New Gracanica Monastery
Protection of the Most Holy Mother of God
Serbian Orthodox Metropolitanate of New Gracanica
Diocese of America and Canada
For centuries the Church provided the strength and tradition that allowed
the Serbians to maintain their religious and cultural existence in Serbia.
The Gracanica of Kosovo, the famous church that was continually destroyed
and rebuilt, is an example of the powerful Serbian spirit that with the
Church as its guide, carried itself from an age of struggle in Serbia,
to an age of peace in America. In 1977, the Most Holy Mother of God (Serbian)
Association, Inc. purchased sixty acres of land, now the home of the Serbian
Orthodox Diocese of the US and Canada, Serbian Orthodox Metrtopolitanate
of New Gracanica. This expanse of park land is located in the Village
of Third Lake, Illinois, and is the site of a beautiful church and monastery
In 1984, New Gracanica Church and the main building on the ground, dedicated
to the feast of the "Protection of the Most Holy Mother of God",
was completed and consecrated. It is an impressive architectural replica
of the old Gracanica of Kosovo, but eighteen percent large than the one
built in 1321 in Serbia. The original Gracanica was commissioned by King
Milutin and built in 1321 by three brothers - Djordje, Dobroslav and Nicholas.
Architecturally Gracanica is the supreme achievement and is designed in
the Kosmet style. This style was a development of the Macedonian style
or cross-in-square. The one difference is that in the Kosmet style, on
each corner is a supplementary dome, while in the center is the main dome.
New Gracanica is richly attired with detail such as hand-carved wooden
entrance doors, which depict twenty-three monasteries and churches from
various regions of Serbia, united them in image as they are in the hearts
and minds of the Serbian people. Domes with crosses, pillars and unique
brickwork add to the grandeur of the original Gracanica.
The interior of the church with its carved wooden furnishings, ornate
gold and crystal chandeliers, imposing icons and award-winning terrazo
floor create an aura of beauty and serenity. It fulfills the desire of
the Orthodox Church to touch the senses, thereby touching the soul. The
physical beauty of the church is reflective of the love and committment
the Serbians have for their faith, but the furnishings of the church also
serve as symbols of the intrinsic ideas of the relgiion. Every element
from the use of candles to the placement of saints on the iconostas in
the church has a significance in the Serbian Orthodox religion.
In 1995, the fresco project began. Fr. Theodore Jurewicz was commissioned
to paint the entire church. The project took three years. Fr. Theodore,
one of the most profound and celebrated iconographers in America today,
came in stretches of three weeks to a month to do the work. The style
is Byzantine and the richly colored designs and religious scenes that
cover the walls, vaults, pillars and dome of the church are imbued with
bright colors. This is its most distinctive feature. When one walks in,
the church reflects brightness, hope, beauty, optimism, life. Described
as religiously significant scenes and symbols, icons are painted on wood
boards (the typical icon), done as mosaics (in stone, marble or tile)
or painted as the frescoes that frequently cover the plastered surfaces
of early Orthodox Christian churches. The frescoes painted by Fr. Theodore
and other contemporary iconographers are done in acrylics on dry plaster.
Formerly they were painted on wet concrete. Fr. Thomas Kazich said, "The
frescoes make people feel like the people represented by the images are
present. It is also a way to pass down events through the centuries so
that even people who are illiterate or don't read the Bible can visualize
and understand what the priest is talking about. In the Orthodox Church
we have not just an oral tradition, but also a visual tradition. Iconography
represents that visual tradition. Icons are often refered to as 'the gospel
in colors'." Icons are like windows to heaven. They are windows that
take us to another kind of reality. We don't pray to the images. We pray
through them. Fr. Theodore was asked what it means to paint an icon. He
said, "Painting an icon is like making a journey from darkness into
light. In most paintings, the artist starts light and adds darker shades.
