Resurrection in Crkvine
”You have the blessing of the Mother of God”, said Metropolitan Amfilohije to nun Justina, giving her approval to restore the long forgotten endowment of King Dragutin from weeds and ruins in 2010. Another woman, born in Mislođin, visited the Holy Land and intended to leave a big contribution to a local monastery. An unknown old man approached her and asked in Serbian: ”Why don’t you support the renewal of the shrine in your birthplace?” She watched him astonished, since she did not even know there was a shrine in her village… In October 2015, Patriarch Irinej consecrated the renovated Monastery of St. Christopher

Text and Photo: Gordana Simeunović

When you set off towards Obrenovac from Belgrade, immediately after Barič, you will see a turn for Mislođin. The Monastery of St. Christopher is a kilometer and a half from the main road. It is nice to come to the monastery on foot, feel the freshness of the Sava Valley and see its beauty. Obrenovac, the thermal power plant and bridge over the Sava, part of the ”Miloš the Great” Highway, are seen in the distance. The Monastery belongs to the Serbian Orthodox Church Diocese of Belgrade and Karlovci. It is dedicated to St. Christopher.
Do you remember St. Christopher? National Review wrote about him in detail in its 31st issue from 2012.
In his search for God, in the III century, at the time of Roman emperor Traian Decius, Reprobus (the Reprobate), a gigantic man from the order of the dog-headed, wandered around the world. There are many legends woven around him. Some say that, while searching for the greatest one, he even came to Satan, but he realized God’s size and mercy on time. While carrying people from one bank of a wild river to the other, a legend says that he carried Christ himself. Thus, he was given the name Christopher (the one who carries Christ).
Patriarch Pavle wrote: ”His burden became so heavy that his strong shoulders bent to the surface of the water while his powerful chest was breathing with difficulty. After finally reaching the opposite bank and taking the child off his shoulders, he could hardly find the strength to ask him: ‘What is with you, my child!? I felt as if I were carrying the entire world on me!’ ‘More than the world’, replied the child, ‘you were carrying the one who created the world. You have shown mercy and mercy will be given to you: your sins are forgiven, my hand baptized you in the water while you were carrying me. As proof of what I am saying – your dry stick will blossom.’”


The Monastery of St. Christopher in Mislođin was built by King Dragutin, who was, after marrying Hungarian princess Katalina in the XIII century, appointed ruler of vast areas, including this. Previously, in his intention to take power from his father, Uroš I, crown prince Dragutin united with the Hungarians. Surprised and defeated, King Uroš I was dethroned and exposed to a great breakdown.
Dragutin was tortured by the sin he committed to his father until his death. He suffered, immersed himself in prayer and asceticism, built many shrines, and finally resigned from his throne, handing it over to his brother Milutin at the Deževo council in 1282. On the foundations of a Christian church, which already existed in Mislođin in the Roman times, in the III century, he built a monastery and dedicated the church to the carrier of Christ.
A Small History of Obrenovac, written by Vita Radovanović and Radmila Radovanović Vasiljević, states: ”The Monastery of St. Christopher in Mislođin was very rich. It had its mills on the Kolubara and Crkvine Creek. It had its fishponds in Jezero in Mislođin and Barič, an apiary on Kovančine, and vineyards in Jasenak, connected with the monastery with the so-called wine roads.”
During the invasion of Belgrade of Turkish sultan Suleiman in 1521, the monastery was destroyed and the monks killed. Turkish sources from those times mention abbot Matija as the prior of the monastery. A legend says that, before the arrival of the Turks, valuables and icons were hidden in a well near the monastery.
”Despite greedy gold seekers, as well as official archeological excavations organized by the Museum of Belgrade, only one silver chalice was discovered, a masterpiece of our medieval art. The chalice is today kept in the National Museum in Belgrade, and occasionally sent abroad to exhibitions together with our objects from our Middle Ages. It was excavated by the Ranković brothers from Mislođin, who, following the advice of Radoje Dimitrijević, priest from Barič, gave it to the Museum of Serbian Land in Belgrade”, states A Small History of Obrenovac.
The monastery was renovated at the time of Despot Stefan Lazarević. It is mentioned in the imperial estates census in the Belgrade nahi in 1560. It was destroyed again during the Austro-Hungarian-Turkish conflicts in the XVIII century. When the church in Palež (Obrenovac) was constructed at the time of Prince Miloš, building material was used from the ruins of the monastery. Later, when a new church was raised in Obrenovac, the same material was used for building the church in Barič.


