Church of the Monastery of Pokajnica

One of the few log cabin churches in Serbia.

By Ministry of Culture and Media of the Republic of Serbia

Appearance of the Church of the Monastery of the Pokajnica from the west (2016-04-26) by Regional Institute for the Protection of Cultural Monuments of SmederevoMinistry of Culture and Media of the Republic of Serbia

Log cabin church

This wooden church, consecrated to the holiday of transfer of the relics of Saint Nicholas, better known as Pokajnica (Repentance Church), is situated within the eponymous monastery complex in Staro Selo (formerly Stari Adžibegovac), not far from Velika Plana.

Built in 1818, by its size it belongs to the group of large wooden churches with a porch. The year of its construction is recorded in an inscription that reads “1818” on a plank next to the entrance. 

Although literature has focused on the role of the duke of Smederevo Vujica Vulićević, and subsequently also Prince Miloš, in its construction, as an act of repentance for the murder of Vožd Karadjordje in Radanjski Lug. 

There is no direct proof of it in the information recorded in the church censuses conducted in the 19th Century and the social circumstances immediately after the Second Serbian Uprising.

Appearance of the church of the Monastery of Pokajnica from the northwest side, Regional Institute for the Protection of Cultural Monuments of Smederevo, 2004-04-28, From the collection of: Ministry of Culture and Media of the Republic of Serbia
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Appearance on the west side, Church of the Monastery of Pokajnica, Regional Institute for the Protection of Cultural Monuments of Smederevo, 2016-07-18, From the collection of: Ministry of Culture and Media of the Republic of Serbia
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Southwestern look of the church of Pokajnica, Regional Institute for the Protection of Cultural Monuments of Smederevo, 2016-07-18, From the collection of: Ministry of Culture and Media of the Republic of Serbia
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To this day, the tale survives in that part of the Šumadija region and in Jasenica that the Obor-knez of the Nahiyah of Smederevo Vujica Vulićević, most likely on the order of Princess Ljubica, because not a single municipality in the whole area had a church at the time, chose the spot where the church would be erected and supervised the construction works, while the church was built through the endeavours and financial contributions of the local populace.

The entrance to the church from the west side. Church of the Monastery of Pokajnica, Regional Institute for the Protection of Cultural Monuments of Smederevo, 2016-07-15, From the collection of: Ministry of Culture and Media of the Republic of Serbia
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Appearance entrance to the church on the north side, Church of the Monastery of Pokajnica, Regional Institute for the Protection of Cultural Monuments of Smederevo, 2016-07-15, From the collection of: Ministry of Culture and Media of the Republic of Serbia
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This is supported by the information recorded in the census of 1836, which states that the church was built from planks in 1818, at the cost of the communities of Adžibegovac, Planjane and Rakinac”, that it was situated outside the village, in a lowland area to the west, with a spacious yard that accommodated two houses, and that it was in a good condition.

The ceiling on the porch of the church of the Monastery of Pokajnica, Regional Institute for the Protection of Cultural Monuments of Smederevo, 2016-04-26, From the collection of: Ministry of Culture and Media of the Republic of Serbia
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The look of the altar apse, Church of the Monastery of Pokajnica, Regional Institute for the Protection of Cultural Monuments of Smederevo, 2016-07-15, From the collection of: Ministry of Culture and Media of the Republic of Serbia
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Pokajnica Church belongs to the group of large wooden churches with a porch. It is a single-nave building, spatially divided into an altar area, a naos, a narthex with a chancel and a porch that was subsequently added in 1880. With the exception of the foundation of crushed stone, the church is completely made from oakwood.

The basis of the church of the Monastery Pokajnica (drawing), Regional Institute for the Protection of Cultural Monuments of Smederevo, 2006-02-13, From the collection of: Ministry of Culture and Media of the Republic of Serbia
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Pokajnica Church, as a special type of sacral building, is one of the extraordinary and well-preserved construction and painting works created after the Second Serbian Uprising. Its unmatched historical and artistic value is due in particular to its iconostasis, one of the few that have survived from that period. 

Cross-section of the church of the Monastery Pokajnica (drawing), Regional Institute for the Protection of Cultural Monuments of Smederevo, 2006-02-13, From the collection of: Ministry of Culture and Media of the Republic of Serbia
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With its artistic and iconographic expression, the iconostasis of the Pokajnica Church is among the more striking examples of zoographic church paintings created in Serbia in the early decades of the 19th Century.