In icons you go from dark to light. It is the Byzantine tradition of painting,
although you can also think of it theologically as going from the darkiness
of ignorance to the light of enlightenment." The frescoes were blessed
in October of 1998 by His Holiness Patriarch PAVLE.
The Church and complex was founded and built by the late of blessed memory
Metropolitan Iriney who is buried outside on the right hand side of the
church. Born in 1914, he fell asleep in the Lord in 1999. He was Bishop
of the Diocese from 1963 until his death. Succeeding him is the Rt. Rev.
Bishop LONGIN who serves as the Bishop of the Diocese of America and Canada,
New Gracanica Metropolitanate, under the Serbian Orthodox Church with
its seat in Belgrade, Serbia. The Diocese is one of many dioceses under
His Holiness Patriarch PAVLE. His Grace's permanent residence is on the
monastery grounds, to the north of the Church. Bishop Longin has some
50 churches under his "omophor".
In an effort to maintain Serbian tradition, as well as provide parishioners
with a complete religious complex, the monastery has set aside 13 acres
of parkland for a cemetery, located behind the Administration/Seminary
building. Traditionally the Serbs have buried their loved ones near the
church where they remain in close proximity with the church and its activities.
The cemetery as of 2007 has over 3000 graves with people buried from all
over the nation, though mainly from the midwest. Late of blessed memory
Metropolitan Iriney is buried outside of the south door. Prince Andrey,
younger brother of King Peter II and Kum of New Gracanica Monastery Church,
is buried in the first row of the cemetery.
Facts you may want to know:
*The foundations of the headstones are already in place to maintain symmetry
and alleviate future settling problems.
* The headstones are not limited as far as style, but cannot exceed 4
feet in height.
*Flowers are allowed and placed at the base of the gravesite.
*Arrangements for memorial meals can be made with the dining facility.
Contact the Diocesan office at 847-223-4300.
The administration/seminary building in its architecture and appearance
compliments the beautiful church, creating a cross formation best seen
from an aerial view. This building has a multi-purpose use satisfying
he various needs of the religious community.
This building houses the following:
*Cells for monastics who live and serve in the monastery
*Rooms for students
*Dormitory and dining/multipurpose facilities for the children's camp
*Central Diocesan Office and Bishop's office
*Office of the Diocesan Education Department and the Diocesan Observer,
*A museum offering a collection of art and artifacts from native Serbia
*Joe Buley Memorial LIbrary
Every year during the months of July and August, the monastery sponsors
a camp for children aged 6 to 16. The campers reside in the camp section
of the Administration/Seminary building where there are dormitory rooms
and dining facilities. The atmosphere of the monastery grounds provides
an ideal stimulus for the variety of religious, sports, cultural and social
activities that occur at camp. The camp is organized and directed by the
ladies of the Federation of Serbian Sisters Circles and clergy members,
who carefully structure the camp events to fulfill their established goals
in a fun, friendly way. Camps have been sponsored by the Diocese and operated
by the KSS for some sixth years.
Guiding Principles of Camp are as follows:
1. to integrate the child into the life of the Church through the life
of the camp
2. to instill into the hearts and minds of our Serbian children, the religion,
heritage and traditions of our Serbian Orthodox Church
3. to learn how to apply this faith to their lives and to practice it
within the fellowship of community living
4. to see God's world as a beautiful gift, to be appreciated and used
in a good way
5. to enable campers to meet children from other church school communities
and learn how to get along
6. to promote good health habits such as cleanliness, enough rest, proper
diet, safety, wholesome exercise and respect for the body as God's temple
7. to instruct that one is responsible for one's own decisions; to teach
effective leadership skills
Information on registration and program for the camp may be obtained through
the camp website: www.gracanicacamp.com
Religious Education Office
The Religious Education Office has its central office in New Gracanica
Monastery. Fr. Thomas Kazich is Director of Religious Education; Editor
of Little Falcon Publications; and Administrator of Diocesan Camps. Among
the activities are two publications.
