Zočište Monastery
Zočište Monastery.jpg
View of the reconstructed monastery church
Zočište Monastery is located in Kosovo
Zočište Monastery
Location within Kosovo
Monastery information
OrderSerbian Orthodox
EstablishedEarly 14th century
Dedicated toSaints Cosmas and Damian
DioceseEparchy of Raška and Prizren
LocationZočište, Kosovo[a]
Coordinates42°22′31″N 20°42′8″E / 42.37528°N 20.70222°E / 42.37528; 20.70222Coordinates: 42°22′31″N 20°42′8″E / 42.37528°N 20.70222°E / 42.37528; 20.70222

Zočište Monastery (Serbian: Манастир Зочиште, Albanian: Manastiri i Zoçishtës) or formally St. Cosmas and Damian's Monastery (Serbian: Манастир Св. Козме и Дамјана) is a Serbian Orthodox monastery belonging to the Eparchy of Raška and Prizren, situated in the village of Zočište, about 3 miles (5 km) southeast of Orahovac, Kosovo.[a][1] The original church, dedicated to St. Nicholas, was built in the 13th century. The graveyard includes tombstones dating back to the 15th and 16th centuries. The monastery was renovated in the 16th century and again in 2008 after being destroyed in 1999.[2] The Church building has been rebuilt on the existing and consolidated foundations using original building material from the ruins of the old church.[2]

The monastery is famous for the relics of the Saints Cosmas and Damian. The shrine at the monastery was said to provide a miraculous cure for eye diseases and mental and psychosomatic disorders.[1] It is said to be "One of the most important cultural places for Serbian and Christian settlements in the Metohija region."[2] It was designated as Cultural Heritage of Serbia in 1954.[3] The monastery was included into the Republic of Kosovo list of "Special Protective Zones" on 20 February 2008.[4]


The earliest reference to the monastery dates to 1327, during the reign of Serbian king Stefan Dečanski.[5] It was damaged during the Battle of Kosovo in 1389.[6] Muslims used the stones of the original building to construct a mosque in Prizren.[7] It was rebuilt in the late 16th century following the reinstatement of the Serbian Patriarchate of Peć.[5] In the late 17th century, it was mentioned by Ragusan merchant Nikola Bošković.[6]

Kosovo War and destruction

Simultaneously with the KLA attack on Orahovac (17–20 July 1998), neighbouring Serb villages were attacked.[8] Serb civilians were expelled from villages Opteruša and Retimlje.[9] With light artillery and machine guns, the KLA attacked for 45 minutes the Zočište Monastery where thirty elderly Serbs had taken shelter, together with seven monks and a nun, and damaged the communal house with two grenades.[10] Local Serbs told HRW that the monks resisted with four rifles for two hours before giving up.[10] The KLA took everyone in the monastery to a school in nearby Semetište.[10] Of the abducted Serbs, 35 were subsequently released on 22 July, and another ten on the night of 29–30 July.[10] The fate of the other estimated forty abductees was unknown as of 2001.[10] In 2005 remains of 47 victims were excavated in two mass graves.[9]

Ruins of monasteries after 2004 unrest

The monastery was destroyed by the KLA during the Kosovo War on September 13/14, 1999, looting and then torching it.[11][12] The relics of Saints Cosma and Damian were transferred to Sopoćani Monastery, and main monastery bell was thrown in the well.[13]


In October 2004, monastery reconstruction started, as Zočište was important and historical cultural designation. Old stones and fragments of the destroyed church were used in reconstruction, and monastery is almost identical as it once was.[14][15] In 2005, KFOR stopped reconstruction, with argument that local population opposes the restoration. When the ban was lifted, construction continued with the reconstruction of dormitories and main church building.[13] On November 13, 2007 a bus carrying about 30 students was stoned outside the monastery.[16]


