A Shrine Dressed in a Park
”Humans dream, God determines.” The people of Rađevina have known this well, ever since the old times, so they founded their first church in the place where angels took their icon lamp during the night. Nowadays, there is an extraordinary park around this old church, with two underground chapels, several museums, a gathering point with an open-air stage, hundreds of years old linden trees, fountains of Vlajko and Damjan, the eldest and the youngest of the nine Jugović brothers. Those who come here with a wide-awake heart, find grace and tranquility. There is everything except one thing: prices and pricelists

Text and photo: Nenad Marković

Early in the morning, when the construction of the church was supposed to commence, the people of the little town of Krupanj found nothing of what they prepared the previous day for beginning the works. Everything was destroyed in the designated place and the icon lamp was nowhere to be found.  They began searching and, after half an hour of walking, found the icon lamp with a swaying flame, in Dobri Potok. The church altar is in that exact place now, and the people have believed, ever since the old times, that angels moved the icon lamp to the place where God determined the temple to be erected. Thus the people of Krupanj built their first Orthodox Christian church.
The Church of the Holy Assumption of Mother of God was first mentioned in Turkish chronicles in 1528, so it is considered to be five centuries old. Legends, however, state that it is much older. There is an inscription in the Matica Srpska archive from the late XIX century, stating that the church was built at the time of constructing the Monastery of Tronoša near Loznica, around 1280. However, its location, at the very end of the village, hidden in the hills and creek, makes it more possible that it was built at the time of Turkish dominion over Serbia. Up to then, Krupanj only had one Catholic church of Saint Peter, built at the time when the merchants of Dubrovnik passed these roads, and one Turkish temple. There was no Orthodox church, or at least there is no data about it. The fact that it was sheltered in the hills, however, did not save this Orthodox temple from evildoers. It was burned several times by the Turks, but each time the people of Krupanj restored it. The Austro-Hungarians took its bells in1914, and in 1941 it was bombarded, but the bombs missed it and caused no damage.


So the temple lived its life, sometimes good, sometimes bad. Times changed, authorities changed with them, some with good intentions, some malicious. Two decades ago, priest Aleksandar Đurđev (51) came to Dobri Potok and began restoring the church and its yard, realizing his vision with dedication. Today, there is a unique park around the old church, with two underground chapels, several museums, a gathering point with a stage and numerous trees, including a group of linden trees more than a hundred years old, proclaimed a botanic monument of nature by the Institute for Nature Conservation of Serbia. The park also has a fountain with two pipes, dedicated to the eldest and the youngest of the nine Jugović brothers, Vlajko and Damjan. The Church Home with a rich library, with free membership for everyone, is in the center of Krupanj.
– This park, the epicenter of culture and spirituality, is unique in Serbia. Uniqueness is very important. If we would pay attention to it in the entire country, we would become a true tourist center, but there is a lot of work to do. I came to Krupanj as a child from, where my family emigrated, and stayed here, although my almost entire family is in France, except my aunt, who took care of me then and whom I take care of now. I could go to work in churches in Belgrade or abroad, but I asked the bishop to stay here until the end of my life. I have been exploring this area for years, I am committed to Jadar and Rađevina, the last areas that joined the Principality of Serbia, and wrote 12 books about them. I believe that all priests worked here as much as they could, but my vision was specific and I am grateful to the Lord for enabling me to do everything I have imagined here. People were surprised when I came here and told them what I want to do, but when there is a will, there is God – tells priest Đurđev.
The soul fills with peace and grace already from the entrance of the churchyard with two memorial plates: one honoring the memory of Prince Miloš Obrenović, who incorporated Rađevina to the Principality of Serbia in 1834, and the second with a short history of the church. The eye is first caught by the Church of the Holy Assumption of Mother of God. Its architecture resembles log-churches, but it is built of cut rubble, while the high roof is covered with wood shingles and has two crosses. The wooden parvis made of oak tree and Rađevina ornaments woodcut stands out on the white church. A XIX century-style steeple was raised next to the church, with a rich treasury, and its first walled space was dedicated to the Monastery of Chilandar.
The church quarters includes a large painting gallery and the Museum of Krupanj and Rađevina Interior in the XIX and XX century, endowment of priest Đurđev. Besides, the parvis also includes museums of apiculture, children of St. Sava, hunting, old crafts, museum of pedagogy, a complete old household from the late XIX century, a gathering point with a stage. Especially interesting are two underground chapels, the lower one dedicated to the saint of miners, Holy Great Martyr Procopius and the upper dedicated to Saint Paraskeva of the Balkans. Immediately next to the parvis, on the slopes of a small hill, stands a large, five centuries old cemetery, believed to be the oldest in Serbia. In the hill next to the road, passing under the Dobri Potok park, there is a fresco of Holy Mother of God on a rock under the eaves. Just looking at it calms down the restlessness of the soul.