The look of the old inn. Church of the Monastery of Pokajnica, Regional Institute for the Protection of Cultural Monuments of Smederevo, 2016-04-25, From the collection of: Ministry of Culture and Media of the Republic of Serbia
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The appearance of a new inn. Church of the Monastery of Pokajnica, Regional Institute for the Protection of Cultural Monuments of Smederevo, 2016-04-25, From the collection of: Ministry of Culture and Media of the Republic of Serbia
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At the entrance to the monastery’s yard stand the sleeping quarters from the period of construction of the church, which today host a permanent museum exhibition, with a wooden bell tower erected next to the church. There are also two new sleeping quarters in the yard, built in the 20th Century.

Church of the Monastery of Pokajnica, Appearance iconostasis (2016-07-15) by Regional Institute for the Protection of Cultural Monuments of SmederevoMinistry of Culture and Media of the Republic of Serbia

The iconostasis

A major contributing factor to the representativeness of the interior, in addition to numerous decorative elements made from wood, is the iconostasis of the church. 

Upper zone of iconostasis (detail). Iconostasis of the Church of the Monastery of Pokajnica (2016-07-15) by Regional Institute for the Protection of Cultural Monuments of SmederevoMinistry of Culture and Media of the Republic of Serbia

Its construction and iconographic depictions identify it as the earlier zoographic type of iconostasis with two doors (the royal door and the north door to the side), which were created in the first half of the 19th Century in Serbia.

Imperial doors. Iconostasis of the Church of the Monastery of Pokajnica (2016-07-15) by Regional Institute for the Protection of Cultural Monuments of SmederevoMinistry of Culture and Media of the Republic of Serbia

Apart from its simple form, in keeping with the interior space of the church, it is distinctive for the decorative quality of its painted and carved ornaments. It features twenty-five icons arranged in three zones and a large cross with the Crucifixion  at the top, painted in egg tempera on wood.   

Side door on the north side of the iconostasis of the Church of the Monastery of Pokajnica (2016-07-15) by Regional Institute for the Protection of Cultural Monuments of SmederevoMinistry of Culture and Media of the Republic of Serbia

Although the icons are only marked with the year of their creation and inscriptions from benefactors and are not signed by the painter, based on similarity with other, signed works, they are attributed to Konstantin Zograph, a master belonging  to the group of the so-called domestic zographs/painters who worked on renewed and newly-built churches in Central and Eastern Serbia after the Second Serbian Uprising.

Apostolic order on the north side of the iconostasis of the Church of the Monastery of Pokajnica, Regional Institute for the Protection of Cultural Monuments of Smederevo, 2016-07-15, From the collection of: Ministry of Culture and Media of the Republic of Serbia
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The Order of the Apostles on the south side. Iconostasis of the Church of the Monastery of Pokajnica, Regional Institute for the Protection of Cultural Monuments of Smederevo, 2016-07-15, From the collection of: Ministry of Culture and Media of the Republic of Serbia
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The programme distribution of icons on the iconostasis is such that the first zone comprises:  the revered icon of Jesus Christ, the Holy Mother of God with baby Christ, St. John the Baptist, St. Nicholas and St. George, the royal door with a depiction of the Annunciation and Holy Apostles Peter and Paul and the northern side door with a depiction of the Holy Archangel Michael;  the second zone comprises thirteen icons depicting the Deesis; the third zone includes an  icon depicting the Mourning of Christ, two wooden relief panels depicting dragons, icons of the Holy Mother of God, John the Apostle and the Holy Apostles Bartholomew and Jacob, topped by a cross with the Crucifixion and two medallions with depictions of the Sun and the Moon. 

Icon on the vault, Church of the Monastery of Pokajnica, Regional Institute for the Protection of Cultural Monuments of Smederevo, 2016-07-15, From the collection of: Ministry of Culture and Media of the Republic of Serbia
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Over time, the iconostasis has undergone certain changes; thus, painted panels depicting big fish swallowing small ones have been removed from the third zone and replaced with two icons depicting the Holy Apostles Bartholomew and Jacob, which had originally been part of the Deesis.  The inscriptions on the revered icons, specifically on the icon of St. George: “sie cerkov wgradI gospodarx vuIca Za spomenx (IUIU)”, and the icon of St. Nicholas: “wkupI begx svetoga+ iIkolu sa spomsix w selo krnevo”, indicate that, in addition to the duke of Smederevo Vujica Vulićević, the village Krnjevo also gave its contribution to the erection and fitting of the church.

Credits: Story

The narration was provided by Anita Marković, graduate art historian, senior expert advisor.
Regional Institute for Protection of Cultural Monuments in Smederevo.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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