Everyday Life in Visoki Decani Monastery

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Calling for prayerBefore every service a monk walks around the church knocking with a hammer on a wooden semantron - a traditional Orthodox device for announcing the time of prayer. Semantrons had existed long before church bells were introduced and was of special importance in the time of Turkish yoke when it was prohibited to use bells for church services.

The service in Decani monastery starts exactly at 5 o'clock in the morning with midnight prayer and is followed by matins and the Holy Liturgy. The brethren wake up usually an hour before the morning service to begin their personal prayer rule in their cells. These prayers are of special importance for any monk because this time at the beginning of each day is our first meeting with the Lord. The ninth hour and vespers are served at 5 PM and the service of compline at 8 pm, after the dinner.

Holy services in Decani Monastery are known for their solemn beauty. They are performed according to the traditional monastic liturgical rules of Mount Athos and attract numerous pilgrims and faithful who come to worship at the monastery. The most sacred moment during the year is the Feast day of the Patron Saint - St. King Stephen of Decani when numerous priests, monks, nuns and lay people gather in the monastery to celebrate their beloved protector.

BaptismThere are more and more young people who come to the monastery to join the Orthodox Church through the Holy Mystery of Baptism. In Decani Monastery this ceremony is performed in the traditional Orthodox Christian way by threefold immersion in the nearby river. Before baptism the catechumens are taught the basics of Orthodox faith and they usually spend several days in the Monastery learning how to take part in the services. They are also taught how to pray, keep the fasting rules and observe other Christian commandments. Due to the communist post-war period in Serbia there are many young people who were not baptized but wish to follow the path of their forefathers. That is why the majority of the newly baptized are young adults. They approach Orthodoxy with full understanding of their spiritual vocation. Many of them keep their spiritual tie to the monastery and often come again for confession and spiritual guidance. They return back to their homes with a strong wish to live a Christian life and avoid their former wordly habits.

Making new clothes
Making monastic clothes

A Feastday
During the Celbration of St. King Stefan of Decani

The monks fulfill all their needs by themselves. Each brother has his "obedience"- a special duty conferred on him by the abbot. These monks are sewing monastic clothes and liturgical robes for the brotherhood. All obediences are performed in prayer and silence.

In the kitchenThe cook has one of the most difficult duties in the monastery. On the other hand it is the most blessed obedience because many saints of the Orthodox Church have gained a high level of spiritual perfection serving in the monastery kitchen. One of the reasons why the monastic food is known for its good taste is the fact that it is prepared with prayer and love.

The monastery bakery is a very busy place because there is always need for fresh bread. Before making new bread monks read a special prayer because bread is the most blessed food used by our Lord for the Holy Mystery of the Eucharist. In addition the monastery hieromonks personally make the liturgical bread known as prosfora, which is used for the daily celebration of the Holy Eucharist.

In the bakery
In the bakery

IconographerFr. Arseny is an iconographer. He once lived in New York for six years seeking the earthly glory of the modern painter. Suddenly amidst the hustle and bustle of Manhattan he met Christ in the Orthodox Church. From then on his life was completely changed and he felt great urge to devote all his life and his talent to the Lord. Upon his arrival to Serbia he joined the monastic brotherhood of Decani and since then has painted more than thirty Byzantine style icons which adorn the iconostases of Orthodox Churches in Serbia and abroad. In the silence of his atelier, with prayer in his heart and on his lips he is revealing the mystery of God through color.

Other brothers are active in the monastery woodcarving workshop producing the icon-stands and other church furniture using traditional woodcarving techniques. The brotherhood of the monastery has so far constructed several iconostases in Serbia, Greece and Germany. It is characteristic of Decani monks that most of their work perform by hands using machines only when it is necessary.



FarmingMonks have always been known as keen farmers. That is why this obedience is not neglected in Decani Monastery too. The land is cultivated with the help of workers, while on special occasions all the brethren take part in the farm work. Decani monks are also producing good honey and the wax is used for making candles for the church. Beside honey and other agricultural products the Monastery is also well known for its famous wine produced by the monks from grapes grown in Decani vineyards around Orahovac. Legend says that it was St. King Stephen who first planted the vineyard.

Finally the Monastery has begun the publishing program. With the help of modern technology, computers, scanners and the Internet two books have already been published. One of them, the Commentary on the Gospel of St. Matthew by Blessed Theophylact of Ochrid is a translation from old Greek and has been completely prepared for print using the latest desk-top publishing software by the brethren of the Monastery. In this way the brotherhood is trying to revive the ancient tradition of the monastery scriptoria where hundreds of books were rewritten and translated. The monastery library has more than 200 volumes of these valuable manuscript books richly decorated with miniatures and initial letters and more than 4000 other books from the 18th century to the present day.

Service in the church
Service in the church

Computer room
Translation and publishing activity

The Bishop with the abbot

Bishop Artemy and Abbot Theodosios of Decani

See our Black and White PHOTO ALBUM with more photos
Interview with Abbot Theodosy of Decani
Read more about
Orthodox monasticism
Serbian Orthodox Monasteries of Raska and Prizren Diocese

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