The underground chapels leave a specific impression on visitors. As soon as one steps into the rock, dim lights turn on in the depth, shining on the frescoes of Christ, Mother of God and saints, while the swaying flame of candles plays with shadows on stone walls. Both chapels were made in former mine shafts opened by the state in the late XIX century, later abandoned and destroyed. People say that, while working in one of the underground hallways of the present Chapel of St. Procopius, the miners arrived exactly under the church and their mines failed. The miners heard church singing in the darkness and saw visions of unknown people in mantles. The workers asked their superiors not to force them to continue that way and placed a large wooden cross. The shaft where the Chapel of St. Petka Paraskeva used to be tumbled in time, so a chapel with a wooden cross was built above that place. Inside it is a fresco of the saint holding an iron cross with water constantly flowing from it, glittering across the lit candles.
The church of Dobri Potok is also known for prayers read after services. People believe the prayers are healing and that they helped many. Đurđev says that he does not consider himself special and important. We often don’t understand that many things we do are actually God’s blessing, approved by Him.
– Many come here to look for salvation and I’m glad they found it. It’s important that everything is free. We neither have prices nor pricelists. The Lord said: ”You were given it for free, give it away for free.” We priests have to earn money too, but the prayers we read mustn’t be paid. What kind of a prayer would it be if it were paid? Who allowed you, however great priest you are, to make a calculation how much it costs? God’s blessing cannot be paid. Thus people come here with true faith, because such faith is found only where there is no commercialization. I cannot believe differently. I know many will not be happy to hear this, but I’m ready, that is my path. When one goes to bed in the evening and sees how much he has done during the day, that’s what’s left behind him. Deeds speak about every one of us. We are just a moment in time, which we cannot stop, but it’s important to use the chance we were given, the chance called life, to work. The greatest prayer is not words, it is work. People think they should say a sequence of words. What words? The Holy Testament states only one prayer: Our Father. All others were written by saints, church officials, spiritual guardians… When someone goes to a monastery, the first thing he receives is duties, meaning work. That’s the point of life – tells Đurđev in the peace of the Dobri Potok church, where numerous icons watch us from the walls, some of them as much as two hundred years old.


A Stone that Remembers
In the nicely mown lawn, partly under high trees with thick branches, stands the first Krupanj cemetery. Numerous scattered tombstones, most of them very old. Somewhere it is possible to read or assume the name of the deceased, while time has completely erased letters from some of them. In some places there are only stones, without any marks, while others have drawn symbols.
– These crescent moons do not signify Islam – tells Đurđev. – Those who buried their close ones couldn’t write, but they knew to draw when the deceased joined the Lord. They marked the moon phases. Men are buried in tombs with drawn axes, while women in those with drawn distaffs.


Saint Peter’s Day
Every year on St. Peter’s Day, people gather in Dobri Potok to see the folklore show. This is followed by the game for a ducat, reintroduced by priest Đurđev twenty years ago.
The oldest fair mentioned here was in the late XIX century, held at Kapetanova Voda above Krupanj. The best player received a ducat from the Radojlović family. One of its members was captain Radojlović, the one who destroyed Soko-grad, the notorious Turkish fortification near Ljubovija. The tradition of the game for a ducat lasted until German occupation in 1941. Then came ”new times” and the game for a ducat remained forgotten for a long time.


The iconostasis was replaced during the renewal of the church in the 1930s. When the chanter and sacrist raised the last beam, they found a human hand in the floor, incorruptible, up to the elbow. Together with the priest, they decided to bury it in the cemetery, but during the night they felt as if something was pulling them and heard a voice: ”Return me to the place I belong!” They dug out the relics in the morning, censed them and placed them in the altar, where they still stand today.


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