Out of the way of all major roads or larger settlements, the monastery of Poganovo, with its church dedicated to St.John the Evangelist, is situated in the far southeast of Serbia, in an unspoilt wild landscape of the Jerma river.
It was constructed around 1390 as an endowment of the mighty Serbian noble, Konstantin and his daughter Jelena, who later married the Byzantine Emperor and became mother to the last two emperors John VIII and Constantine XII.
The monastery church of St.John the Evangelist is a building shaped like three-leaf clover. A group of Moravian style monuments was taken as the model during the construction; however, this church is rather different and much simpler.
The construction of the building took place under Turkish authority, so the fact that the walls were painted much later is a proof that sponsors had little time for their foundations. The strong influence of western, especially Italian art of the late Middle Century, affected the Monastery of Poganovo as well as the other monuments with the same style. It can be seen in diffusion of Orthodox spirituality and late Gothic naturalism.
On the west wall, above the porch, there are three stone-medallions, perfectly preserved, with engraved names of the church patrons, John the Evangelist, Master Constantine and empress Jelena. In contemporary English language it is translated:
By the Will of the Father and by the Inspiration of the Son and by the Deed of the Holly Ghost, this god-built temple of the Holly and praised, beloved apostle John the Evangelist, was painted on 24th October in the year of 1499.
The Poganovo Monastery painters belonged to the group of painters who worked on the wide Balkan Peninsula, from Thessaly, Northern Greece, Macedonia and Eastern Serbia to Western Bulgari.
The essential quality of the frescoes is clear colour, magnificent and delicate iconography with expressive images of saints. The painted scenes are a picturesque visualization of both idea and shape, presenting the events of the Christian history.
All in all, the monastery of Poganovo makes an enduring impression on all who visit it, not only because of its exquisite building design, but also because of the Christian story it has never ceased conveying.
Moreover, the monastery owes its air of tranquility largely to the breathtaking landscape which makes anyone who visits it stay for more than just a day. Above all, anyone who visits the monastery in summer, when an international painters’ colony takes place, might wish to prolong their stay, enjoying everything they see, hear, dream about or expect.
Author: Ana Todorovic Radetic