Devic Monastery

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Location: Near town of Skenderaj, Kosovo

Who Considers it Sacred? the Serbs (a Slavic ethnic group of traditional Orthodox Christian faith)

Significance: The Devic Monastery was originally built in the first half of the 15th century with a dedication to Joannicus of Devic (also known as Saint Ioannikios). There is a sacred well known for miraculous healings outside the monastery and the saint’s grave is in the church. The church has been known through history for its wall-paintings and was an important transcription school in the 16th and 17th centuries. Fragments of the frescoes still remain.

The Threat: Vandalism and War

Status: The monastery has had a long history of being a target for vandalism. It was first plundered in 1455 when the Muslim Turks expelled all the monks and took control of the site. It was later devastated in the early 19th century when it was looted and monks killed or forced out. A new brotherhood of monks rebuilt the monastery in 1889 and it was a thriving school and pilgrimage center until World War II brought destruction at the hand of the Nazis.

The Devic Monastery was again threatened during the Kosovo War of the 1990s, and it was looted and vandalized after the war. The nuns feared the violent attacks and the priest, Father Seraphim, was beaten inside the church. The arrival of French peace-keeping troops, saved the nuns and the priest from being abducted and killed. The frescos survived unharmed, although a votive painting had “UCK” (Kosovo Liberation Army) scratched into the surface. The monastery buildings were also unharmed, but vandals smashed the marble cover of the tomb of the patron saint. In March 2004, the monastery was again burned with only the walls left standing. The saint’s tomb was plundered and the tombstones in the graveyard were all toppled and broken. The United Nations troops arrived too late to save the structures, although the nuns survived.

For More Information: Sacred Sites Newsletter, Volume XV, Number 1, Fall 2004

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