Carried by Three Waters
This is a chance to visit and remember it. As it has always done to us. Prince Dragutin Nemanjić pledged to build it, and it was completed in 1317, by his wife and sons. This is where the famous ”Tronoša Chronicle” was written in the XVIII century, this is where Vuk Karadžić learnt to read and write, this is where St. Stefan of Tronoša served to God and his people. A legend says that the drinking fountain next to the monastery was built by Jug-Bogdan and nine Jugović brothers, a year before the Battle of Kosovo. Based on the war plan made in the Monastery, Loznica became the first liberated city in occupied Europe on August 31, 1941

Text and Photo: Nebojša Trifunović

On the seventeenth kilometer from Loznica, in the area of Korenita village near Tršić, birth village of Vuk Stefanović Karadžić, reformer of the Serbian alphabet and language, on a spacious glade surrounded by a thick forest, stands the Monastery of Tronoša. It got its name after three rivers which ”carry water” (Serbian ”tro”: three, ”nositi”: carry) and merge into one nearby. There is a legend that it was built by the Jugović brothers, although it is more probable that it was completed by Katalina (Katarina), wife of King Stefan Dragutin from the holy Nemanjić dynasty. The story goes that Dragutin, already as a prince, passed this area with his escort and stopped to rest in the place where the monastery stands today. As soon as he laid his tired body on the ground, he was pervaded with a strange feeling of peace and holiness. He crossed himself and pledged to the Lord that he will raise his endowment dedicated to the Presentation of Holy Mother of God there, as soon as he accedes to the throne. He fulfilled his promise, but didn’t live to see the completion of the Monastery: in the year 1316, he departed as monk Teoktist. However, Katalina and their sons Vladislav and Urošica completed the commenced works and the following year, 1317, bells started ringing in the new monastery.
The monastery shared the fate of its people, as well as all the evils brought by invaders. The fall of the Serbian state under Turkish dominion brought many troubles and the Islamic enemy often destroyed Christian sanctities. Tronoša was plundered and demolished. Since it was forbidden to restore it, people secretly gathered in the forest, in the place today called Ikone (icons) and there, next to trees with carved crosses and hanging icons, participated in church services. In mid-sixteenth century, after the restoration of the Patriarchate of Peć (1557), prior Pajsije restored the monastery and raised a church. The school of transcription was founded soon after.
The Austro-Turkish war in late eighteenth century stirred Jadar as well. Longing for freedom, Serbian volunteers, including the Archimandrite of Tronoša Stefan Jovanović, joined the Christian army. However, they didn’t live to see freedom. After the retreat of the Habsburg soldiers, Turks barged into the Monastery, plundered and desecrated it once again, and assassinated Hieromonk Mojsije on the church entrance.


Those years, under candlelight, Hieromonk Josif of Tronoša transcribed The History of Serbian Emperors and Kings, today known as the Tronoša Genealogy, or the Tronoša Chronicle, into which he added annotations. It is one of the most important works from that period, confirmed by Nikola Radojčić, PhD, in his work About the Tronoša Genealogy, published in 1931 by the Serbian Royal Academy. He states that the Tronoša Genealogy is an important historical document in the development of Serbian historiography.
”Without it, it would certainly be impossible to understand the most decisive transitions and most sensitive turning points in the alteration of historical understanding in Serbs, which influenced the entire national development. Such a position of the Tronoša Genealogy in the development of Serbian historical works and deep patriotism of its writer, which he was able to express exquisitely well with simple means, guarantee the Tronoša Genealogy an honorable place in the development of Serbian historiography for eternity.”
For a long time, national history was imagined as a line of lives of rulers and created from a series of biographies. Radojčić considered the Tronoša Genealogy the best representative of attempting to switch from genealogy to history, stating that biographies in it were often mechanically interrupted, in order to enter parts of history in the right place.
”So the life of St. Sava was entered into the lives of Stefan Nemanja, Stefan the First-Crowned, Radoslav and Vladislav. Dragutin’s life was interrupted with parts from Milutin’s life. The presentation of the life of Emperor Uroš was similarly interrupted. One can feel the painful steps of Serbian historians while walking from genealogy to history, but it should be so, since every step ahead in healthy progress is bitter. From that aspect, the Tronoša Genealogy is a typically transitional work – it is not a genealogy any more, but still isn’t history either.”


The reformer of Serbian alphabet and language, Vuk Karadžić, learnt to read and write in the Tronoša Monastery. The Monastery today has a Museum of Vuk’s Early Education, to remind of the days when little Vuk learnt from, as he later wrote, clever, honest and righteous Archimandrite Stefan, proclaimed saint by the Serbian Orthodox Church this year.
– It is believed that Vuk traveled with St. Stefan of Tronoša, then archimandrite, to the pasha in Zvornik and later described how it all happened. He wrote about Stefan, the most famous man in the Belgrade Pashadom at the time, and it is the only preserved document about him. Thus we know that he had a gentle face, that he wasn’t highly educated, but was literate and knew a lot. Vuk also described how the archimandrite died after poisoning, how he was transferred to the monastery and buried on the right side of the altar – tells Archimandrite Nikolaj Veselinović, priest and spiritual counselor of Tronoša.
St. Stefan of Tronoša lost his life trying to help his bedeviled people. When hunger struck these lands in the late eighteenth century, Archimandrite Stefan went to the pasha in Zvornik to ask for support. He asked him to give them at least the cornbread left by the Austrians, promising that he will return him new one, as soon as possible. The pasha refused, the archimandrite replied that he will then ask for support on the other side and left. Thinking that Stefan is cooperating with the Austrians, he called him to come back and lied that he had changed his mind. He served him poisoned coffee, so the forty-year old archimandrite died. During the September celebration of seven centuries of Tronoša and canonization of St. Stefan of Tronoša, Patriarch of Serbia Irinej said that the new saint gave his life for the salvation of his people, preparing it for liberation even before Karađorđe.


