Socanica – Take a seat on the vintage train that leave from Zvecan train station. Relax yourself. You cannot be wrong, it is the only train waiting at the station.
Now, you are travelling through amazing landscape, green hills, blue sky. After 45 minutes of shaky travel get down to the small village of Socanica. Walk 4 kilometers in the direction of the big cross you can see on the mountain’s top, deepen in a great natural surroundings. Are you? Well… You finally get to Socanica Monastery.
There, you will be received by a friendly monk. He will look like happy to see you. “This is not such a touristic place. We don’t have many tourist coming here” he will say.
He will invite you to take a seat and he will bring some coffee and blueberry cake (if you will be lucky).
The place will transmit you a peaceful feeling. Sit in the shadow it will be possible to feel the nature and its vibrations. You are not in a hurry, take a rest from the anxiety of the world and listen the story.
It doesn’t know too much about the monastery’s history except for a small chronicle and some spoken tradition. However, its construction dates back in the past. Few tombstone newly discovered report something about a monk, called Stefan, who was buried next to the monastery in 1643.
Nowadays only two monks live in the monastery. They were many more.
Many of them left the monastery during the post-war years as happened for others in Kosovo and Metohja. The charge for fraud and corruption that run over the Dioceses of Raska and Prinzren few years ago (Socanica Monastery is part of that Dioceses), particularly over the personality of Simon Vilovski, ex-secretary of ex-Archbishop Artemije, accused of being directly involved in the fraud of hundreds thousands Euros, and the consequent destitution and left of the Archbishop himself took division inside the top of Serbian Orthodox Church.
any monks loyal to the Archbishop decided as well to move.
Otherwise one is still there. He has been there for 6 years. Born in a rich Serbian Orthodox family, he received a religious education and, after one year spent at the Faculty of Informatics Engineering, he decided to take the monastic life.
The will to know more becomes unabashed, especially about politics. He has never been interested in such a things. He is a man of God. The Holy Bible doesn’t make any difference between man or nations. Anyone is allowed to go there, to talk, to pray, to enjoy the peacefulness. He told also about some Orthodox Albanians that used to go there.
At that point the cake will be almost finish and probably the monk will suggest you to take a look around. You will agree.
A big three hundred years old pine is set in front of the small church. It was planted by two brothers who fought for the freedom against Ottomans. A big hole is dug on its base. The Turks made it in order to extract sap; extremely useful to light fire. Now it is a holy place where the believers use to pray and leave some coins. The tale tells the face of St. John the Baptist has been seen inside the hole.
To the saint is dedicated the small church, too. It was built in 1862 on the ruins of a destroyed church.
With its white-painted façade, the church is very small.
Under Ottoman Empire, it was not allowed for the orthodox followers to build big church. According to Turks, smaller were the church less the number of believers who couldn’t fill it. Even if that one was built higher than the standards. The founder was killed.
You will be compelled to stoop in order to enter inside. The churches’ doors were expressly built small and low to avoid that the Turk soldiers, riding a horse, could enter inside.
The interior is filled by several paint portrait saints. Some of them are copy of former ones which have been lost, some suffered the erosion of time, others the consequences of the war.
On one side, a trapdoor carries to the beneath catacomb belonged to the previous church of Holy Virgin Mary. According to the materials and manner, it supposed to be one of the XIV century. But there is more. Considering the Catacomb, the history goes further in the past till the Roman Era. Downtown, beside the train station it is possible to see the remains of the old Roman town Municipium of II century.
At that time Roman Empire ruled over the whole Western Balkans. That period is also known as the catacomb Church period, during which was not allowed to be Christians inside the Empire. Christians were forced to renounce Christ and to accept the gods whom Roman rulers accepted as the true ones. Otherwise they were beaten, tortured and even killed. In order to follow and practice their faith, they were forced to do that in secret place as caves or catacomb. Seen the Roman past of the town, it is likely that the constructions of the catacomb goes to that period.
It will be almost time to go but, before, it would be strongly suggested to reach the cross on the mountain’s top. From there you will enjoy the amazing sight of the whole valley. And if the path might seem harder, just think that the cross was carried on the top by the people of the village.
Greet the monk for the hospitality and nature for its beauty. It will not be a farewell. Definitly.