After a couple of adrenaline-raising discoveries around Trebinje, where you have tried some hiking, cycling or caving options, you will probably try to refresh yourself by plunging into Trebinje rivers, lakes and waterfalls. When your body is satisfied, it is the time to please your soul as well. During your stay in this beautiful place, you should discover at least some of the nearby Orthodox monasteries, but also the Orthodox shrines in the hinterlands of the city are worth every visit. In brief, the best way to find the inner peace, and to understand why this region is called the Holy Land of Herzegovina, is to embark on Trebinje for faith seekers tour.
In a pretty much scenic setting of the karstic elevation along the right bank of the Trebišnjica River, only six kilometers from Trebinje sits Tvrdoš Monastery surrounded by bountiful vines and orchards. Existing in continuity since the Late Antiquity, this monastery testifies that the Christianity has a long-lasting tradition in this part of the Balkans. Dedicated to the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos, the Tvrdoš monastery was founded by the Roman Emperor St. Constantin and his mother St. Helen in the 4th century. We can see the foundations of the old Roman church, a three-nave basilica, since a part of the floor of the current church is made of glass. Being destroyed and abandoned afterwards, it became the endowment of the Serbian King Milutin in the 13th century. During its long history, this sanctuary was demolished and rebuilt many times.
The original church from the 16th century was painted in frescoes by a Dubrovnik-master Vice Lovrov and a monk Marko Stefanov. Five centuries later, some fragments of those frescoes we can still find on the walls of the church in Tvrdoš monastery. Another particularity of this cradle of Orthodoxy in Herzegovina is its role of a leading spiritual centre and the most significant scriptorium of the south Slav’s territories at the beginning of the 18th century. Also, you should know that this monastery is renowned for Tvrdoš award-winning wines, a result of centuries-old wine-making tradition.
Amidst lavish Trebinje woods and bountiful vines of Popovo Polje, on the left bank of the Trebišnjica River, snuggles an oasis of peace and contemplation - Duži Monastery. Dating back to the late 17th century, this shrine is dedicated to the Shroud of the Holy Virgin Mary, and it belongs to the group of younger monasteries in Herzegovina. Situated 10 km southwest of Trebinje, the church of Duži Monastery is a good example of typical Herzegovinian church that fits perfectly into the Mediterranean ambient, combined with the Byzantine style. Once an estate and a refuge of Tvrdoš Monastery, as well as an epicentre of the Herzegovina Uprisings, this sanctuary used to play a significant role in the history of the larger area. When the Venetians destroyed Tvrdoš in 1964, together with many monks, the metropolitan seat moved to Duži Monastery, where it stayed until 1776, when it was relocated to Mostar.
The Tvrdoš brotherhood enlarged and reconstructed a good part of Duži Monastery. Important relics were also brought to Duži at that time. Destroyed and abandoned many times, the monastery resurrected in the 1950s, when it became a nunnery. In spite of countless devastations and robberies, the biggest treasure of Duži - a fragment of the Holy Cross, is still well-preserved here. After the reconstructions of Duži Monastery, the last decades this temple of serenity since 1695 were far more peaceful, which resulted in their focusing on beekeeping as well as wine-making like the brotherhood in the Tvrdoš Winery.
When you come to see the city of Trebinje, 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 by all means the most impressive place to worship, and therefore strongly recommended for your bucket list. 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.
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. Lots of visitors are also attracted by its great location that gives the most splendid view of the city, the Trebišnjica River and its Arslanagića Bridge.
In the rugged region of Trebinje, where St. Paul and his apprentice St. Titus were preaching on their way to Rome two millennia ago, nowadays we have two legacies of that time – the Monastery of St. Peter & St. Paul, as well as 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 the oldest 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, that was entirely restored in 1906. The smaller church, dedicated to St. Paul, dates back to the 5th century and it was reconstructed in 2007.
Two kilometres from the Monastery of St. Peter & St. Paul, on the hill above, one can find another historical location – Paul’s Cave. According to the legend, on his way to Rome in the year 57, 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 baptising the locals in this cave, that was named after him later on. The original interior with a stone altar and the icon of St. Paul is still there. Every year on St. Peter’s day, many believers come for a pilgrimage to this place.
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. No wonder that even nowadays it preserves that many sanctuaries. Trebinje for faith seekers and its nearby Orthodox monasteries will offer you an otherworldly journey for your soul, that can be perfectly complemented with a tour of Orthodox shrines in the hinterlands of the city.
Pictures © Credits to Tourism organisation of Trebinje
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