Niksic, Montenegro, May 18, 2018
The feast of the most revered Orthodox saint in the Balkans, St. Basil of Ostrog, is annually celebrated by faithful from Montenegro, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and other countries on May 12. This year, more than 100,000 Orthodox faithful made a holy pilgrimage to the Ostrog Monastery, founded in the 17th century, to worship God and venerate His holy saint.
“The pilgrimage to Ostrog is the most important among Orthodox in the Balkans. Basil of Ostrog is a beloved Serbian saint, therefore, pilgrims have been coming to him for hundreds of years already,” a monastery representative told TASS.
Thousands make the pilgrimage ever y year, climbing a high mountain to the monastery and waiting in a long line to venerate St. Basil’s relics after traveling already for several days.
“Since Friday morning, the relics have been venerated by 700-1000 people an hour, and on Saturday, St. Basil’s day, the flow of people was even bigger. The total number of pilgrims has exceeded 100,000,” the monastery representative stated.
His Eminence Metropolitan Amfilohije of Montenegro called the flow of pilgrims a miracle of God, noting that St. Basil’s relics have been removed and returned from the monastery many times, and that thousands continue to come despite the communist period that severely damaged the Orthodox Church.
He also noted that nuns from the Guatemalan Monastery of the Holy Trinity visited the Ostrog Monastery for the first time during this year’s pilgrimage.
The monastery is visited by about 1 million people annually—nearly twice the population of the whole of Montenegro. The vast majority of the pilgrims are between 14 and 18 years old, coming to the monastery to discern their path in life.
St. Basil and his monastery are the pride and joy of Serbian Orthodox Christians in Montenegro. In a statement on the site of the Serbian Church in Montenegro, Fr. Predrag Specanovic stated, “Other cities in Europe may have their pilgrimage sites but only St Basil can gather such a large number of believers from different regions.”
The monastery was founded in the seventeenth century by St. Basil of Ostrog, who died there in 1671. Two cave churches remain after a fire in the 1920s, which are the main areas of the monastery today. The upper church, dedicated to the Presentation of the Lord, sits nearly 3,000 feet up the mountainside. The lower church, of the Holy Trinity, dates to 1824.
St. Nikolai Velimirovich writes about St. Basil in his Prologue from Ochrid:
Saint Basil was born in Popovo Polje, a village in Hercegovina, of simple and God-fearing parents. From his youth he was filled with love for the Church of God and when he reached maturity he entered the monastery of the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos in Trebinje and there received the monastic tonsure. As a monk he quickly became renowned because of his genuine and infrequently-found ascetic life. Saint Basil took upon himself mortification upon mortification, each one heavier and more difficult than the last. Later, against his will he was elected and consecrated as bishop of Zahumlje and Skenderija. As a hierarch he first lived in the monastery of Tvrdosh and from there, as a good shepherd, he strengthened his flock in the Orthodox Faith, protecting them from the cruelty of the Turks and the cunning ways of Latins. When Basil was exceedingly pressed by his enemies and Tvrdosh destroyed by the Turks, he moved to Ostrog, where he lived an austere ascetic life, protecting his flock by his ceaseless and fervent prayer. He fell asleep peacefully in Lord in the sixteenth century, leaving behind his incorrupt Relics, incorrupt and miracle-working to the present day. The miracles at the grave of Saint Basil are without number. Christians and Muslims alike come before his Relics and find healing for their gravest illnesses and afflictions. A great people’s assembly (sabor) occurs there annually on the Feast of Pentecost.
The annual pilgrimage is not a matte for tourists, but is a true spiritual undertaking. “His personality is miraculous and effective, both while he was alive and after his passing away... All those who are here are searching for truth and goodness and to heal the soul and body,” the Serbian Orthodox Church's leading bishop in Montenegro, Amfilohije, said during the 2016 pilgrimage.
Follow us on Facebook!