Vraćevšnica Monastery

Vraćevšnica Monastery

Vraćevšnica Monastery was founded in the third decade of the XV century by a count palatine Radič Postupović, who was a commander-in-chief of despot Stefan Lazarević’s army. A copy of despot Đurađ Branković’s charter about the giving of a property as a present, which is put on the wall of the narthex of Saint George’s church in Vraćevšnica, testifies about that. We can learn from it that the painting of the temple was completed in 1431.

Tradition (about the founding of Vraćevšnica and the motives of the count palatine Radič Postupović to found it) has it that Radič went to the Battle of Kosovo in 1389, but didn’t make it on time. He returned to his home in Beluće, which changed its name to “Crnuća” because a large number of townsmen who didn’t come back from Kosovo. He built a monastery and called it Vraćevšnica. The monastery was destroyed several times in the past. It was destroyed and burned down to the ground for the first time in 1438 when the towns of Borač and Ostrvica came under the Turkish rule, and then during the fall of the Serbian Despotate in 1459, following which it was desolated just to be restored about one hundred and twenty years later. It was destroyed again around 1682 and it was left without monks during the Great Migration of Serbs in 1690. The complete renovation occurred in 1737.

During the First Serbian Uprising, the relics of king Stefan the First-Crowned were temporarily moved to Vraćevšnica, and several important uprising meetings were held there: the meeting of the leader Karađorđe, the duke of Rudnik Milan Obrenović, archimandrite Spiridon Filipović, and Dositej Obradović; the assembly in 1812 when the terms of the Bucharest peace treaty were read, and then the assembly in 1818 on Đurđevdan (Saint George’s Day) led by Miloš Obrenović (they reached the decision to declare Kragujevac as the new capital).

Nowadays, nuns take care of the monastery because Vraćevšnica became a convent in 1935.


A Monument to “Baba Višnja” 

Prince Miloš built a monument for his mother Višnja during the restoration of both the monastery and the church. When he moved her remains from Brusnica to Vraćevšnica, he put a plate on her grave next to the church with the following inscription: “This solid rock covers the remains of an old woman Višnja who died on 18 June 1817; she gave birth to a son Milan in her first marriage, who was a Serbian delegate in the Russian army in Vlaška, where he died in 1810, and in her second marriage, a son Miloš Obrenović, who was a Serbian prince ruling Serbian people in a good manner; then Jovan, the prince of Rudnik administrative unit, and Jefrem, the prince of Šabac and Valjevo administrative units. This was written down in 1820”.

Baba Višnja’s descendants cherished the memory of her: king Alexander and queen Draga Obrenović built a new monument on Višnja’s grave in 1901, and they both attended its consecration. The east side of this monument still has an inscription on it saying: “During the rule of His Majesty Alexander I, the people erect this tombstone to express the gratitude to the mother of Miloš the Great Liberator of Serbia in 1817”, whereas the west side keeps the famous response of prince Miloš to the dukes in Zabrežje who invited him to move to Austria after the failure of the First Serbian Uprising: ,,What good do I have from living in Austria when the Turks will enslave my old mother and children here. I will join my people and have the same destiny as them. Miloš Obrenović / Zabrež 1813”.


The Residence of  Vraćevšnica Monastery with the bell tower from 1868-1870 

In 1859, Vićentije Krasojević (1824-1882, archimandrite from 1870, episcope of Žiča from 1873) became monastery’s prior. Owing to his effort, a two-storey residence with a tall bell tower was built next to the old residence southwest from St. George’s Church, between 1868 and 1870. Even nowadays, one can enter the churchyard through an arch-shaped gate. It can be seen on the well-preserved inscription that “the construction of both this bell tower and the facility started during the rule of noble-minded Serbian prince Mihailo M. Obrenović, who died in Topčider on 29 May 1868, and it was finished in 1870 during the rule of noble-minded Serbian prince Milan M. Obrenović IV owing to his great help as well as the help of people from Kragujevac county and monastery parishioners led by the Belgrade archbishop and Serbian metropolitan Mihailo, with the effort of a prior Vićentije of Vraćevšnica Monastery and St. George’s Church”.


Monastery’s Treasury 

In 1977/1978, a building was erected on the west side of the monastery complex. A winter chapel of Saint Nikolaj – which was decorated in frescoes in 1990 by an academic painter Žarko Vučković – is located on the first floor, whereas the ground floor contains monastery’s treasury, which would reveal a lot about the past if there hadn’t been a fire in Baba Višnja’s residence in 1920 when a gallery, a bigger part of monastery’s library as well as an archive with numerous documents about the more modern Serbian history were destroyed.

A collection of valuable items has remained in the end, which enables us to get a vague impression of all the valuables kept by this monastery with respect and love. Except for a couple of extremely valuable exhibits from the XVIII century, the treasury mainly has items from the XIX century. Their special trait is the fact that they belonged to the members of Obrenović Dynasty, or they were related to them in some other way. In the first place, there is “Takovo Cross” for which it is believed to have been used for taking an oath by Miloš and insurgents in 1815, then a woodcut pattern showing a monastery image from 1820, a gift from Milan Obrenović – the oldest son of prince Miloš, also monastery seals used by prince Miloš during the first years of his rule, an iron bed with a monogram “M.O.”, a carpet, a baking tray and a pot of princess Ljubica, a mirror  and a console table, an album with photographs and a silver tray of queen Natalija, an Italian-Cretan icon of Virgin Mary with Christ (Eleusa) from the XVII century – which became a part of Vraćevšnica Monastery collection through the repurchase of bided valuables of queen Draga and king Alexander following their death, then king Alexander Obrenović’s representative salon which was custom-made in Paris, in Victor Aimone’s workshop in 1900, queen Draga’s cushions, an obituary, an icon, “the gusle” (one-stringed Balkan folk fiddle) and a sabre from Obrenović’s house…