There are just few places in Serbia, but also anywhere on the planet, where one can find complete peace. Places where the only noises are the chirping of birds that seemingly never stops, and the murmur of a nearby stream. Wherever you look, you cannot see anything but the perfect harmony of man and nature. A place where, even when you want to, you cannot think of any negative thoughts, because the spiritual peace of those around you prevents you from doing so.
One such place is Miljko’s monastery, an oasis of spirit and nature, a sacred place hidden in the hills around Svilajnac, a town on the river Resava, in the heart of Serbia, some 120 kilometers from Belgrade.
From the very entrance, through the mighty monastery gate, which is guarded by two seemingly dangerous, but in fact spoiled and sensitive dogs, it becomes clear to you that time has stopped here, and that you enter a place that has not been desecrated by modern chases, noise, nervousness and vices.
We are greeted by kind nuns, women who have dedicated their lives to the service for God and for the monastery, and for which they are rewarded, which everyone can immediately notice, with spiritual and physical peace, a trait that has long been lost in the 21st century.
It’s only two o’clock in the afternoon, and it seems to us that we didn’t hear well when the young nun tells us that she just “had dinner”. He sees that it is not clear to us, so, with a wide smile, he “apologizes”:
– Well, yes … We get up here at 3 AM… That’s when our day begins …
While her kind words leads us through the history of the monastery, and she physically leads us through its green interior and the church that dominates this complex, she also talks about her destiny, which brought her here, and points out that she has never been happier and more fulfilled in her life.
By the way, from Belgrade, the capital of Serbia, Svilajnac can be reached by car in less than an hour, and it will take you another fifteen minutes to reach Miljko’s monastery from Svilajnac.
Together with eight other monasteries – Tomić, Jaković, Radošin, Ivković, Dobreš, Devesinje, Zlatenac and Bukovica – Miljko’s monastery is part of a whole that many call “Resavska Sveta gora” (Resava Holy mountain), because the beauty and sanctity of these monasteries are comparable to those located on the Greek peninsula of Athos, named “The Holy Mountain”.
The first written traces of the existence of this monastery date back to the second half of the 14th century, when serbian ruler Lazar Hrebeljanović donated this convent to the Ravanica monastery with his charter. It is not known who founded the monastery in the first place or when exactly did it happen, although some mention that it was raised by the son of Lazar, Despot Stefan Lazarevic. But this is generally considered just speculation.
According to some data, a transcription school operated in this monastery in the 15th century, in which church books were transcribed.
In the 18th century, the Turks burned this monastery, as part of revenge for the Serb uprisings. It was not until 1787 that the monastery was renovated by Miljko Tomić, a merchant, who spent the last years of his life in it. He was buried on the monastery ground, and the whole monastery has been known as Miljko’s monastery since then, as a sign of gratitude to this man.
In the twist of fate, a few years later, a priest of the same name came to the monastery – Miljko Ristic, and renewed his spiritual life, starting a monastery school where future scribes, teachers and priests studied.
The famous serbian folk hero, Stevan Sindjelic, attended this school at the end of the 18th century, and the monastery was also known as a refuge for rebels who fought against the Turks for the liberation of Serbia in the following period. The Turks knew this well, so they burned it down when the First Serbian Uprising was suppressed.
The monastery was renovated in 1856, and since then the renewal of the spiritual life in it has begun. The next significant event took place between the two great wars – in 1926, when Russian emigrants fled to it, fleeing communism, led by by the monk Ambrose Kurganov.
From this moment on, this Serbian monastery is considered as their holy place by the Russians, and today they make up the largest number of foreign tourists who visit this shrine.
Since 1952, Miljko’s monastery has been a nunnery, and today it is a place where all women who have problems of any kind gladly come, in order to strengthen their soul and body.
It often happens that young women, “intoxicated” by the spiritual life that is led here, stay and live and serve in this holy place, and gladly leave behind all the temptations that life brings with it in the modern world.
Everyone who has mental, spiritual or physical problems is welcome here, and the nuns will do everything to offer them healing, peace and tranquillity. Also, the gates of the monastery are wide open for all tourists who will have the opportunity to get acquainted with the holy place of Serbian and European history, but also to enjoy the unique peace that can be found in only a few other places in this part of the world.
This text is part of the project “Svilajnac, a small tourist paradise”, and was co-financed by the Municipality of Svilajnac.
(Come to Serbia)