The monastery of St John the Baptist (predecessor), one of the two monasteries in Jasunja, near Leskovac, was erected in early 16th century on the foundations of an older monastery. In the past few years the icons paintings have been restored, and as part of the preparations for the celebration of five centuries of the monastery, also under way are the works on the renovation of facilities and arranging the churchyard, which requires support of the donors.
The ktetors of the monastery of St John the Baptist are mentioned in the inscription on the very entrance to the temple, from which we learn that it was built owing to Andronic Cantacuzino and his brothers in 1517. The foundations, however, are much older, as was confirmed by archaeological research, and there is even a legend of the Serbian army taking communion here prior to leaving for the Battle of Kosovo.
The frescoes and icons have been preserved in the large part, and according to prior of the monastery, father Ioanicius, they represent the greatest value of this sanctity. The fresco painting was done in 1524, by Bulgarian artist Peter from Sofia. The church was once fully painted in icons on the outside too, but now only the fragments of several saints have remained, such as those of St Demetrius and St George. At the entrance to the monastery there is a fresco from 1671, depicting the events of the Judgment Day. Among other significant ones are the fresco of Byzantine bishop St Marc of Ephesus, Last Supper and the altar depiction of the communion of saint apostles.
Thanking to a generous donation of an Orthodox believer from Japan, the icon painters and conservers from Belgrade have completed a full restoration of the frescoes. That way, after being covered in dirt and tar, the paintings have been cleaned and preserved for the next 200-300 years.
“When the restoration was done, we saw it was the beauty of priceless value. There is no such artwork from that period anywhere in the Serbian Orthodox Church. There are few more monasteries of the Moravska school, but their frescoes are not so well preserved, their iconostases are deteriorated and damaged, so they hold no such historic and artistic value like this one in the monastery of St John the Baptist”, says father Ioanicius.
As part of the renovation of the monastery compound, the dormitories are being finished, a new belfry is built and with a new bell, obtained with the help of a donor. However, our collocutor says that all these tasks are unfolding slowly and with difficulty, primarily due to the lack of assets. He appeals at everybody, and especially our Diaspora, to help the renovation if they can, in order to have it ready by 2017 to celebrate the jubilee.
He monastery of St John the Baptist is located on the bank of the river Jasunja, in the municipality of Leskovac, in southern Serbia. The second one, in the close vicinity, is the monastery of the Presentation of Mary to the Temple.