The times of troubles for the Monastery continued. The Turks burned it down after the First Serbian Uprising, but it was restored again in 1834, and was in peace until the Great War. The Austro-Hungarians caused considerable damage during the occupation, took off the doors, burned the church books, confiscated all cattle, cut the woods, took prior Tihon to prison in Belgrade and killed him.
During the Battle of Cer, the Monastery served as a war hospital. The injured were brought here and the deceased – ten names are noted – buried in the churchyard. Citizens of the Jadar, Azbukovica and Rađevina counties donated a bell to the Monastery in 1925, for, as they said, the rest of the soul of King Petar I Karađorđević and all the deceased. Then Russian refugees who lived in Loznica donated another bell ”for the rest of the soul of Emperor Nikolai II”.
When the German boot stepped on Jadar soil again in World War II, patriotic people of Jadar couldn’t reconcile with it. Prior Georgije Bojić, Royal Army major Veselin Misita and the rebels made a plan in the Monastery for liberating Loznica and its surrounding and thereby made Loznica the first bigger city in Europe liberated from Germans during WWII. Upon returning to this area, occupiers killed all cattle and fowl in the Monastery, burned down the quarters, barn and church books. The quarters were restored in 1964, the new one built in 1975, and the newest in 1986. Since the year 2000, Tronoša has been a female monastery and seven sisters take care of it at the moment.


There is a unique custom of making plowmen or farmers’ candles in Tronoša. Some say that it originates from the time of Turkish occupation. There is also a belief that it was actually brought by monks from Chilandar. According to the first version, since there weren’t any churches in Turkish times and it wasn’t easy to reach the Monastery from the villages, the monks of Tronoša went to people’s homes to consecrate water for Easter and patron saint days. The head of the house would prepare a candle for that occasion and the monks carried the candle remains to the Monastery. Two large candles were made of those small ones and placed in front of the altar. The custom still lives today. The villagers of Zajača, Paskovac and part of Gornja Badanja make one and parishioners from Tršić and Korenita the other candle. On Holy Thursday, they bring them on their hands to the Monastery, to the Church of the Presentation of Mother of God. The two processions meet at the Jugović Brothers’ Fountain and Chapel of Holy Martyr Panteleimon, and continue together towards the Monastery gate. The candles must be cooled well, so the wax becomes solid and able to be carried through the woods. Porters rotate, because each candle has about fifty kilos and is nearly two meters high. On Palm Sunday, the remains of last year’s candles are brought from the Monastery, melted and added to the new wax, so each new candle has a part of the old one.
– Such a custom doesn’t exist anywhere else. We don’t know for certain how or when it was established. It is believed that it was brought by monks from Chilandar. They have peasants’ candles in Bosnia, but they are much smaller, about ten kilos, and made during the entire year: as soon as one burns, they make another one. Here we know exactly that they are lit for the last time on Palm Sunday and the remains are taken to be melted into new ones. They are made on Holy Wednesday, brought over the hill on Holy Thursday, about five kilometers through the woods, and welcomed by people with great joy by the fountain. Such a custom doesn’t exist anywhere else. There are some similar ones, but not exactly like this – says Archimandrite Nikolaj.
The custom also survived during the war, only with smaller candles. People say that the farmers’ candles ”don’t cry”, meaning they don’t dribble. They are made with the faith that they help crops grow well, to prevent extreme weather, help the wellbeing of the home and health of family members. The candles are taken around the church once and then, after being brought inside the church, lit. They burn during liturgies on Sundays and all important holidays. Regardless of weather conditions, a great number of people are always present at the arrival of candles, and this custom became part of the list of intangible cultural heritage of Serbia.


In the Diptych of Holy Ones
Archimandrite Stefan Jovanović, head of Tronoša, was a great patriot, spiritual councilor and intellectual. He was born in 1758 or 1759 in the village of Tekeriš on mount Cer. He came to the monastery as a boy, a novice. He was later first teacher to Vuk Karadžić, who taught him to read and write. He educated people, helped everyone as much as he could, gave grain, sirloin, cheese, clothes to the poor, and money to those who couldn’t pay taxes.
Upon the suggestion of the Eparchy of Šabac, at its session in May this year, the Holy Assembly of Archbishops included Archimandrite Stefan in the diptych of the holy ones of the Serbian Orthodox Church, as the first saint from Jadar area. He will be celebrated on September 17 as St. Stefan of Tronoša.


Nine Jugović Brothers’ Fountain
The Chapel of Holy Martyr Panteleimon the Healer with the Nine Jugović Brothers’ Fountain is next to Tronoša Monastery. The legend says that Jug-Bogdan and nine of his sons (Vojin, Mirko, Marko, Boško, Radmilo, Ljubodrag, Veselin, Stojan and Vlaskoje – Damjan) raised this fountain in 1388, in the eve of the Battle of Kosovo. People believe that the water running from the mouths of the ten warriors’ heads is salutary. The fountain was renewed in 1721, at the time of Archimandrite Metodije, then in 1894, by Mladen Isaković, merchant from Lešnica, and again in 1935, by Hieromonk Georgije Bojić, prior of Tronoša. The present chapel with the fountain was completely renewed in 1968, at the time of Archimandrite Antonije (Đurđević), prior of the monastery from 1961 until his departure in 1997. He was the one who, during the 1990 elections, took out the envelope with the name of the new Serbian Patriarch Pavle.


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