Pomoravlje district belongs to Central Serbia and holds many of its finest sightseeing routes. Today we will explore some must-see places in one of its municipalities, Despotovac, which lies some 130 kilometers south of Belgrade, down the E 75 highway. Many visitors of Serbia use this highway – thereby we suggest some inspiring stops which you shouldn’t miss if the road gets you nearby.
The county of Despotovac features the enchanting mix of natural and cultural heritage. It lays on the Resava river, which forms one of the most fascinating waterfalls in Serbia – “Veliki Buk”, located at the foot of the Beljanica mountain. This 25 meters tall waterfall forms a powerful sight and makes a lot of noise, which is literally reflected in its name (“The Great Noise”). It can be observed from a charming wooden terrace, and together with the nearby spring “Veliko Vrelo” forms the protected natural resource of national rank, called “Lisine”. A visit to “Lisine” is rejuvenating and highly energizing. Just about 15 minutes from here, there is a world of silence and playful shadows, captured between the beautiful walls of Resava Cave. Passages and halls of this cave are almost 3 kilometers long, but the path for tourists spans some 800 meters. It is divided between Upper and Lower Gallery and features rich decorations made of colorful calcite deposits. The cold and mystical ambient of the cave, with the sound of water dropping from the stalactites, makes the 40 minutes long tour an otherworldly experience.
In close vicinity there is an open air museum – Senjski Rudnik, once a coal mining town, today a heritage site marking the place where the industrial revolution was introduced to Serbia. Senjski Rudnik is the oldest preserved Serbian mining settlement, active since the mid-19th century, when the sub-bituminous coal was found in the area. By the beginning of the 20th century, this coal mine became the most prosperous in Serbia, exporting coal to foreign countries and issuing the magazine “The Miner’s Courier”. One of the first Serbian football clubs “The Miner” is established in Senjski Rudnik, in 1923. Once it was a vibrant town with two hospitals, a cinema, and a printing house. Today it is quite sad, deserted place, with the population of around 500 inhabitants. Many of its devices and locations are protected as industrial heritage sites, and the overall rehabilitation of the place is planned by the ongoing projects. Moving to another kind of heritage, it should be said that a charming “Park of Miniatures” spotted somewhere by the road near Despotovac, features models of Serbian medieval monasteries. The two of them are certainly to be visited if you undertake this trip.
Ravanica and Manasija
The most important cultural monuments of the area are two monasteries, founded by the national hero of the Kosovo battle, prince Lazar (proclaimed “Tsar Lazar” in the oral tradition) and his son, Despot Stefan Lazarevic. Lazar Hrebeljanovic was the 14th century ruler of medieval Serbia, or more precisely its parts located around Morava Rivers. He led the Serbian army into the Kosovo battle of 1389, in which both Lazar and sultan Murad I were killed. The Serbs suffered defeat, but the Ottomans also counted great losses. Lazar’s son, Stefan, ruled as an Ottoman vassal and was the first to make Belgrade a Serbian capital. He was a Renaissance man, patron of the arts and a member of the Order of the Dragon.
Ravanica, Lazar’s endowment and a chosen burial place, was built between 1375 and 1378 as the first object of “Morava architectural school”. Shaped after the models from Mount Athos, this school featured rich façade decoration made of bricks, and five domes built above the cross-in-square layout. It is dedicated to the Ascension of Jesus and painted some ten years after it was built. Iconography contains scenes from the Twelve Great Feasts of the Orthodox Liturgical Calendar, as well as Christ’s Passion and Parables and other scenes not easily discernable due to severe damage of the frescoes. The monastery was attacked many times in its history, especially by the Ottomans, due to the cult which formed around Lazar Hrebeljanovic, elevated to sainthood. The monks fled with his relics which were destined to perpetual wandering until finally re-buried in Ravanica in 1989, on the 600th anniversary of the Battle of Kosovo.
The legacy of his son, monastery Manasija (known as Resava in the Middle Ages) was built between 1406 and 1418. Although its Church of the Holy Trinity follows the layout of Athos churches, it differs significantly from Ravanica by the plain, monumental façade made of yellowish stones. Fortification around the monastery is better preserved than in Ravanica. It consists of eleven very strong towers connected by powerful walls. Frescoes are also severely damaged since the church was without the roof for a long period in its history. The most famous are the depictions of the Holy Warriors and the composition which shows Despot Stefan carrying the church model in his hands. A genuine marble floor is preserved in the narthex, featuring beautiful mosaic decorations. The natural landscape surrounding the monastery is stunning, and there are staircases enabling the visitor to climb one tower and observe the area. This monastery once was an important cultural center in which manuscripts were produced and books translated. Despot Stefan was a writer himself and his most notable work is “Slovo Ljubve” (“A Word About Love”).
Much more could be said about the Pomoravlje District and its notable sights, but an element of surprise is held dear by every devoted traveler. This overview, based on a retreat into nature and exploration of contemplative places of old, did not touch upon urban tourism. It is up to you to visit the charming towns of Despotovac, Svilajnac, Jagodina, Cuprija, and Paracin which will hopefully inspire you to share some impressions with us!