GRADAC


GRADAC MONASTERY - XIII century

Gradac monastery lies on the elevated plateau above the river Gradac, at the edge of the forested slopes of mountain Golija. It is located west of the medieval fortress Brvenik. The exact year of construction of the monastery is not known. It is believed that it is from the last quarter of the XIII century. Monastery is endowment of Serbian queen, Jelena (Helen) of Anjou.

She founded the first girls' school in medieval Serbia. Helen's palace was in Kosovo and Metohia, in the town of Brnjak, where the school was located. 

Every year in the beginning of May, city of Kraljevo remembers an event when king Uros I, out of love for the French princess Helen D'Anjou, the future Serbian Queen, ordered that the whole valley upstream the River Ibar, in honor of her coming to Serbia, be planted with fragrant lilacs so that her new country would remind her of old homeland - Provence, France.

The French origin of the founder contributed to the fact that the main church, in terms of architecture, represented a congruous structure comprised of the Gothic, Romanesque and Serbian-Byzantine style of Raska school.

The Church of Gradac Monastery is one nave structure with the dome, tripartite altar and rectangle choir, whose central part consists of two chapels, the main naos and the altar.

After taking the throne by her son the Serbian king Dragutin, holy queen Jelena got from king the part of the kingdom which she governed by the end of her life. Archbishop Daniel described the virtues and merits of the holy Queen acquiring in the Orthodox Church. Sharp word, a gentle nature, life without blemish, in command meek ... big and small, rich and poor, righteous and sinners, sick and healthy, each of them equally respect …

Jelena became a nun in the church of St. Nicolas in Skadar which she had buit. She died on 08th of February 1314 in Brnjak and was burried there.

Three years after the funeral Jelena apeared in a dream of one monk from Gradac, with the wish that her body be unburied. The opening ceremony of the tomb was made in the presence of Bishop Paul and Council of her country and her body was found whole, not roten. As this was proof that the Lord blessed Jelena by great grace, it was excavated from the tomb and laid in a specially made coffin which was placed in front of the altar in the church of Gradac monastery in front of the icon of Christ, where it was located to the beginning of the seventeenth century, when monks leaving the monastery before the Turkish invasion , took the relics of the saint. It is unknown where her relics are now.

The monastery was devastated at the end of the 14th century after the fall of the Serbian state ( 1389 ). It was partially restored at the and of the 16th century. However, it was finally deserted in the 17th century when the monks, fleeing from the Turks, left somewhere unknown, taking with them the Holy Relics of their founder. In the next 300 years, both churches and the monastery buildings caved in. In the second half of the 20th century, the Institute of the Protection of Cultural monuments of Serbia conducted extensive restoration works on the main Church of the Holy Mother of God and the Chapel of St Nicholas. Since 1990 the monastic life has been renewed in Gradac Monastery, which is a nunnery nowdays.