The hermitage of St. Sava – Eight centuries place of silence

From the time when St. Sava was walking along the path across the abrupt cliff, this difficult path remained almost the same

Three hundred meters above the ground, on vertical rock cliff over the river Studenica’s canyon, for eight centuries hangs the upper hermitage of St. Sava, construction that resembles on a huge hive. From the Nemanjić dynasty to present days for monks this hermitage is a place of silence and the greatest ascetic exploit. The same as eight centuries ago, believers even in present days walk with awe through the narrow mountain path, pray and take water from the springhead in the cave where St. Sava led an ascetic life.

He built the hermitage when he returned from the Hilandar monastery in inaccessible mountain cut, approximate seven kilometers from the Studenica monastery foundation of his father Stefan Nemanja. Sava left his peaceful monastic life in a hermitage in Karea in order to reconcile his quarreled brothers with the help of their father relics. He never returned back to his ascetic life on mount Athos, but stayed in Serbia to enlighten it.

It wasn’t possible for Sava to remain a simple hermit in Serbia. He was sent by God to work among and for the people. He was place of meeting the East and the West in full harmony. Sava was deep thoughtful person like an Oriental, and vigorous in actions like a Westerner. He expanded to perfection both of this characteristics or talents – has written the bishop Nikolaj Velimirović in his book about St. Sava.

The center of this cultural and spiritual revolution becomes lavra Studenica, which medieval writers call ”covenant ark of the Serbs”. The upper hermitage is part of the lavra where the saint occasionally retired in order to retrieve spiritual peace.

Who would ever thought that king’s son could ever choose such frightful cliff to be his residence rather than court life – was amazed ascertainment that bishop Nikolaj Velimirović made while he was walking little path in thirties of the last century. From the time when St. Sava was walking this difficult path it remained the same even nowadays. Therefore worshippers walk through every inch of the path with great respect.

Opening, subjacent part of the downhill, winding path through the forest leads from asphalt road through the thick forest, from which protrude huge mossy rocks. After half an hour of walking one approachs small white building of the lower hermitage of St. Sava and Sava’s spring with ice cold water. At this point begins real temptation for those who move along the path toward the upper hermitage. At the end this path narrows less than a meter between high marble cliff and chasm. However, fear of the abyss disappears once when one enters the wooden gate before the hermitage and raises eyes on celestial beauty of the landscape of the valley of Studenica situated between Radočelo and Čemerno.

To this fantastic building consisting of several floors glued up on the cliff like a bird nest leads a path beside the small church of St. George from where continues covered wooden bridge to the monks’ cells. In Middle Ages this bridge was razed several times to prevent the enemy armies reach the treasure, on which St. Sava specially payed attention.

Namely, the hermitage in the crag wasn’t just a place of silence and ascetism, but also it was a center of Serbian literature. According to tradition, St. Sava writes Studenica Typikon and Life of St. Simeon right here in the hermitage, and medieval writings reveal that in this inaccessible  gorge he has established whole transcribing school from which came out books written in Serbian and in cyrillic, provided people with the biggies treasure – education.

The church and the cells of the upper hermitage are closed when the monks aren’t present, except one room which is hidden by simple wooden door without marks. Here is Sava’s cave,  where according to tradition the saint led ascetic life and Sava’s cask – a spring protected by a wall with small windows through which pilgrims with a long ladle were taking a water that later used as a cure.

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Translation to English : Milica Rakic