Ostrog Monastery Montenegro

Ostrog Monastery a true miracle and a sacred pilgrimage

Ostrog Monastery is a true miracle, made by joint efforts of nature and mankind. It is a monastery carved into an almost vertical cliff of mountain called Ostroska Greda at the height of 900 meters above sea level.

Carved into a sheer vertical cliff, the piercing white Ostrog Monastery is a sacred pilgrimage for Orthodox Christians and entire gamut of religions. The incredulous feat of architecture is surrounded by bountiful scenery of the rolling Zeta valley.

Founded in the 1600s, by the Bishop of Herzegovina Vasilije, whose remains are enshrined in the upper cave church, the monastery’s inside walls are covered in antique painted frescoes. The ancient upper monastery houses two spectacular churches and is widely considered a miracle, as nobody knows how it came to be.

History

The Monastery was founded by Vasilije, the Metropolitan Bishop of Herzegovina in the 17th century. He died there in 1671 and some years later he was glorified. His body is enshrined in a reliquary kept in the cave-church dedicated to the Presentation of the Mother of God to the Temple.

The present-day look was given to the Monastery in 1923-1926, after a fire which had destroyed the major part of the complex. Fortunately, the two little cave-churches were spared and they are the key areas of the monument. The frescoes in the Church of the Presentation were created towards the end of the 17th century. The other church, dedicated to the Holy Cross, is placed within a cave on the upper level of the monastery and was painted by master Radul, who successfully coped with the natural shapes of the cave and laid the frescoes immediately on the surface of the rock and the south wall. Around the church are the monastic residences, which together with the church building and the scenery make this monument outstandingly beautiful.

The Monastery

The Lower Monastery (Donji manastir) is 2 km below the main shrine. Stop here to admire the vivid frescoes in the Holy Trinity Church (Crkva Sv Trojice built 1824). Behind it is a natural spring where you can fill your bottles with deliciously cold, sweet water (and potentially benefit from an internal blessing as you sup it).

From here the faithful, some of them barefoot, plod up the steep road to the top. Halfway up, the beautiful stone walls of the little domed Church of St Stanko the Martyr (Crkva Sv Mučenika Stanka) gleam golden in the sunset. Non-pilgrims and the pure of heart may drive directly to the main car park and limit their penitence to just the final 200m.

The Upper Monastery (Gornji manastir, the really impressive one) is dubbed ‘Sv Vasilije’s miracle’, because no one seems to understand how it was built. Constructed in 1665 within two large caves, it gives the impression that it has grown out of the very rock. Sv Vasilije (St Basil) a bishop from Hercegovina, brought his monks here after the Ottomans destroyed Tvrdoš Monastery near Trebinje.

Pilgrims queue to enter the atmospheric shrine where the saint’s fabric-wrapped bones are kept. To enter you’ll need to be wearing a long skirt or trousers (jeans are fine) and cover your shoulders. Most women also cover their heads with a scarf. It’s customary to back out of the doorways and you’ll witness much kissing of lintels and making of signs of the cross from the devout. At the very top of the monastery is another cave-like chapel with faded frescoes dating from 1667.

Getting there

There’s no direct public transport, but numerous tour buses (€20-€30 for a day trip) head here from all of the tourist hotspots. There’s an Ostrog train station (seven daily from Podgorica, 45 minutes, €1.80) way down at the bottom of the hill, it’s about an hour’s hike from there to the Lower Monastery.

Arriving via plane at the Podgorica airport, the distance from the airport to town is 10 kilometers and from there the drive to Ostrog is about 50 minutes. Arriving via plane at the Tivat airport, the old road from the nearby town of Risan goes directly to Niksić which is shorter then traveling thru the towns of Budva, Cetinje or Podgorica.

Driving from Belgrade (Serbia) would go thru Podgorica , and driving from Sarajevo(Bosnia) or Dubrovnik (Croatia) would go thru Niksić. Good road conditions and links to major cities are another reason that visits to the monastery increase rapidly year after year.

If you’re driving, it’s recommend that you take the excellent road from Danilovgrad to the monastery. The old road leaves the main Podgorica–Nikšić highway 19km past Danilovgrad. It’s extremely narrow, twisting and steep and in a very poor state of repair, in short, it’s terrifying.

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