Nestled in the fairy-talish forests of Mt. Kozara, by a small eponymous river, hides an epic shrine - Moštanica Monastery, well-known for its legendary nine-fold resurrection. Its monumental and imposing size makes it one of the largest religious buildings in Bosnia & Herzegovina. Impressed by its rich and harmonious medieval architecture, visitors are usually unanimous that this is one of the most stunning monasteries of the Serbian Orthodox Church in the country. Dating back to the 12th century and being one of only two female monasteries (besides Gomionica Monastery) in northern Bosnia & Herzegovina, Moštanica is also one of the oldest convents, if not the oldest one. Covered with a veil of mystery, this beauty dedicated to the Archangel Michael had a tempestuous past, being burnt down and rebuilt no fewer than nine times. So, history lovers and faith seekers, get ready, this is the story for you.
Moštanica Monastery is hidden on the northern slopes of Mt. Kozara, on the altitude of 202 m above the sea level. This medieval Serbian Orthodox monastery erects some 12 km from the town Kozarska Dubica, near the river Moštanica. According to the folk tales, the river next to the monastery used to have 44 small wooden bridges (“most” being “the bridge” in the local language), so the name of the river and monastery itself come from there. Even today, you can see one of those bridges. There is no certainty on the founding date of the monastery, but one of the dominating theories claims that it was established in the 12th century. A key with the engraved year of 1111 was found in its territory, so very likely that is the year when the shrine was built. The legend has it that Moštanica Monastery is the endowment of Nemanjići, Serbian royal dynasty. One of the legends also says that the monastery was built on the site of the death of St. Theodore Tyron. Either way, the convent was first time mentioned in 1579 in the book “Otočnik”, published by this monastery at the time when an important scriptorium existed there.
Monumental in its size, Moštanica Monastery is 23 m long, 10 m wide and goes up to 13 m in height. It was constructed with a neatly cut white stone, that originates in the village Vojskovi on the slopes of Mt. Kozara. Even its walls, one-meter wide and six-meter high, are quite massive and impressive. Its church is cross-shaped with a single dome resting on freestanding columns. The treasury of this convent includes the piece of wax that sealed the tomb of Christ, a stone from his tomb, as well as a part of relics of St. Basil of Ostrog. Being one of the most significant religious sanctuaries of Bosnia & Herzegovina, Moštanica Monastery was designated and protected as a rare medieval ecclesial monument.
Situated less than 15 km from today’s border with Croatia, through history this spiritual and religious center of Kozara was on the frontline between the two empires – the Ottomans and Austro-Hungarians. Consequently, the convent has a turbulent past full of hardships. During its long history, it was burnt down and looted nine times, but also rebuilt and restored to continue its spiritual role. Only recently, a small chapel with a bell-tower together with some accompanying buildings was built. Every year on August 19th, the day of the Transfiguration of the Lord, there is a celebration organized in Moštanica Monastery, accompanied by a competition in traditional singing. So, if you happen to visit this nine-fold resurrected convent in Mt. Kozara at that time, don’t miss the event of the year - “Ojkača evenings”. And when you are already in the region, if you fancy some outdoor activities, pin Kozara National Park on your bucket list, as this nature reserve is only 25 km away from the monastery. To finish your day in a relaxing way, check the most famous spa of this region - Banja Mlječanica.
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