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Saint Jovan Bigorski Monastery

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Meeting the angels

You can find this monastery in the western part of Macedonia, on the river of Radika. It’s near to Mavrovo and in one of the naturally most beautiful parts of the Balkans.

The name of the monastery comes from the fact that the building was built of limestone. (Limestone is “Bigor” in Macedonian) The Bigorski monastery consists of the monastery church dedicated to John the Baptist, the ossuary which is located next to the church itself, the Seimen defensive tower, the complex of monastery lodgings, and the newly built guest dorms.

If you see a monastery on the map, that’s usually an indicator of amazing and outstanding natural surroundings. The monasteries mostly are built as priority objects and the best places are given to the monastery properties. One explanation is because of the faith- one way to show dedication to God is to dedicate the most beautiful spots on earth to Him. Another explanation is that most of these places are not so reachable, and at the same time not so practical for civil architecture.

The legend and one of the miracles of this place, is that the monk John found a painting of a saint in the woods where the monastery is now, and decided to build church incorporating the picture in it. The picture showed along with a mystique light and it is counted as the first miracle of this monastery.

People come here to find more than peace. Also, they come to find a cure for certain illnesses, hence you can see on the main saint picture a lot of gifts from people that got better. You can see a leg shaped golden jewelry if one got cured for his leg, or baby shaped if the couple is fertile and so on…

The monks here are willing to say that they are often accompanied by angels, so if you are lucky enough you might see them too. Miracles do happen!

If you are not so spiritual and open to surreal experiences, you will still benefit from visiting this place. Again, first because of the beautiful surroundings, and also because of the wooden carved masterpiece that is serving as an iconostasis in the church. This sculptural jewel is made by the group of Petre Filipovski Garkata somewhere between 1829 and 1835.

You can get here by bus or if you find Macedonian friends several days before, they will be willing to take you by the car, that’s the way Macedonians are. If by the bus, take off at the gas station on the way from Gostivar to Debar. After you have a 1 km walk and you are there. Enjoy!

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The author

Zlata Golaboska

Zlata Golaboska

I am Zlata and I am an architect living in the Balkans. I am passionate about cities, how people influence architecture and vice versa, and how places change our lives.

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