Do not be misled by a humble appearance of the Church of St Nicholas in Podvrh. Although in size and shape it resembles a shepherd’s hut, you are standing in front of one of the most significant medieval monasteries in the Lim Valley, built in 1606. It is assumed that at this location a monastery had existed beforehand which, in this instance, was rebuilt. This is testified to by the stone remains found here as well as the fact that, during Turkish rule, the building of new Orthodox places of worship was not permitted, but only the rebuilding of old ones.
Built in a hidden place, rather far from the village, above the entrance to the Đalovica Gorge, the road to the monastery goes deep into the mountain and ends in a gully at a height of about 770 metres above sea level. The tall doublegabled roof, made of shingle, in a semicircular shape, hides a dome, the shape and beauty of which can be fully seen only from inside. Built of stone, with four aisles and a wooden porch, it gives the impression more of a country house than a sanctuary. Only when you approach the entrance itself does the image of the Lord Jesus Christ, painted above the door, reveal that it is a church, which inside hides paintings of immense beauty.
The church was painted between 1613 and 1614. It was painted by the best fresco painter and iconographer of that time, the renowned painter, the priest Strahinja from Budimlje. The frescoes from Podvrh belong to Strahinja’s later works and they represent some of his best preserved works.
A little more than half a century passed between the painting of the church and the creation of the richly carved gilded iconostasis. For the creator and the main master of the iconostasis in Podvrh, John, known as Kozma, it was his last piece of work in which he was assisted by his pupil Radule. Although of very modest dimensions, 2.3 metres by 4.4 metres, this iconostasis radiates monumentality and represents one of the most beautiful complexes of post-Byzantine art in the Balkans. This masterpiece of carving was presented at the major exhibition titled “Art on Yugoslavian Soil from Prehistory to Today” organised in Paris in 1971 and on that occasion it won first prize in the Grand Palais gallery.
Another exhibit from Podvrh impressed the world at the Paris exhibition. Divoš’s Gospel, created around 1330, had lain hidden in the monastery treasury for centuries. It was discovered only in September 1960, amongst the rare manuscripts and printed books in the monastery’s hidden room. Written on parchment, with illustrations of exceptional beauty, this gospel, the work of the sinful Manojlo the Greek, represents one of the most significant manuscripts of that time. Written for the Bosnian nobleman Divoš Tihoradić, who is mentioned in the charters of the Bosnian ruler Stjepan Kotromanić, today it is kept in the Ecclesiastical Museum in Cetinje. Within the church, part of the relics of the holy hieromartyr Charalampus is also kept.