Salvaged old icon from the original 14th-century church

The church, amidst the old Serbian graveyard, built over rectangular layout with three exterior faces, comprised a single nave, linear barrel vault, with an eastern apse in semicircular shape both in the interior and exterior facade. The material used for construction consisted of dressed stones, lime mortar for binding and stone-slate roofing. The church had two niches of prothesis and diaconicon, on the eastern wall next to an altar table. As the church when remodelled functioned as funerary chapel it had a table to keep a coffin and seats for people attending the funeral.[2][5]

Tell tale remains were seen in the vault and in a niche above the western entrance to the narthex; these were in the form of decorated frescos of a frieze of prophets and of the patrons SS Cosmas and Damian. When the church was destroyed in 1999, icons and liturgical vessels were retrieved and deposited in Velika Hoča for safe keeping.[2][5]

The statues and figures seen in the church consisted of: St Nicholas, St Paraskeva and two Holy Warriors and fragment of the fresco of one of the officiating archbishops, on the southern wall; the figures of St Sava and St Simeon Nemanja on the west wall; the north wall had depiction of "The Vision of St Peter of Alexandria"; the east wall had the figure of the Archangel Gabriel from the Annunciation; and a niche in the prothesis had the figure of an archdeacon.[2]


  1. ^ a b Duijzings, Gerlachlus (2000). Religion and the politics of identity in Kosovo. C. Hurst. p. 72. ISBN 978-1-85065-392-9. Retrieved 18 April 2011.
  2. ^ a b c d e f "Kosovo:Prioritized Intervention List" (pdf). pp. 77–78.
  3. ^ Monuments of Culture in Serbia: Манастир са црквом Светих врача Кузмана и Дамјана (SANU) (in Serbian and English)
  4. ^ "On Special Protective Zones: Republic of Kosovo". Republic of Kosovo. Retrieved 20 April 2011.
  5. ^ a b c d "Monastery of Holy Doctors Cosmas and Damian". mnemosyne.org. Retrieved 20 April 2011.
  6. ^ a b Алексей Лидов (2007). Косово: православное наследие и современная катастрофа. Индрик. p. 343. ISBN 978-5-85759-394-3. Retrieved 18 April 2011.
  7. ^ Chronicles. Rockford Institute. 2003. Retrieved 18 April 2011.
  8. ^ Čupić 2006, p. 277.
  9. ^ a b BI 2012-07-19.
  10. ^ a b c d e Krieger 2001, p. 109.
  11. ^ "SS. Cosmas and Damian Monastery". Retrieved 18 April 2011.
  12. ^ "Research Report" (PDF). CSS Project. Retrieved 18 April 2011.
  13. ^ a b "Manastir Zočište kod Orahovca bez struje". RTS. Retrieved 21 April 2011.
  14. ^ "Obeležena slava manastira Zočište" (in Serbian). RTV Project. Retrieved 21 April 2011.
  15. ^ "Počela obnova manastira Zočište" (in Serbian). Glas javnosti Project. Retrieved 21 April 2011.
  16. ^ "Kosovo: Bus stoned in front of Orthodox monastery". B92.net. Retrieved 18 April 2011.


a. ^ Kosovo is the subject of a territorial dispute between the Republic of Kosovo and the Republic of Serbia. The Republic of Kosovo unilaterally declared independence on 17 February 2008, but Serbia continues to claim it as part of its own sovereign territory. The two governments began to normalise relations in 2013, as part of the 2013 Brussels Agreement. Kosovo is currently recognized as an independent state by 97 out of the 193 United Nations member states. In total, 112 UN member states recognized Kosovo at some point, of which 15 later withdrew their recognition.

External links

  • Official website
  • Манастир Зочиште и црква Св. Врача Бесребреника Кузман и Дамјана, with images of the monastery before and after destruction. (in Serbian)
  • Reportage about Zočište, with images of destroyed monastery and reconstruction
  • Video of the Zočište Monastery

Further reading

  • Ferrari, Silvio; Benzo, Andrea (2014). Between Cultural Diversity and Common Heritage: Legal and Religious Perspectives on the Sacred Places of the Mediterranean. London & New York: Routledge.