Brief History and Overview of the Zica Diocese
Stefan Nemanja (St. Simeon the Myrrh streaming), the father of the Serbian holy dynasty Nemanjic was the first Serbian ruler in the XII century. His youngest son Rastko departed to Mount Athos and was tonsured and received name Sava. Stefan Nemanja withdrew from the state throne leaving the middle son Stefan as his heir. Stefan Nemanja was tonsured and received name Simeon. He departed to Mount Athos undertaking monastic feats where he passed away of blessed memory.
Gaining great wisdom and experience as an ascetic of Mount Athos, Sava came to Serbia in 1208 with the holy body of the already glorified saint Simeon, his blessed father. Sava became archimandrite in the Studenica monastery and thus helped his brother Stefan to protect and organize the state.
Also, there was a need for the autocephalous church in the independent Serbian state. Sava went to Nicea and successfully established the autocephalous Serbian church in 1219. Manuel I Orthodox patriarch of Constantinople made archimandrite Sava as the first Serbian archbishop.
With great effort as the archbishop Sava begins to organize church life for joyful benefits of his people. Helped by his brother Stefan, Sava completes a magnificent monastery of Zica beautifying it with marble and frescoes. Zica became the seat of the Serbian archdiocese. The archbishop Sava crowns Stefan as the first Serbian king 1221 in Zica as the place of crowning kings and capital of the Serbian state.
Besides current dioceses in Ras, Lipljan and Prizren, archbishop Sava founds two coastal dioceses: humska and zetska and six new in the heartland of Serbia: zicka, hvostanska, budimska, dabarska, moravicka and toplicka. That way the entire Serbian state was covered with effective church centers. Saint Sava is the founder of Zica diocese and the Zica monastery becomes the seat of the same diocese.
Soon after the blessed repose of archbishop Sava in 1236 Trnovo, Bulgaria, God had glorified a new saint. Sava’s body remained incorruptible and miraculous. Thus Sava remained the most favorite and respected saint of the Serbian people until today.
Sava’s successor was Saint Arsenije Sremac. Due to the overrun of Hapsburg tribes, Arsije had to move the seat of Serbian archdiocese to the church of Saint Apostles in Pec monastery in Metohija. Transferring the seat of archdiocese seat to Pec, Zica did not lose the importance of the archdiocesan seat. In period of archbishop Jevstatije I (1279-1286) Zica was a center of the living archdiocesan activities once more. After his illness, death and burial God had glorified him through many miraculous healings performed at his incorruptible body. His successor was archbishop Jakov (1286-1292). Zica and the diocese lived well during the time of the following archbishops also: Jevstatije II, Danilo II, Sava III and Nikodim. Danilo III was elected for the Serbian patriarch in the fall of 1390 or the spring 1391 at the Zica council.
The war has come. Dioceses, monasteries and churches suffered with people, and though demolished and burnt they were restored. Due to the Ottoman invasion the church seats were often displaced.
After the fall of Despotovina under Ottomans in 1459, the life in Zica was dying until the restoration of the Serbian patriarchate in 1577. The monastic life in Zica was revitalized but not for long. There is poor data from this period till XIX century regarding the diocese of Zica and Zica monastery as being abandoned because of the war time and devastation.
Through history, the Zica diocese changed its name and place. There is a fact about Makarije, the metropolitan of Uzice in 1654 and Mitrofan, metropolitan of Valjevo and Uzice (1760-1766). Nikifor (Maksimovic), bishop of Uzice had an important role in period from 1831 to1853. He transferred the diocesan seat from Uzice to Cacak where he erected the bishop’s court. He restored monasteries of Preobrazenje and Sretenje. He helped poor students, opened schools and published books.
Bishop Joanikije (Neskovic), of Uzice-krusevac (1854-1873) had a special role in restoring the church life. Before he was elected bishop, Nikifor was a courtly monk at service of Petar (Jovanovic) metropolitan of Belgrade, the supervisor during restoration of Studenica monastery, a member of Consistory in Belgrade and Sabac, the elder and abbot of Kalenic monastery. When elected a bishop of Sabac by the Council in 1849, he remained there for six years. Nikifor erected a school and the church of St. Sava in his birth town of Milandza. It was financed from his personal fund. He also erected the monastic house in Kalenic monastery along with a smaller monastic house and church in Preradovac. He invested a lot in restoration of the Zica monastery. He was a bibliophile. He was buying and sharing books, collecting antiquity, manuscripts and old money and sending it all to the Society of Serbian Slovesnost and Serbian Scholarly society of whom he was a member. His seat was in Karanovac (present Kraljevo). He was buried in the Zica monastery. The memorable bishop Joanikije (known by people also as bishop Janja) was succeeded by bishop Vikentije (Krasojevic) of Uzice, 1873-1882. He was a bibliophile and cared for education. He dedicated all of his property to the charitable and stipend funds.
