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On the hills of Bistra Mountain – Kita died defending the Knezino monastery

Three kilometers from Kichevo’s center, on the hills of Bistra Mountain is the famous picnic area Krushino. The road has been repaired and fully asphalted, and not just to this beautiful rest area, but also to the nearby village of Knezino, the medieval monastery “Saint George of Knezino” and the “House of art”.

“Usually we are climbing Krushino using either the existing road or “off-road” along the marked trail. We are walking down the path which is above the settlement of Ivandol more rarely. And there is a lot to see there. Walking to Krushino is a good opportunity to collect mushrooms and “recharge the batteries” in the beautiful pine forest” – says a nature lover from Kichevo.

Resting between the pine canopies

The motel “Biser” is located in the tourist picnic locality Krushino, west from the regional road Skopje-Kichevo-Ohrid, in a beautiful pine forest at an altitude of 830 meters. The object has a restaurant at the ground floor with capacity of 150 people, a modern kitchen and accommodation capacity consisting of 14 rooms (7 double-bed, 5 triple-bed and two apartments). Each of the rooms has a TV, telephone, bathroom, etc.

There is a beautiful terrace on the eastern side of the motel that reaches the pine forest and its capacity is 250 people. Having a cup of coffee here is something magical, especially during the summer heat, and it really is a blessing for the soul and body.

And whenever the weather is unusually warm for November, the lovers of fresh air and nature can use the sport-recreational centre “Krushino”, spend some of their free time there and then have a seat on the benches where young people used to spend a big part of their free time and where “life” is coming back to life again.

Every day over the last winter dozens of skiers descended the western slopes of the centre and enjoyed the beauties of this sport. There were also many people using sledges.

“The snow is high-quality, the configuration of the field is excellent and the only thing that is missing is a rope railway. Then we would have had the impression of being in a real sport centre and not just three kilometres from Kichevo’s centre. Maybe this is the start of an initiative to build a winter sport centre on the hills of Bistra and near Kichevo” – a group of young people from Kichevo commented for the local media.

World beauty

The road from Krushino continues towards Knezino, a village located 4 km north-west of Kichevo that has a population of 12 people, all Macedonians, according to the 2002 census. The village is famous for its monastery. According to data from 1873, Knezino had 24 households with a total of 100 Christian inhabitants, and 280 Christian inhabitants according to data by Vasil K’nchov from 1900.

The monastery “Saint Martyr George” is surrounded by beautiful nature and silence and is the real place for praying and serving God. It got its name after King Marko’s sister, Princess Kita, who founded a town on the Kichevo kale, where there are still remains from the fortress. Kita died while defending the monastery from Musa Kesedjija.

The location makes the monastery the roof of Kichevo and its surrounding. Because of that, the church life has been active since ancient times. The rich archaeological material, found on the site of the monastery is a testament to that.

With the archaeological researches, remains of a medieval church with floor mosaics were found, which makes it the only church of its kind in Macedonia, as well as a big number of fragments of fresco painting. According to the analysis of the building, the church was built in late XIII century. As for the fresco painting, it shows a great similarity to some paintings made by Mihailo Astrapa and Eftihij.

That makes it probable that they really made them, or at least their students and followers, who accepted and nurtured their painting style. But, there are many things that still remain unclear to the history of this monastery and are yet to be clarified by the archaeological researches.

Because of its great spiritual and cultural importance, this monastery was fully restored. The revitalization began by lighting the cornerstone of the new church in 1999. The church was built by a project from architect Rade Nasteski from Kichevo. One of its characteristics is that it is the only church in Macedonia covered by lead sheet, which was made by craftsmen from the Struga region. 
On 11th October 2007, the new monastery church dedicated to the Saint Martyr George was consecrated.

The monastery complex “Saint George”, also known as the Knezino monastery is located on the hills of Bistra Mountain at an altitude of over 900 meters. The landscape is rich with vegetation, beech and oak forest. Some of the trees are several centuries old. There is a fountain in the yard with water flowing out of it that the people consider to be healing.

Fresco painting made by Mihailo Astrapa and Eftihij

Today, the monastery complex is an archaeological site. The Knezino monastery “Saint George” and the “Saint Mary” monastery are important monuments in the Macedonian spiritual and historical treasury. In the people’s collective memory there is a legend that reflects the spiritual and religious condition and the two monasteries took over the role of leaders from one another.

When the Knezino monastery was destroyed, the icon from the monastery flew to the “Saint Mary” monastery and back, and according to the legend it eventually stayed in the “Saint Mary” monastery.

The sacredness of the monastery runs deep. It was dedicated to the Martyr “Saint George” from Kapadokya who lived in late 3rd century. The monastery church is basically an early Christian church with basilica form, built in 5th-6th century and it is 27-29 meters long.

The complex persisted during the mid-century until its burning and destruction in the first half of 18th century. Discoveries from the archaeological researches started in 1985 at the site of the monastery church and the necropolis and continued in 1998 that last to present day with certain interruptions include a mosaic floor, ceramic plates, plates with inscriptions, the fresco painting and the tomb architecture.

“The fresco painting of the discovered fragments belongs to the early Christian painting from 5th-6th century and from periods from late 11th to early 14th century. One of them is probably the work of the famous painters Mihailo Astrapa and Eftihij and is from early 14th century.

Judging by the necropolis construction and the contributions put with the buried people, it be seen that it was long used and that wealthy people were buried there. There are also tomb constructions in which the friars were buried. The monastery complex was burned in the first half of 18th century.

The friary brotherhood broke down and the monastery was left to stand the test of time. The memory of the Christian population from this region of Macedonia is a testament to his glory and greatness. The complex was revived in 1973 when the people from the village of Knezino built the small church in the western part of the old church, while building the monastery hospice at the same time.

The fourth, and latest, church of the monastery complex was started in 1999, and on 11th October 2007 it was consecrated. The hospice was also restored and expanded, and along with the church they were built with donations from the people. Since then, the Knezino monastery has continued to live and fulfil its mission in the Christian world” – says the archaeologist Gordana Dimitrioska.

Near the monastery complex is the “House of art”, located at an altitude of 960 meters, surrounded by dense pine and chestnut forest. It has 80 beds, two apartments, wireless internet, cable TV, fitness gym, restaurant, gallery with many art works and halls for different ceremonies, seminars, workshops, etc. 

An international art colony is held traditionally, every year, in the “House of art” with the participation of many domestic and foreign artists. Those who create during this art colony have the ideal working conditions in a natural idyll.

Their work can be seen by many art lovers for the duration, and after the ending of the art colony. The Kichevo colony is a real treasury of top art works and Knezino is on the map of the most prestigious international art colonies.

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