The history of the Zica Monastery in Serbia is basically the history of the Serbian Orthodox Church in short. The impressive monastery is a national symbol and a place that is often talked about but leaves its visitors speechless. The Zica Monastery was a place of coronation of seven Serbian kings, and one of the oldest witnesses of the medieval Serbian kingdom, the glory and pride of its people. This true Orthodox sanctuary remains an 800 years old symbol of inspiration and faith for the Serbian people, an important stop on the Orthodox pilgrimage map and a great spot for tourists to learn about Serbian tradition and history.
The importance that the imposing monastery would have for the Serbian people was already determined even before it was built. The founders were two brothers, Stefan the First-Crowned and the first Head of the Serbian Church, Saint Sava. They wanted to create a sacred place to serve as a spiritual center of the Serbian country at that time and a holy place for the future coronations.
The monastery was built between the years of 1206 and 1220, and it became a religious center of the very religious Serbian people of that time. The founder Stefan or the "ktitor", as the founders of Orthodox monasteries and churches are called, was the first King of Serbia, appointed by the Pope, and internationally recognized. During its 8-century-long history, the Zica Monastery was a grand venue for the coronation of the total of seven Serbian kings.
The legend says that the secret gate was open for each king, so they can enter the monastery whenever they want, and supposedly the gates were closed and built up when the rule of a particular king was over. The leftovers of the legend can be found in the common name of the monastery “The monastery of the seven gates”.
As an important relict of Serbian tradition and a place of inspiration and faith for people in trouble, or people seeking peace, the Zica monastery was often a target of banditry and atrocities of the state enemies. In the second half of the 14th century, with the oppression from the Ottomans, the monastery Zica was embraced only secretly, and with years and the time passing, it almost seized to exist and serve its primary function as a religious center. People might have changed their behavior and kept silent about their beliefs and hopes under the Ottoman rule, but when it was the time to proclaim the Kingdom of Serbia again and enjoy the full independence, five centuries later in 1882, King Milan Obrenovic chose the Zica Monastery as a coronation place.
Unfortunately, the struggles of the red-colored monastery didn’t end here. Once again, when the Germans occupied Serbia in 1941, the monastery was set on fire, only to be restored nearly a decade later. The monastery went through another suffering in 1987, went it was almost destroyed in the earthquake that rarely hit Serbia. The interior of the monastery is mostly original, with some frescoes being the heritage of some of the best painters of the time - who came all the way from Constantinople. The monastery is continuously painted in red since the 13th century, and many art historians and critics speculate it’s to symbolize the struggles and the hardships of the past.
The Monastery Zica is located in central Serbia, close to the historic town of Kraljevo and many interesting touristic amenities in the area. You can enjoy the scenic walk through the medieval lilac valley in the Ibar River gorge and get inspired by its story, or visit the ruins of Maglic fortress and get a glimpse of the turbulent past, but also beautiful natural scenery from the hill.
While the Zica monastery has a particular value for the Serbian people, it’s a place that evokes respect and peace in everyone. When you find yourself in the 800 years old place of inspiration and faith, you discover a total peace, a sensation that tells the story of its own.
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