Saint Jovan Bigorski Monastery – Rostushe, North Macedonia - Atlas Obscura

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Saint Jovan Bigorski Monastery

Rostushe, North Macedonia

St. John the Baptist's forearm is housed in this remote 11th-century monastery. 


The Bigorski Monastery is a historic Orthodox monastery located in the western part of North Macedonia, nestled in the mountains of the Mavrovo National Park. Founded in 1020, it is one of the most important religious and cultural landmarks in the country.

The first Archbishop of Ohrid, John of Debar, founded the monastery after, legend has it, he was miraculously presented with an icon of St. John the Baptist in the surrounding woods. Renowned for its beautiful architecture and rich artistic heritage, the monastery’s church is decorated with intricate frescoes and icons, many of which date back to the 18th and 19th centuries. It’s also here that a relic of supposedly St. John’s forearm is kept. 

The monastery is also home to a valuable collection of rare manuscripts and books that provide insights into the history of the monastery and the region.

The Bigorski Monastery has faced numerous challenges throughout its long history, including fires, earthquakes, and war. During communist rule, the monastery fell into disrepair; after which, it was painstakingly restored. 

Today, the Bigorski Monastery continues to attract visitors from around the world. Its peaceful and serene atmosphere provides a welcome respite from the hustle and bustle of modern life, and its perch high in the mountains offers stunning views of the surrounding landscape.

In addition to its religious significance, the monastery also serves as a cultural hub for the region, hosting a variety of events and festivals throughout the year, including traditional music concerts, art exhibits, and cultural celebrations.

Overall, the Bigorski Monastery is a testament to the enduring power of faith and culture. Its beauty and historical significance makes it a must-see destination for anyone visiting North Macedonia.

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