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Montenegro Travel Blog: A Guide to The Ostrog Monastery
Ostrog Monastery is one of the most important Serbian Orthodox monasteries. It is a respected religious site of pilgrimage in Montenegro and the Balkans that is dedicated to Saint Basil of Ostrog (Sveti Vasilije Ostroški) who was buried here.
Nowadays, Ostrog represents a congregation point for a number of faiths: The Orthodox Christians (who built the church), the Catholics and Muslims. It is visited by up to a million tourists and pilgrims per year.
The monastery was carved out of the vertical mountainside of Ostroška Greda during the 17th century when Montenegrins were fighting for survival against the mighty Ottoman Empire. It celebrates its annual feast day on the 12th of May coinciding with the death of St. Basil on the 29th of April in the Orthodox calendar, which equates to the 12th of May in the Gregorian calendar.
What To See
Two main monasteries form the Ostrog Monastery site separated by a steep pilgrimage walk and a winding road.
The lower monastery (Donji manastir) centres on the Church of the Holy Trinity and it hosts most of the monk residences, as well as dorm rooms available for pilgrims.
On the other side, the upper monastery (Gornji manastir) seems to be nestled within the vertical rock face making it even more impressive and spectacular. It is made up of two churches, right next to each other: The Church of the Holy Cross and the Church of the Presentation, where Saint Basil of Ostrog’s remains lie. Its frescoes were painted by the Serbian master artist Radul back in 17th Century, when the cave was carved.
Although a fire destroyed much of the monastery, it was renovated back in 1926 and nowadays tourists and believers can visit this authentic hidden gem daily.
It is traditional for the Orthodox faithful to walk (sometimes on their knees) the 3 km/ 2 miles from the lower monastery to the upper monastery barefoot, and to make a donation of clothing, blankets or consumables to the monks living there.
Money donations are also welcome and the monks distribute them to the poorest.
Another Serbian Orthodox tradition is to light candles for the living and the dead. The tradition says that the candle must be kissed before placing it to the metal stand at the front of the church and the devout must make the sign of the cross.
Overnight at the Monastery
Visitors wishing to spend the night are allowed to do it both at the exterior of the monastery, where blankets are provided thanks to other pilgrim’s donations, or in bunk beds inside the monastery.
However, for those looking for a more comfortable accommodation, the lower monastery provides 29 dorm rooms with 8 or 10 beds each, separated for men and women. The beds cost €4 per person.
Note: This is not a usual accommodation, and the “wake-up call” is 05:30 am together with the monk’s one.
Ostrog Monastery is a religious place that needs to be respected by both the faithful or non-believers. Everyone visiting the monastery must wear or bring a long skirt, trousers or jeans to enter it.
Moreover, shoulders must be covered and it’s also recommended (not mandatory) for women to cover their heads.
No changing rooms or clothes are provided on site, so it is recommended to bring your own or purchase them next to the lower monastery before heading to the upper monastery.
How To Get There
- Private transport: Most visitors come to Ostrog with a private tour that can be purchased online or in any major tourist city in Montenegro.
- Public transport: For those wishing to use public transport there are seven daily train services (it takes 45 minutes and it costs €1.80 each way) that stop at Dabovici station at the bottom of the hill. The walk from the station to the lower monastery takes about an hour.
- Taxi: On the other hand a taxi is another option to take into consideration when traveling from Niksic, the nearest city to the Ostrog Monastery which is just over 9 miles (15 km) away.
From May to September the monastery is open from 6am to 5pm daily
From October to April, Ostrog opens for visitors form 5am to 4pm daily
Main photo credit: David Dufresne