During the two year episcopal throne of bishop Kornelije (Stankovic) of Uzice (1883-1885), the diocese changed the name to diocese of Zica. His tomb is in the Zica monastery.
Nikanor (Ruzicic) was a bishop of Zica in 1886-1889.
Sava (Barac) was bishop of Zica (1889-1913), a teacher who was tonsured in Decani and a candidate in theology from Kiev Spiritual Academy. He participated in the Berlin Congress. He was an excellent spokesman of the Church who left the precious facts regarding monasteries and parish churches during his canonical visits.
Nikolaj (Velimirovic) was elected bishop in 1919. Upon his request year after his election, Nikolaj moved to diocese of Ohrid. Professor Jefrem (Bojovic) was appointed to the Episcopal throne from 1920 to1933. He was a student of Moscow Spiritual Academy and Seminary professor. His tomb is in Studenica.
After his death, patriarch Varnava’s vicar, bishop Tihon became the administrator of diocese until 1936 when on the Episcopal throne returns Nikolaj (Velimirovic), holding doctorates in theology and philosophy. Bishop Nikolai is one of the most fertile writers and church spokesman. He helped a lot Serbian people during his activities in America and England during the World War I. He was a good organizer of the Bogomoljacki Movement founded between two wars in Serbia.
He directed well current zeal of the national faith and piety. Thus he enriched our church because the Bogomoljacki Movement members filled our monasteries and enrolled the priesthood. He died in 1956 exiled in America where he was buried. His incorruptible body was transferred to the Lelic monastery in 1992. Today his name is in the diptych of the Serbian Orthodox Church enlisted among other great people of God. After the arrest and detention of bishop Nikolaj, the Zica diocese was administrated by the following bishops: Vikentije of Zletovo-Strumica until 1947. Afterwards until 1956 there were others: Valerijan of Sumadija, metropolitan of Skopje Josic (Cvijic), Vladimir of Raska-Prizren and German of Budim.
German (Djoric) was bishop of Zica in period of 1956-1958. After the election for patriarch he administrated the diocese of Zica until 1961.
Vasilije (Kostic) was bishop of Zica in the period from 1961 to 1978. Before elected bishop he received high education graduating from Athens theological department. He was an official of the Holy Synod and professor of monastic school in Decani and Seminaries in Prizren and Bitolj. He was elected for bishop of Banja Luka in 1947. He restored the bishop’s court in Zica destroyed during war. He unceasingly encouraged flock giving stimulus to erect new churches and church houses. He was a representative of the Serbian Church on Pan-orthodox conferences in Rhodes, Genève.
Stefan (Boca) succeeded Vasilije in the period from 1978 till 2003. After his seminary education and Theological studies Stefan taught catechism in Gimnazija and was a professor in Belgrade seminary. He was elected bishop of Dalmacija in 1959. During 19 years he restored the diocese and church life devastated by war. Diligent work in the diocese effected monastic communities and priests. He organized seminars, choirs, educated new cadets, encouraged construction of churches and other building, developing missionary work, etc…
He represented the Church in many interchurch dialogues and theological meetings. Entrusted by the church, Stefan was in charge of the church education for a long time. He is buried in the Zica monastery.
Bishop Hrizostom (Stolic) of Zica (2003-2012) was born in Ruma. He spent monastic life in monasteries: Visoki Decani and Hilandar and other monasteries from Mount Athos. He was a principal of the Hilandar library and twice elected protos of the Mount Athos community. He was elected bishop of the Midwest diocese in 1988 and remained there until 1992 when he was appointed to the Banat diocese. He remained there until he was appointed to Zica diocese in 2003. He was a bibliophile and he loved hymnography and worship. The fruit of his experience from Mount Athos is two volume book translated in Serbian: the Svetacnik and the Liturgy of St. James. He published theological books. During his time in Zica diocese, he published Gospels and Apostles for the daily worship throughout the year as well as the Mineon with the Srbljak designed for the yearly cycle of worship. His grave is in Rujan monastery (Bioska near Uzice) which he rapidly finished before death. After his repose, bishop Jovan (Mladenovic) of Sumadija administrated Zica diocese from 2012 to 2014.
From 2014 unto the present day, bishop Justin (Stefanovic) of Timok was elected to the St. Sava’s throne of Zica. He visits monasteries and parishes, strengthening faith of his flock with the living word and assists in erecting temples and other buildings. Overall he was responsible for improving the life in Church of the God guarded diocese of Zica.
Today the Zica diocese has 13 bishop’s vicarages with 215 parishes, 28 monasteries, with overall 210 monks, nuns and novices. There are 24 monastic churches and 13 monastic chapels. There are 167 teachers of Orthodox (religious) education. The diocese has 18 deacons, 170 parish churches, 34 chapels and 59 parish homes. Erection of new churches and parish homes is under construction. The bishop’s throne is the Episcopal court in Kraljevo, Dositijeva 5e at the cathedral church dedicated to the Burning of St. Sava’s relics. There are iconography workshops in the Zica and Gradac monasteries. There is a restored Stara Pavlica monastery (the church of Saint Apostles Peter and Paul) nearby town of Raska dating from the pre-Nemanjic period.
