CULTURAL ROUTE

Table 8

 

The stone bridge which stands in front of you has kept the secrets of its construction for centuries. It is not known for certain who built it and when. However, it is said to be the oldest monument from the Ottoman period in this region. By its form and beauty, it resembles the much better known stone bridges which were built by the emperor’s viziers all over the empire.

Legend says that it was built by a builder called Proko, the oldest one within a group of builders from “across the Lim”, who in autumn were not able to cross to the other side because of the swollen River Bistrica. One night, while he was on guard, in fear he killed an unknown haiduk (outlaw) on whom he found a bag of ducats. In order to atone for his sins, he decided to use those ducats to build a bridge in that very place. The builders got to work building the stone bridge with a special mortar. They made it with eggs and milk obtained from the surrounding villages. The bridge was soon built, but builder Proko did not pay the workers for their work. In a rage they killed him and buried him by the bridge, and then they cursed the stone bridge with the words: “Out of stone we built you, we laid the stone, and may God let you likewise remain stone forever and ever…”

The stone bridge was built near the confluence of the River Bistrica and the River Lim, in the location of Lozna Luka (Vine Harbour), which once belonged to the large estate of the nearby Church of the Most Holy Mother of God in Voljavac. On the estate were the church vineyards, after which the place was named, and even today beside the church there is a grapevine which is several centuries old.

The Church of the Most Holy Mother of God in Voljavac, better known as the Holy Mother of God of Bistrica, is one of the oldest churches in this area. Built in 1186, it is considered to be one of the first legacies (memorial churches) of Stefan Nemanja in this region. It is not certain whether the entire church was built then or whether some dilapidated temple was rebuilt. Numerous finds of Late-Antique material, several tombstones and fragments of inscribed monuments have been found in the proximity of the church which all confirm that this locality was a significant place of religious practice even in the Late-Antique period. After the removal of the collapsed road the archeologists also discovered the new premises on the northern, southern, and western side of the temple, which belong to the late phase of expansion of the church’s space. Soundings carried out on the site have shown that numerous medieval graves are located in the area around the church.

The church in Voljavac is a small single-nave construction with a semi-circular apse, built of sandstone. It is certain that the church was fresco-painted, because even today the remains of badly damaged fresco paintings can be seen. In the 18th century the church was destroyed by the Turks, and some people say that the stone bridge over the River Bistrica was built from the rubble of its ruined walls. The church was rebuilt in 1995 and, somewhat later, construction of the monastery dormitory started and was finally completed in 2007.

 

 
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