, when you are in Trebinje, you can’t miss the most beautiful temple in Herzegovina – Gračanica Monastery. If you are into religious sites, another insider’s tip would be to visit the cradle of Orthodoxy, only 10 km away – Tvrdoš Monastery and taste its gold-winning wines made by monks.
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