Hieromonk Dionysius's "Materials for the History of the Visoki Dečani-Holy Trinity Lavra"

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Dečani hieromonk Dionysius, who came to Visoki Dečani Monastery from the Holy Mountain in 1903, kept a diary from the time of his arrival in Metohija until 1906. These writings were titled "Materials for the History of the Visoki Dečani-Holy Trinity Lavra". In his manuscripts, which were in Russian, he wrote about the life of Visoki Dečani at that time: everyday life, visits, pressures, as well as intimidation and attacks on the monastery and brotherhood. Visoki Dečani Monastery received these manuscripts from the brotherhood of Hilandar Monastery on Mount Athos. They have been translated into Serbian and English. The text, according to the Serbian translator, Ljudmila S. Dajović, is very special, both because it is a historical document, but also because the manuscript obviously represents a "raw", unprocessed, hand-written primary source, and not a text that was reviewed and corrected by the author, as it only has minor corrections in several places. "That's why it provides a live and immediate encounter with the author, almost as if the reader is listening to the author himself recount the described events as they are actually happening" – she said. The Brotherhood of Visoki Dečani Monastery is planning to publish this diary in 2018 as a continuation of the historic edition after the "Suffering of Old Serbia and Macedonia in the 19th Century" and “Ottoman Chronicles-Decani Monastery Archives". KoSSev exclusively makes these manuscripts available online, which were given to us directly by Visoki Dečani Monastery. Read on to see what the Dečani hieromonk witnessed. The records from 1903 and 1904 are given in their original forms, albeit in English translation by monk Sofronije from Draganac Monastery.

December 29th-30th 1903. – The Turkish Army came to the Monastery on the 29th or 30th, around 50 soldiers in all, due to the case of the deceased Fr. Visarion. After Fr. Visarion’s death, the Monastery watchman began taking visitors’ weapons away at the gate, returning them as they departed.

December 15th-16th 1903. – The priest Trifun came from Prizren. That night at around 8:00, Albanians fired six shots at the Monastery from the north side, with one shot breaking Fr. Visarion’s window. The bullet broke the wooden shutters, hit the wall of the opposite side of his cell, and then bounced onto the floor. In the morning, a committee from Dečani village completed an investigation, and then later in the day, a commission from Peć came to investigate as well. They took hieromonk Gavrilo with them to help them in their investigation of the situation. On December 17th or 18th, Hieromonk Visarion also went to Peć.

Later, on the eve of the Nativity of Christ, monk Jelisej, who had left the Monastery two days before the Feast of St. Nicholas (Decemer 19th), ran up to the Monastery, terrified, and said that Albanians had murdered Fr. Visarion, who had been travelling back to the Monastery with him. They had screamed at him and cursed him, telling him to not bother running away because they would kill him anyway. They immediately sent one of the Monastery’s novices, some Monastery workers, and soldiers, who stayed with him all night.

First page of Dečani hieromonk Dionysius's diary

18th January 1904. – Four of us went to the village of Loćan to bury a woman who had died recently. We brought five soldiers and the duke  with us, and after the burial we went to the house where the woman had reposed in order to bless water, according to the local custom.

22nd January 1904. – A rumor ran through the Monastery that the Officer received the following notice from Đakovica: The Albanian Muslims, whom the Turks force to pay taxes to the Sultan, suspect that we, the monks, instructed the Turks to make them pay taxes, and so they plan to send 3,000 people to the Monastery to kill all the monks, which we expected to happen on the night of the 22-23 January.

Abbot Teofil said that they came to the Monastery a few years ago, and demanded sugar, coffee, and other foods, and everyone was too afraid to even go down the hall in the Monastery. When I asked what would happen if we shut the Monastery gate and didn't allow them in, he said that they would shoot into the Monastery from all sides, and that they had actually done this on a few occasions.

The Turkish army guirding Visoki Dečani, around 1904./Photography from the archives of the monastery

February 10th 1904. – During the night of February 9th-10th, they penetrated the stone walls of the Peć Patriarchate Monastery. They overran the Monastery and expelled several of the monks who had been there. After staying a day or two in the Monastery, they left and the monks returned home. Since that day, here in Dečani, besides the eight soldiers that always guard the Monastery gate, the officer put more soldiers in three other places around the Monastery to keep watch. They stayed there until February 27th.

April 18th 1904. – 600 soldiers came to Dečani village to find the perpetrators of the following atrocity: On April 10th, Fr. Varlaam, the gardener, and Dimitrije, his helper, were working in the garden when they heard gunshots and a bullet flew past them. A soldier was already with them, who looked around and found nothing. The next day, a Sunday, as soon as Liturgy finished, 2-3 gunshots were heard coming from the woods. The soldiers immediately ran to the woods to shoot at the villains, but they could not catch them, and could not do anything to them.

Turkish general with officers visiting Visoko Decani 1904./Photography from archives of the monasteryApril 18th-19th 1904. – The issue was still not resolved when, on the night of April 18th-19th, at around 4:00pm (or maybe a bit later), shots were again heard coming from Albanians in the woods near the Monastery. It is hard to say exactly how many shots were fired, some say it was eight, some ten, and yet others say fifteen. In the morning on April 19th, five bullets were found, and in the pine forests, the vojvod found five cartridges. It is was found that five or six shots hit the church, three hit near Fr. Partenije’s window and the neighboring cells, while the rest of the bullets were not found. Our soldiers and vojvod  were quite calm during the aforementioned events, they neither sounded the alarm nor did they respond to the villain’s shots. Rather, to calm down the monks, they said that the shooting doesn't mean anything. In response to Fr. Rufim’s question of why did they not blow the trumpet to sound the alarm, they said, why would we sound the alarm when the soldiers are all together? When asked why did they not fire back at the villains, they said, “Because it’s useless to shoot when it’s nighttime and we can’t see them.”

April 23rd 1904. – They fired at the Peć Patriarchate Monastery, wounding a Christian gendarme who had come from the town of Peć to the Patriarchate for Liturgy. The gendarme, defending himself, wounded one or two. The same day, at 2:00 in the evening, the following event took place in our Monastery: A guard, as if having some kind of premonition (as he himself said later), some time before the event, took his gun. He went through the long hall of the monastic dwelling, and then, sat down to eat. However, suspecting that something was about to happen, he couldn’t eat. Taking his gun with him, he got up and went to go sit outside the wall, beside the gate that leads to the pasture. He sat there for a few minutes, and then he heard someone going by gate, trying to open it. The person then shouted in Albanian for the others to come, and then one or two others ran over (from the gate, it could not be seen how many), and they all forcefully pushed at the gate to try to get it to open. The guard then prepared his gun and began to shoot at them through the gate. They ran away into the woods, and then stopped to shoot at the Monastery. The guard summoned the vojvod, who also fired several shots at them. Altogether, around ten shots were fired. The Brothers were not sleeping at the time.

For other stories from the Dečani Treasury, read on our page "From the Dečani Treasury"


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