A Serbian version of Little Falcons (available for purchase) contains
lessons that can be adapted and presented in a supplementary form on Serbian
religious customs, history, folk tales, lives of saints, fiction, music,
games, activities, construction projects. Three years of cycles exists.
Each year contains 5 issues.
The new version of Little Falcons is geared to church themes, therefore
it fits well into pan-orthodox situations. Each theme is studied from
various views - liturgical, biblical, historical, social, scientific,
literary, artistic, musical, etc. Each theme booklet contains plenty of
material to develop into a four week Unit study. Booklets so far have
covered (and are available for purchase): Candles, Incense, The Cross,
Bells, Oil, Water, Bread, Wine, Icons, The Gospel, Vestments, Church,
Holy Trinity, Canons, Thanksgiving, God's Kingdom, Doors, The Way, Seeds,
Salt, Mission, Music, Monasticism, Mary the Mother of God, Family, Language,
Death, Royal Priesthood, Peace, Fasts, Feasts, Chairty, Angels, Life,
Parables, Miracles, Creed, Heroes, Prayer, The World, Science, Senses,
Fire, Hands. Back issues are available and current subscriptions. The
magazine encourages parent's involvement in their children's religious
education, and therefore is intended first as a recreational magazine
For information, check web page: _________ or email: littlefalcons @owc.net
The Diocesan Observer is the main vehicle that presents news of the diocese,
parishes, organizations, and the church and world at large. It is issued
monthly in English and Serbian. Subscription rates and information may
be obtained from the Office.
A Bookstore was opened in November of 2002 and offers religious and cultural
books in Serbian and English. It sells the set of 5 volumes, "Treasury
of Serbian Orthodoxy" published by New Gracanica Metropolitanate,
containing English translations of Bishop Nicholai Velimirovich's works.
Icons, vigil lamps, crosses, vestments, and other church items are also
available. Please call the Diocesan office for hours.
Joe Buley Memorial LIbrary
The Joe Buley Memorial Library was opened on November 19, 2004. The Library
is a research center housing a collection of materials relating to Serbian
history and culture, both in English and in Serbian as well as some other
languages. It has books, periodicals and other media items in these subjects.
Many of these are rare and not available in other libraries or research
collections in the United States. The collection is especially strong
in the area of twentieth century Serbian history, and in the history of
Serbian communities and their churches in the US. As a support to this
collection, books can be found on Byzantine and Orthodox theology, history
and culture, especially as they relate to Serbia and the Balkans. As part
of its work and mission, the Joe Buley Memorial LIbrary will seek to increase
knowledge and interest in Serbian and Orthodox history and culture, both
for Serbian communities and the larger public. Occasional lectures and
discussion groups, as well as programs for children and youth, will be
held to encourage a greater appreciation of this heritage. The mission
of the Library is: To develop the library into the leading center of Serbian
studies in the United States; and to promote the study and awareness of
Serbian culture, history and Orthodox religion.
Please call the Diocesan office for hours (847-223-4300).
In October of 2003, the first Festival of the Sacred Arts was held at
New Gracanica. Centered on the main lawn in front of the Church and Administration
building, it spead out to the picnic area, hall, and playground. It enabled
people to connect with their Orthodox faith and how the arts fit into
the giant picture. It brought together Orthodox artists of different national
backgrounds. Booths and exhibits explained iconography, mosaics, woodcrafts,
textiles, photography and crafts. Demonstration in painting of icons and
making of candles was included. Church music performances featured choirs
using the Byzantine/Slavonic Chant. Lectures on selected themes were presented
in the afternoon. Ethnic food was available too. The day climaxes with
a pan Orthodox Vesper service. Sponsored by Faith Net, it has attracted
over 1000 faithful from Wisconsin and Indiana, besides the greater Chicagoland
area. It has become an annual event and is held on the first Saturday
Picnics & Recreation
Gracanica Monastery serves as a center for Serbians to gather at events
such as picnics, weddings, other social activities, plus cultural and
educational events, such as lectures, conferences. Major picnics take
place 3 times a year. The season opens with the Memorial Day picnic; then
comes the Fourth of July picnic, and the season closes with the Labor
Day picnic. Many other smaller picnics take place during the summer months,
but the three major picnics are the best attended, bringing 5,000 to 12,000
people from across the nation. The attendees come to partake of the company
of other Serbs, watch folklore dance programs on the large concrete stage,
as well as participate in recreational folklore dancing. They also listen
to poetry readings, enter into political discussions and just enjoy good
food and friends. The monastery also provides Serbians with a place to
retreat privately or with their families. Members are allowed to visit
anytime they like. Druce Lake with its beach provides a scenic place to
sit and commune with nature. There is a soccer field for those sport-minded
people. Picnic benches and tables are available for those who would like
to picnic. For those who want prepared meals, the Monastery Hall dining
facility is on the premises. Catering facilities are available for Funeral
and Memorial luncheons ("dacha"), baptismal meals, and weddings.