The most significant monastery of the diocese is Studenica, the endowment of Stefan Nemanja in 1190 and rightfully named “the mother of all monasteries and churches”. This monastery with its beautiful architectural style and frescoes was a good example to other rulers of the holy Nemanjic dynasty who continued with their endowment activities. This way the Studenica monastery created many monasteries and churches, spiritual pearls of architecture and church art.
As Archimandrite of Studenica, Saint Sava began a great mission of actualizing the independent Serbian state and autocephalous Church. He completed the mission on the Ascension council 1221 in Zica as proclaimed in Sava’s Sermon on the True Faith and Sinodikon (the rule of Orhtodoxy). It has been written enough already regarding Zica monastery.
The following are the most important monasteries and churches from the earliest period of origin:
Gradac monastery, the church of the Annunciation, the XIII century endowment of queen Jelena of Anjou-blessed Jelisaveta
Raca monastery in Bajina Basta, the church of the Ascension, the XIII endowment of kind Dragutin Nemanjic. There were more than 300 monks and famous school of transcription
Pridvorica monastery the XII century near Studenica
Klisura monastery near Arilje, the XIII century church of Ss. Archangels
Kovilje monastery, the XIII century church of Saint Archangel Gabriel
Jezevica monastery, the church of Transfer of the Relics of St. Nikolai of Myra 1337.
Stjenik monastery, the XIV century church of Nativity of St. John the Baptist
Kamenac monastery, the XIV church of Nativity of the Theotokos
Vracevsnica monastery on Rudnik, the XV century church of St. George
Blagovestenje monastery in Trnava, Cacak, the church of the Annunciation 1554.
Rujan monastery, the church of St. George known for the printing shop and the Rujan Gospel printed by monk Teodosije in 1537. The Ottomans destroyed it and the school of transcription was transferred to monasteries of Raca and Mileseva. The monastery was restored recently.
Voljavca monastery, the XVII century wooden church of St. Procopije,
There is a group of monasteries in Ovcar-Kablar gorge known as the Serbian Mount Athos: Blagovestenje monastery, the XII-XIII century church of the Annunciation, Nikolje monastery, the XIV-XV century church of St. Nikolai of Mira holds the famous Gospel from this period, Jovanje monastery 1540 (endowment of Mount Athos monks),Uspenje monastery the XIV century, Preobrazenje knocked down 1909 for the rail road and the new church of Transfiguration erected in 1940, Vaznesenje the XVI century, Vavedenje monastery the XIII century, Sv. Trojice the XV century built by monks from Mount Athos, Sretenje monastery the XIV century.
One of the oldest churches in the diocese is the church of Ascension in Cacak, the XII century Stracimir endowment , brother of Stefan Nemanja. There are others also:
The church of St. Ahilije in Arilje, endowment of saint king Dragutin Nemanjic 1296.
The XII century church of St. Sava in Gracac,
The XIII century church of St. Nikola in Brekovo near Arilje,
Bela Karanska crkva, the church of the Annunciation 1342 in Karan, endowment of zupan Brajan, a nobleman on tzar Dusan’s court.
The church of St. Archangel Gabriel in Borac 1350
The XIV century church of St. Nikolai of Mira in Ramaca near Kragujevac
The XIV century church of Beheading of St. John the Baptist in Baljevac near Raska
The XIV century church of St. Nikolai of Mira in Sumnik near raska
The XVI-XVII century church of St. George in Radaljevo near Arilje
The XVI century church of St. Nikolai of Mira in Brezova
The church of Nativity of the Theotokos in Prilipac near Arilje in 1734
The old church of St. Mark the Evangelist and Apostle in Uzice 1828 was built on foundations of the older church from 1721.
Many church in this diocese dates from XIX century after the liberation of Serbia and expulsion of Ottomans. Here are some wooden churches already having historic significance and value:
The church of the Intersession of the Theotokos in Cukojevac, Kraljevo 1780
The XVIII century church of Nativity of saint John the Baptist in Gorobilje, Pozega
The church of Nativity of the Theotokos in Cvetke near Kraljevo 1725.
The church of Prophet Ilija in Dobroselica, Zlatibor 1780.
The church of the Ascension in Dub near Bajina Basta 1792.
The church of St. George, Seca Reka near Kosjeric about 1812.
The church of Synaxis of St. John the Baptist in Vukusica near Kraljevo 1815.
The church of Transfer or Relics of St. Nikolai of Mira in Vrba near Kraljevo 1834.
The church of the Intersession of the Theotokos in Jablanica, Zlatibor 1830.
The text for the site of the Zica Diocese was written by: prof. dr Dragoljub Danilovic
Tehnical preparation and design: priest Alexander R. Jevtic