Dubious characters have been gathering at the ruins of the monastery in Mislođin for years. Drug addicts, dealers, secret lovers. The shrine was completely desolate, grown into weeds. It took a lot of effort and dedication to renovate this important monastery. Mother Justina was appointed the task. She first worked as a doctor and, after retiring, she decided to dedicate her life to God in a monastery. When giving her the task to restore the shrine in Mislođin, now reposed in God Metropolitan Amfilohije said: ”You have the blessing of the Mother of God.”
She arrived in Belgrade in December 2010. She was passing through blizzards and great cold on her way towards the Crkvine hill above Mislođin. She had never even anticipated how many obstacles she would have to overcome in order to renew the monastery and how difficult her assignment would be.
”I found a small apartment in Belgrade. I neither had money nor experience in construction works. Using my delayed retirement annuities, I renovated the quarters, just so that one can survive in it, without electricity, water or road. There was no money or project designs, drug dealers were wild with anger and threatening me”, tells mother Justina.
As soon as spring came, she began arranging the area around the monastery foundations. The news about her endeavor spread around, so good people started coming and offering help. Communal workers cut the weeds and an asphalt road was made leading to the monastery. First steps towards realizing the objective were taken and the first divine services were held on the foundations of the church after several centuries.
In the spring of 2014, when, three and a half difficult years later, mother Justina managed to collect all necessary documentation, new troubles arrived. Obrenovac and its vicinity were struck by great floods, people were saving their lives and homes. All donations intended for the monastery were redirected to support the flooded areas. ”I advised people who wanted to give contributions to the monastery to support their neighbors in trouble. It was more necessary at that moment”, tells mother Justina.
While mother Justina was fighting and praying to God to help her bring her endeavor to completion, one woman born in Mislođin was preparing for pilgrimage to the Holy Land. It was Ljubinka Pejica.
While visiting shrines in the Holy Land, she met an unknown old man. She mentioned that she wants to contribute to a local monastery.
”Why wouldn’t you help the construction of a shrine in your birthplace?” asked the old man. She was surprised. She did not even know that there was a shrine in Mislođin. Upon her return from the Holy Land, she asked around and discovered that mother Justina was renovating the Monastery of St. Christopher. She transferred a large amount of money to the monastery bank account.


The flood receded, people from Obrenovac and the vicinity were fixing their houses, returning to normal life, and mother Justina already reconciled with the fact that she will have to wait and collect money for the renewal of the monastery.
”When the phone rang and the woman told me she transferred the money and how much, I couldn’t believe it. My prayers were answered. I remembered the words of Metropolitan Amfilohije, which took me to this path: You have the blessing of the Mother of God.
Mother Justina continues:
”I couldn’t wait for the church to be raised, but the contractors were not coming. We received the construction permit for the renewal of the monastery on May 15. Time was passing, winter was approaching. I thought I would have to wait longer, but the contractors called me and on November 12, on the day of St. Teoktist (monastic name of King Dragutin), whose shrine we were renovating, the workers and construction machines arrived. The works commenced. Starting the works on that very day was a sign from God.
As soon as they began digging, bulldozers came upon human bones. Those were the bones of fifteen killed monks. Although they had been laying there for five centuries untouched, they were as yellow as wax. We collected them and they are now kept in reliquaries, in the monastery crypt. Many people come and pray above the relics of the martyrs of Mislođin for cure from substance abuse.”
When the construction works were completed in October 2015, His Holiness Patriarch of Serbia Irinej consecrated the monastery. Many faithful people and officials were present.
Mosaics on external walls, candle burning area and shop were made later, and the works on painting the Church interior were entrusted to Zoran Begenišić, fresco painter and icon painter from Obrenovac.


The monastery’s patron saint day is May 22, summer St. Nicholas, which is also the day of St. Christopher. Tatjana Stanišić, godmother of the celebration in 2017, remembers:
”One year, I had the honor, or better to say summon, to be the godmother of the celebration. I had the impression that mother Justina also wanted it, so her blessing arrived. I understood it as obedience given to me by the Holy Theotokos herself. Mislođin is a great spiritual force which cures and connects people, and mother Justina is the strength and support which has been guarding us continuously.”
Mother Justina is grateful to the Patriarchy and its great support during the renewal of the monastery. The manager of the Patriarchy Administration, father Stojadin Pavlović, during his visit to the Monastery, said:
”This is the brightest example how a shrine can be resurrected, how, after so many centuries, a brilliant appearance can start singing and blossoming from a ruin, buried and subject to oblivion. It is good that such a shrine, witness of our tradition, culture, our spirituality and history, has been stolen from oblivion.”
After the completion and consecration of the monastery, the construction of the monastery quarters began. It is a new job requesting additional strength and means. After its completion, the monastery will have nuns and live its full life.
A growing number of people is visiting the monastery. Mother Justina, with the help of gentle sister Mihaila, greets and sees off faithful and good people. It is not only people from Obrenovac and the vicinity who come to the Monastery of St. Christopher. They come from all parts of Serbia, to find necessary peace and recuperate their souls. Priests from Obrenovac or Belgrade hold services on Sundays and holidays. The monastery shop sells monastery handicrafts, icons, rosaries and books.
Thanks to the commitment of mother Justina, the desolate shrine in Mislođin was renovated and St. Christopher is ascending the prayers of faithful people in common love for Christ. When one has faith, nothing is impossible.


Two Golden Coins
”God has given me two golden coins: medicine and monasticism”, tells mother Justina. ”I love people, I like to help and show them that God really exists, our God and the Creator of this world, leading us on the path of our salvation. If someone told me I would become a nun, I wouldn’t believe him, although I grew up in a religious family. However, as time passes by and the more I am in God’s service, I am entering deeper into God’s love. I would like to forward people at least a part of God’s providence and His great love for us.”


Mother of God of Valaam
Thanks to the Russian embassy in Belgrade, the Monastery of St. Christopher in Mislođin was gifted the icon of Mother of God of Valaam. This beautiful icon, presenting the Mother of God barefoot, has a special place in the monastery. It found its second home in a carved wooden frame.


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