Monastics and clergy are available at the monastery for confessions, discussions,
and other religious needs. The combination of the calm of Druce Lake,
open grounds, and fresh air with the majestic Gracanica in the background
gives a sense of peace and tranquility that is difficult to match.
The Serbians are warm, hospitable people who enjoy a delicious cuisine,
folklore dancing and sharing the company of others in festive gatherings.
In addition to their charm, the Serbs possess an intense pride and passion
for their culture and religion. This intensity stems from the Serbian
history of struggling for many centuries to survive under an oppressive
regime. As early as the 13th century, Serbia was greatly influenced by
its adversaries, and from the 14th to 19th centuries was dominated and
ruled by the Turks. The Serbians, determined to maintain their culture
and heritage, turned to the Church. The customs and traditions practiced
through the Church strengthened and unified the Serbs and became the root
of their existence. The Church played an important role in the preservation
of the Serbian nationality, even before the Turkish takeover. Kings and
princes of Serbia chose to build churchs and monasteries rather than fortresses
or lavish estates. St. Sava (Nemjanich), the son of King Nemanja (St.
Simeon Mirotochivi), and the first Serbian Archbishop, dedicated his entire
life to teaching the people their religion, building countless churches
and monasteries and organizing the Serbian Orthodox Church. He died in
1235 and is considred the greatest Serbian national hero and saint. King
Milutin, who reigned for forty years (1282 to 1321) erected forty churches
and monasteries. In 1321 he built the Gracanica of Kosovo, which was considered
the most beautiful church of the middle ages. Various adversaries continually
destroyed Gracanica through the centuries, but the persistence and faith
of the Serbs motivated them to rebuild. Aftter the death of the great
Emperor Dusan, his son, Emperor Uros, was not able to hold together such
a large empire and fight against the Turks. His son, Prince Lazar received
the authority to rule the land around Rudnik, in the norther part of Serbia.
When Uros died in 1371, Lazar became ruler of all the lands around the
River Morava. His capital was in the city of Krusevac. He worked hard
for the sake of the Orthodox Church. He helped the poor and the sick,
built hospitals and monasteries. In those days the great military power
was the Turkish Empire. Lazar fought against the Turks many times. The
last time was at the Battle of Kosovo (28 June 1389). Folk ballads say
that Lazar had a choice, on that fateful day. He could chose the heavenly
kingdom or the earthly kingdom. If he chose the earthly Kingdom, he would
win the war. But it would not last long. However if he chose the heavenly
Kingdom, he would suffer defeat, but save his soul and the soul of his
people. Lazar chose to lose this world's material battle for the spiritual
one. On Kosovo field, Prince Lazar with his soldiers was slain for the
"honorable Cross and golden Freedom". The Turks won and the
Serbian lands were captured and held for five hundred years. But the Serbs
remained Orthodox and preserved their religious integrity.
Various other Serbians are remembered for their contributions to history.
