Red Royal Monastary of Zica

Zica Travel Blog

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Igor and I met at the bus station at 8:15 to catch the 8:30 bus to Kraljevo, in the southern part of Central Serbia. The sky was overcast and it was a touch cool. In regular fasthion, I had to run to catch the bus as it was leaving without me. I had taken a quick bathroom break .....and accidentally chose the women's???

Anyway, we made it and were off.The bus was almost empty...just a few people. The journey took us through farmland, mountains, and valleys in between. This time of year, the landscape really isn't much to look at. The villages that we passed through looked terribly poverty stricken. Given this, people in Serbia are so friendly, helpful, and happy.

The bus driver kept the heat on and I thought I would be sick.

The heat was giving me a terrible headahe and it was miserable. Soon we stopped for a break in Gornji Milanovac . There was a sad little puppy who looked up but wouldn't even make a move for some attention.

Soon we were on our way again. We arrived 3 1/2 long hours after our departure. Kraljevo is a sad town. It's not picturesque. It's a working town with working town problems.

We found the local bus section were very lucky that the bus that would stop near Zica was leaving in just a few minutes. This bus had the hardest seats that I have ever sat on. It was basically a piece of wood and some vinyl flooring material. This wasn't my first time experiencing cheap communist transport, this was really bad. Only the Albanian transport was worse.

In only 10 minutes we were there.

We got out but couldn't see the monastery. Walking around the corner and across a bridge across a river, there it was, the red monastery.

Zica is an important monastery for the history of Serbian people and their Church. Saint Sava, as the first archbishop of the Orthodox Serbian Church, made this monastery the center of the church, which gained independence in 1219. Saint Sava also crowned his brother Stefan I and ordained the first bishops there. Stefan I’s heirs, his sons, Radoslav and Vladislav were crowned and the first archbishop Arsenije, Saint Sava’s successor as the Head of the Church, was ordained in the monastery.

In the late 13th century the monastery was badly damaged and was renovated by King Milutin in the early 14th century. During the reign of Turks, Zica was devastated and renovated many times.

Today’s appearance is a result of major restauration operations between 1925 and 1935 and in the late 1980s. By its architectural features, Zica is a Rashka style monastery. The facades are painted red, imitating the architecture of the Holy Mountain.

Three chronological and stylistic groups can be seen in the frescoes, although the frescoes themselves are badly damaged. The frescoes painted by Constantinople painters after the Zica Monastery is the memorial of the first Serbian king, Stefan I. The construction of the main church of the monastery, the Church of Christ’s Resurrection, started in 1206 and was finished before 1217, when Stefan received his royal crown from Rome.

Church had gained independence, belong to the first group. The second group includes poorly preserved frescoes in the tower chapel, painted in the early 1240s. The most important group consists of the frescoes painted between 1309 and 1316, which are mostly in the main part of the church.

These frescoes can be grouped into 4 categories: Great Holidays, Scenes from Christ’s Life, Standing Portraits of Saints and Busts of Saints. The authors of the frescoes are the painters from the famous King Milutin’s workshop. Their frescoes can be seen in Stari Nagorican Monastery, Bogorodica Ljeviska Monastery and in King’s Church in Studenica Monastery.

The colors and textures are amazing. We entered the gate where the whole corridor is covered with frescos. This opens to a courtyard with the red, Church of Christ's Resurection, dominating the center. We walked around separately, exploring the different areas of the complex then met back up to enter the church. There was no photography allowed inside. Igor explained each of the frescoes as many of them were from different monasteries around Serbia. Most of the church is quite dim but, in the dome area, it is light and bright.

After the exploration inside we walked the courtyard some more and stopped at the outer wall and had a nice talk.

We enjoyed a bit of sun through the overcast sky. It was like a few rays were shining on Zica, for us. What a place for contemplation and inspiration.

At their shop, I bought some locally made items; several wooden cross pendants, a leather bracelet, a monument, and a brochure telling of it's history. Igor bought a cross, as well.

Upon leaving, we walked back to the main road and started towards town. We quickly decided to wait for the regional bus and went to the stop and sat down. A few minutes later, a car pulled up and yelled something. Not even knowing what was said, I shook my head "NO!" The driver got out and spoke agian. Igor said something to him.....and he said "come on". I asked if it was ok.....he said, yes. So....I got in to these stranger's car. The passenger had crutches with him. It made me feel a bit better...don't know why. A minute later, we stopped and they repeated the process and picked up a woman who was now upclose and person on my right, Igor on my left.

We were in town in only a few more minutes.....but, this was definitely a first for me. I've been to many countries where I was witness to this type of "ride share" but, have never participated, until now. It was fine and they were nice and friendly....speaking no English.

The let us out in town and we started our walk to the bus station, stopping briefly for an ATM and to gawk at some sad looking fish for sale. They looked ....unsafe for human consumption. I've never seen fish packed in so tighty. They couldn't move...and some were sheading their scales......gross.

We were able to make a bus that was just 15 minutes or so after reaching the bus station. The 3 1/2 hour trek began, again. The bus was packed, iunlike earlier. The heat wasn't on but with a packed bus....the body heat was stifelling. Now and then he would turn on the a/c for 10 minutes at a time.

..then the heat would become utterly unbearable......I felt sick, Igor felt bad as well and even had a red face.

Belgrade couldn't come fast enough. Exiting the bus, the cool air felt great. Igor walked me to near Hotel Moskov. We parted here and I made my way back throught the city all lit up and buzzing.

I had a bit of dinner (veggies and fruit) and worked on my blog. I met a couple of American guys that are traveling around Europe....just come from Hungary and on their way to Bulgaria.

Even though the bus ride had been long and miserable, Zica was worth the effort.

What an amazing place.

I hoped for sun for Monday.

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photo by: delsol67