In the Light of Centuries
A few kilometers from Gruža, near the village of Čestin, this shrine still testifies about the great and glorious times of the Despotate, the wondrous rise before the final extinguishing of the Serbian golden medieval age. From mid-XV century, it was destroyed and renewed several times. The present appearance of the monastery church, dedicated to the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin, originates from the XIX century. Fresco paintings and the iconostasis are work of Dimitrije Posniković from 1870. Legends state that this church was built from the remains of material transported for building the Kalenić monastery. Thus, stone by stone, Kamenas was erected. In Gruža and in time

Text and Photo: Miodrag Radomirović

The atmosphere was ceremonial on September 21 in the vicinity of Gruža, on the glades in the foot of the Gledić Mountains, where, ”tucked in the robe of centuries” stands the Monastery of Kamenac, endowment of Despot Stefan Lazarević. Knight, poet and the most educated Serbian monarch, whose soul was suffering because of the conflict with his brother Vuk, whom he dedicated the famous Letter of Love as a message of love and forgiveness, built churches following the traces of his predecessors, great benefactors, walking the cross-bearing paths of his father, Prince Lazar. During his time, the monasteries of Ljubostinja, Manasija, Kalenić, Kamenac were erected, and the building of the Monastery of Koporin was in progress at the time of his sudden death during hunting.
On that 21st day of September, Gruža, Knić and entire Šumadija were celebrating with guests from all Serbian lands of the world.
Six centuries of Kamenac and two centuries of the elementary school built in the monastery yard were marked with a holy liturgy, served by Bishop of Žiča Justin, Bishop of Mileševa Atanasije and Bishop of Raška-Prizren and Kosovo and Metohija Teodosije, with priors of several monasteries (led by Archimandrite Tihon, prior of Studenica) and numerous priests and monks.

Unfortunately, the school saw off its last student this year, which is another proof that the land of richness and boon, picturesque landscapes, wavy meadows, spacious forests, fertile fields… is slowly dying. The desolate villages are the exact picture of our miserable collective condition, the consequence of the reckless rush of people to cities for the allegedly comfortable life, where they hardly survive on the verge of poverty and hunger, while their estates are growing into weeds.
The endowment of Despot Stefan Lazarević was made of stone intended for the construction of the Kalenić Monastery. Legends state that, while stone for Kalenić was transported on mules, one of the religious architects took a few stones from each mule in order to unburden the animals. Upon hearing about his kindness towards the hard-working creatures, the main transportation means at the time, the Despot ordered building another monastery from the stones left behind. Thus, Kamenac was raised, as we know it today, stone by stone, and dedicated to the Nativityof the Blessed Virgin. The history of the KamenacMonastery is no different from the turbulent history of the Serbian people, which, while aspiring to great European integrations, is still waiting for its spiritual renewal. It is known that the monastery was destroyed several times. It is difficult to determine how many times it was demolished and how many times brought back to life. Documents state that it was restored in the XV century, and that it was again revived by monk Joanikije from Morača in the first years of the XVIII century. In mid-XIX century, the monastery church got its present appearance. It was painted by Dimitrije Posniković in 1870 and the iconostasis completed th
e same year was painted by him as well.


– After the fall of the Despotate under Turkish dominion in 1459, the ecclesiastical life in Serbia changed according to the circumstances in the country. The Turkish offensives left monasteries desolate or only with a few monks, and were most often destroyed and burned down. Kamenac Monastery shared the same fate – says Biljana Đurović, actress, emphasizing that the ”wrinkles on the faces of saints in our monasteries’ frescoes are the most eloquent picture of the fate of our nation”.
Miroslav Nikolić, president of the Municipality of Knić, received the Medal of King Milutin, an award of the Serbian Chruch, and the ”Word and Deed” medal from the Veteran Security Officers of Russia Association.
The crown of the ceremony was the musical program ”Stone by Stone – Kamenac”, including, besides the Academic Cultural and Artistic Society ”Lola”, Serbian Orthodox singers, Milinko Ivanović, flute player, and ethno singer Katarina Gojković, as well as actors, such as Hadži Nenad Maričić, with his brilliant role of Despot Stefan, Miloš Đorđević, Jovana Stević. The youngest actor on stage, talented Marko Đurović, playing the last student in the school, shut down after two centuries, attracted the attention of the audience. Stefan Jeftović, handsome acting school student, playing the role of a young Salonika fighter, and with his appearance and voice reminded of the immortal youth in World War I, one of the 1.300 corporals. Actress Biljana Šurović, besides her stage performance and writing the script, was also successful as director of this musical and drama journey through turbulent centuries of a nation, whose shrines shared the sa
me fate. Božidar Đurović, recent director of the Belgrade National Theater, masterly packed the entire ceremony as a video presentation, broadcasted on large screens in the monastery yard and outside of it.


Reduced and Sublime
”Kamenac Monastery has been under protection of the Institute for Cultural Monuments of Kragujevac since 1969. The church has a reduced form of a triconch, with a slim cupola above the central nave area and a semi-cylindrical vault. It was built of broken stone, and the floor is made of marble stone square and rectangular plates. The plastic decorations on the façade include the roof wreath, richly profiled and with a Moravian character. A square narthex with a blind cupola was later built on the western side. The walls in the church interior and narthex were painted in 1870. The layout of frescoes is common for ecclesiastical painting of that period. The wooden two-story iconostasis was created by famous icon painter Dimitrije Posinković and includes twenty-one icons on wooden parapet boards.” (www.eparhija-zicka.rs)


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