Karadjordje Petrovich, also known as Black George, was a great hero and
leader who in 1804 organized a band of only 180 men and marched against
the Turks. The Turks had ruled for four centuries in Serbia and Black
George was responsible for overthrowing the government and restoring it
back to his own people. Draza Mihailovic was another great hero who fought
against unsurmountable odds to restore freedom to his country during World
War II. In 1941, when the Serbian nation was faced with the prospect of
being destroyed, Draza gathered and organized the Serbs into one unified
army called the Chetniks. The Chetniks, under Draza's direction, were
able to create a serious threat to the Axis powers by blocking the only
land supply from the Middle East in the Balkans. The Allied powers were
amazed at the courage and strategic ability of Draza, who with his Chetniks
consistently battled the well-equipped Axis powers in order to preserve
their homeland of Serbia. In the process they greatly aided the Allied
nations in their victory over the Axis powers. The war left Serbia in
tact, but not free. Communist influence prevailed and after being betrayed,
Draza Mihailovic was executed in 1946 by the Communist regime. July 17th,
the day of his death, is set aside to commemorate this hero. Serbians
in America contributed to history also. Two outstanding Serbians were
scientists. Inventor Nikola Tesla, naturalized immigrant, and son of a
Serbian priest, worked side by side with Thomas Edison and George Westinghouse.
Tesla discovered AC current, demonstrated the first wireless radio and
was responsible for initial experimentation with the broadcasting of electricity
using the ionospheric layer of the earth's atmosphere. He also created
the Tesla coil which produces dramatic arcs of electricity by rapidly
changing resistance. The coil is used in school labs for electrical demonstrations.
Nikola Tesla, this futuristic inventor, died in 1943, but his electrical
genius was not recognized until after his death. Scientist Michael Pupin
was born in Serbia and came to New York, where he finished high school
and college. He also attended a university in Germany. He became a professor
at Columbia University in New York where he wrote in German and English,
many scientific papers. Pupin was a physicist, and in addition, was considered
one of the foremost electrical engineers of his time along with Tesla.
Tradition, as the basis of the Serbian culture, created national and family
unity during the centuries of adversarial rule. Today, tradition is practiced
by the Serbians as a statement of who they are and what they represent.
One traditional holiday unique to the Serbians is Krsna Slava or Patron
Saint Day. Slava goes back to the 9th century when the Serbians became
Christians. Each Serbian family/home chose a saint to act as patron saint
of his family. The Serbian became baptized on that saint's holiday and
that day became the Serbian's Slava. The holiday has been passed, generation
to generation, from father to son, for many centuries, uniting the past
with the present by recognizing the family's Christian heritage. The celebration
is in the form of a festive gathering of friends and relatives, but the
religious aspect of this day is never forgotten. Slava is foremost a religious
observance, and there is a ritual performed to make the day complete.
The religious elements of Slava are the icon of the patron saint of the
family, a candle, wine, wheat (zito), and the kolach (slava bread), which
must be cut by a priest. There is a service of prayer and blessing in
the home with the entire family involved (which also can be done in the
church). The holiday reinforces the Christian character of the family
and is celebrated with honor, dignity, and benevolence.The Slava is one
holiday that exemplifies the power of identity that tradition has brought
to the Serbian people. Some of the Slavas are of early Christian saints:
St. Paraskeva (Oct 17); St. Luke (Oct 31); St. Demetrius (Nov 8); St.
Archangel Michael (Nov 21); St. Nicholas (Dec 19); St. Steven First Martyr
(Jan 9); St. John the Baptist (Jan 20) St. Lazarus the Righteous (Lazarus
Saturday); St. George the Great Martyr (May 6). The New Gracanica Monastery
Slava of the Protection of the Most Holy Mother of God is celebrated on
the day each year, October 14th. The day begins with the Divine Liturgy
served by the Bishop, followed by the cutting of the kolach, and a festival
luncheon. Faithful from the greater Chicagoland and northwest Indiana,
as well as Milwaukee attend.