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In the country of a turbulent history and a region that witnessed many atrocious events, the hardest mission remains to preserve its holy places. One of three most important spiritual centers around the city of Mostar, a symbol of resurrection, is the Žitomislić Monastery, a valuable Orthodox shrine from the 16th century. Located 15 km south of Mostar, on the road to Čapljina, just before an endangered town of Počitelj, this monastery is one of the most important and most beautiful Orthodox centers in the country. Even more, the Žitomislić Monastery is an eternal Orthodox heritage that resisted all the menaces throughout its history. Consequently, together with a late-antique basilica and stećci necropolis, this monastery is considered a National Monument of Culture in Bosnia & Herzegovina.
Nestled at the foothills and surrounded by countless vineyards in the Neretva River valley, the Žitomislić Monastery is an oasis of peace and contemplation. The central part of this complex belongs to the church, a single-nave construction made of stones, strangely without a dome but with a belfry above the entrance. Dedicated to the Annunciation of the Holy Virgin, the monastery was built in 1606, after more than 40 years of tremendous work, as a legacy of the Miloradović-Hrabren family. In 1566, a representative of the Ottoman Empire’s, the kadija from Nevesinje appointed this noble family to construct the monastery, on the ruins of another church. The graveyard of the Miloradović-Hrabren family is a famous Radimlja necropolis, close to the town of Stolac, also enlisted as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
During its more than 400 years of existence, this monastery has been five times destroyed – three times by the Turks and twice in the 20th century. In 1942 at the outset of the World War II, this shrine became a site of the martyrdom, where all the monks were brutally killed and the complex demolished. 25 years later, the monastery was reconstructed in 1967, and the relics of martyrs were put in the monastic graveyard, after being consecrated. The final destruction of this monastery took place in 1992, during the Bosnian war, when everything was burnt, and the sisterhood together with Abbess Evpraksija and Abbot Jovan escaped. The result of the latest reconstruction from 2002-2005 is almost an original appearance of the monastery, thanks to the stones used from the previous church. Additionally, a monastic yard and dormitories were built.
The monastery of Žitomislić boosts in cultural heritage and religious art. During the Ottoman’s occupation, it was one of the most important religious and cultural centers of Herzegovina, that maintained their relations with many monasteries in Serbia, Mt. Athos and the Holy Land. A sort of a gallery of the religious art with golden and silver ornaments, the church had a rich iconostasis, wood-carved royal doors and even one portrait of the founder from 1609. In the 16th and 17th century, the monastery was home to a prominent scriptorium and a rich library with countless manuscripts, copied books and documents, that survived until the World War II. The reason why this religious center was of a great significance for the Serbian culture is the first Seminary of Bosnia & Herzegovina, that was created in 1848.
Whether you take the road from Mostar to the seaside or one of the tours over the hinterlands of the Bosnian Adriatic coast, you will undoubtedly come across the charming Žitomislić Monastery, that preserves an eternal Orthodox heritage. Whenever you come, be sure that you will be cheerfully welcomed by one of the monks, who will be pleased to show you a piece of the beauty hidden behind this monastic treasure.
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