Church complex in Jablanica
About the Church
In the valley of the Jablanica river, hidden in the pine forest, near the highest point on the hill, there stands a log cabin church in the village of Jablanica, around 25 kilometers away from the center of Zlatibor. This church, built in the year 1838 and dedicated to the Shroud of the Holy Virgin, was the gathering place of people and a symbol of protection from Turks.
The dimensions of the church are small: it is 9.5 m long and 5.25 m wide, built from the logs of black pine, with a steep roof made of shingle (fir or oak boards placed one over the other). The construction of the church consists of a rectangular foundation with one nave and semicircle altar apse and it represents a significant architectural achievement. Through the interestingly ornamented door, one enters a room divided by the iconostasis into the circular altar and naos. What has been preserved from the old iconostasis is the Royal Doors, created immediately after the construction of the temple, ascribed to Sreten Protić Molerović, an icon-painter from Negrišor (Dragačevo) and the principal icons, the gift of four donors, painted by Dimitrije Posniković in 1851. Other preserved icons include: the icon of Jesus Christ, the gift of Sava Rajević, The Blessed Virgin Mary with Jesus Christ, the gift of Radovan Rajević and the icon of St. Basil of Ostrog with St. John the Baptist, the gift of Pavel Didanović.
There is a wooden bell-tower next to the church and there are also small log houses. These small wooden objects were built by the affluent people of that time in order to use them with their guests for rest during church synods and holidays. Certain log houses are completely closed, while others are in the shape of cloisters, slightly raised from the ground and standing upon posts. In the middle of each of these log houses, there is a table surrounded by chairs. On one of the preserved log houses, probably the oldest one, one can find the year 1840 written in colour.
The church in Jablanica was placed under protection in 1949 as a cultural monument of great significance for the Republic of Serbia.
The European Union, within the programme of cross-border cooperation between Serbia and Montenegro financed the restoration of the church in Jablanica. The programme “Through culture and tourism for better partnership” provided around 468 thousand euros, 219 thousand of which was allocated to the activities in Serbia and 250 thousand to the activities in Montenegro.
Apart from the 177,000 EUR of the EU donation, the partners of the restoration of the church in Jablanica were the following: the Eparchy of Budimlja and Nikšić, the Tourist organization of Plužina and the Municipality of Čajetina. In the course of two years, which is how long the restoration lasted, the following was done: the reconstruction of the church in Jablanica, the roof of the parish house was replaced, the existing log houses were reconstructed and five new ones were built, two new gazebos were placed, the access road was created, the entire complex was fenced in and equipped with tourist signalization. The Internet presentation of the church was developed and tourist guides were printed.
Within the project in Montenegro, the Church of St. Peter and Paul in Bjelo Polje was reconstructed, this church being the pious endowment of the prince Miroslav of Hum, the brother of Stefan Nemanja. It was in this church, built in the 12th century, that Miroslav’s Gospel was written. The monastery Zagrađe (XV century) near Plužine, dedicated to St. John the Baptist, the pious endowment of the duke Šćepan Vukčić Kosača was also reconstructed.
This was the first of the projects in the area of religious tourism for which EU donated the funds and it preserved a part of Serbian cultural heritage both in Serbia and Montenegro.
When the church of Jablanica was reconstructed, it was included in the tourist offer of the region of Zlatibor and many manifestations were organized in the churchyard of the church. The rise in the number of tourists visiting Jablanica especially contributes to retaining the young in the countryside.
Log Cabin Churches
It is supposed that the first log cabin churches in Serbia were built at the beginning of the 13th century, in the time of the Nemanjic dynasty. Although none of these has been preserved to this day, the monk Teodosije wrote: “many other churches, big and small, were built by Saint Sava while he was the archimandrite in Studenica, not only stone churches but wooden as well so that in every place of his country God is celebrated”. Domentijan the Hilandarian and the episcope Danilo II also wrote about building wooden churches.
The largest number of log cabin churches were built during the Turkish rule over this region. The built churches were plain, not only because the people were poor but also in order not to provoke the Turks. This was why the builders chose secluded places in which to build the churches and there was a lot of wood in those places. The dimensions of the churches were small, they had no dome, tower, apse or cloister that would stick out and expose the church characteristic of the temple that could not be much different from a plain log cabin.
In the time of The First Serbian Uprising, between 1800 and 1813, older log cabin churches were mostly restored, but new ones were built as well. After the collapse of the uprising, they were burned and demolished again. During one short period, from Koča’s frontier to the Second Uprising, almost every erected church was connected to a historical event or the national tradition. The names of many insurgents were written on the icons given as gifts, church books and tombstones in the surroundings of the churches, which is why we can regard these churches as insurgent churches as well. The architecture of the wooden churches of that time was enriched by the first shapes of cloisters, but there were still embrasures on the outer planks. The interior of the churches was decorated with a more carefully painted iconostasis made by professional icon-painters and church books were made with greater artistic skills.
Significant restoration of the damaged log cabin churches and building new ones as well was evident after the Second Serbian Uprising, in the time of prince Miloš Obrenović’s rule. More than 70 wooden churches were erected or restored in the period from 1815 to 1839. After the rule of prince Miloš, churches made of brick become more dominant.
Around 40-odd log cabin churches have been preserved in Serbia to this day. These wooden temples came to be known by people as flying churches because they could have easily been disassembled and assembled again elsewhere if needed. This is how the legend of flying churches was created and in that way some of them managed to avoid being burned or demolished.