T H E   S E R B I A N   O R T O D O X   M O N A S T E R Y   O F   B O D J A N I

The Serbian Orthodox Monastery of Bodjani is 15 km to the south of Bac, towards the Danube. The complex covers a church, from three sides surrounded by the residential quarters and the farming ancillary buildings to the north side.It is of a cruciform ground plan, with dome, 5.5 m in diameter, rising above the main nave and the transept cross. It belongs to the Rascia building style, linking it to the architecture of the Fruska Gora monasteries of Vrdnik, Kuvezdin and Jaska. The original monastery was started to be built in 1478 and was linked to how Bogdan, a merchant from Dalmatia was healed, who then vowed to the Virgin to build a church as a token of his gratitude. The present church is dedicated to the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary and was built in 1722 as the fourth one on the same place by Mihailo Temisvarlija from Szeged. The present quarters date from the 18th century. At first they were just a ground floor structure, surrounding the church from four sides, as shown on a Zachary Orpheline's etching dating from 1758. The present quarters were built after a fire, between 1786 and 1810. The sections at the north and south ends have a storey, while the one at the west end is a ground floor structure and to the north from the entrance to the quarters there is a winter chapel.

The entire church interior is covered with fresco paintings (about 600 m2) painted in 1737 by Christopher Zefarovic (Hristofor Žefarović), a painter and an engraver. As a unique artistic opus of that time, the paintings combine the strict canons of the Late Byzantine art with Baroque, as a modern European style of that time – thus being a crucial point in the Serbian art and one of the most valuable complexes of fresco paintings in south-east Europe in the first half of the 18th century. Ljiljana Stosic states her view on the subject, "Far above his time, on the Bodjani walls, Christopher Zefarovic, determined the future guidelines with fortitude not only for the Serbian artists, but for the cultural paths as well, and with bold strokes of his brush almost three centuries ago, he made an unbreakable association with Europe. It was justified to say that in Bodjani, although everything in its place – nothing was as it had been– and the compositions, which had been unknown to the Orthodox Christian art before, seemed somehow familiar." The iconostasis screen is also an outstanding object of art, created in phases – in the 18th and the early 19th centuries – the work of Kyiv painters, Jov Vasiliyevich and Vasyli Romanovich, as well as the Serbian masters, Vasyli Ostojic and monk Simeon Baltic. The Bodjani iconostasis is one of the first examples of the baroque painting influence in the region that by the late 17th century belonged to the Ottoman Empire. In this case, the baroque influences came indirectly, brought by the Ukrainian artists who had adopted the West European style, adapting it to the Orthodox painting heritage.

In the north section of the nave, there is also a Blessed Virgin's Throne with a miracle-working icon of the Virgin of Bodjani from the late 17th century. The icon was considered a Protector of the monastery and the Bac diocese. The monastery library and the archives are highly significant as they hold some unique material with records dating from different time periods.


Knowledge enhancement with regard to the Bodjani Monastery was directed to conservation and study of the highly valuable fresco paintings in the monastery church – the techniques and painting style of Christopher Zefarovic (Hristifor Zefarovic) and subsequently to understand complex phenomena of their degradation. Serbian experts and scientists all gathered around this task, but there were also those from abroad working not only on the Centuries of Bac, but also in two other Serbian-Italian projects. The comprehensive investigations led to some recommendations for interventions, confirming the significance of expert involvement, networking, team work and international collaboration. And, once again, in the Bodjani case, the multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary approach, as a primary starting point in conservation, proved essential. The collective efforts improved the work methodology, making and processing the documentation, as well as the starting points for future conservators and researchers.All along we witnessed how team work professional qualifications were improving, later to be organised in establishing a cultural heritage materials testing laboratory at the Faculty of Technology of Novi Sad.