Treskavec Monastery, a medieval pilgrimage site founded in the twelfth century, sits atop a remote mountain in southern Macedonia, a steep eight-kilometer hike from the town of Prilep. The monastic complex includes the Church of the Dormition of the Virgin. Both the church and other structures underwent periods of growth from the twelfth to fourteenth centuries. However, they retain important inscriptions and historical portraits that link them to Byzantine and Serbian patronage. The church preserves a highly significant body of frescoes from the fourteenth, fifteenth, sixteenth, and nineteenth centuries, including the first known representation of the Heavenly Court; almost no space in the walls remains unpainted. The monastery has been in continuous use since the Middle Ages, when over 100 monks resided there. After World War II, monastic life in the region decreased dramatically until the fall of the former Yugoslavia. For years, the monastery has been under the care of a single monk. Insufficient maintenance and age have allowed water ingress, which has affected structural stability and damaged the some of the murals. Inappropriate treatments and the use of new materials in previous partial repairs have caused further problems.
2006 World Monuments Watch
In 2004 WMF, with support from the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, sponsored a technical mission to Treskavec Monastery. The mission was initiated with participation from the Republic Institute for Protection of Cultural Monuments and the Institute and Museum-Prilep to evaluate the monastery’s condition and conservation needs. After inclusion on the 2006 Watch, WMF supported the implementation of recommendations from the 2004 mission. The project included an investigation of the roof structure, the creation of a light protective structure over the investigated areas, and the stabilization of the frescoes. Trial excavations on the roof helped determine the construction history of the site, which had not been researched; on the walls, it uncovered several sections of murals that had been covered in plaster for many years. The findings of the investigative work performed on the monastery and church will help determine future preservation interventions and the development of master conservation and long-term maintenance plans for the site.
The Church of the Dormition of the Virgin is widely considered to be one of the most important churches in Macedonia. Though set in a remote location, it still serves as an important pilgrimage site in the region, visited once a year by a group of pilgrims on the Dormition of the Virgin Mary holiday, and by adventurous tourists. In the years following WMF’s work at Treskavec, the Macedonian Ministry of Culture has been engaged in archaeological research as well as conservation and restoration works to protect the site. The government of the Republic of Macedonia hopes to build a road to Treskavec monastery in 2013 to facilitate access to the site, and allow the church to become an active part of the surrounding communities.