On two kilometers from the village Rostuše, in the municipality of Mavrovo-Rostuše, on altitude of 740 meters above the sea, elevates the monastery St. Jovan Bigorski. It is set in the remarkable scale cliffs of the canyon valley of the river Radika, embraced of vigorous woods planted on the northwest slopes of the mountain Bistra. This amazingly magic landscape combines the monastery mystics and the human ideality in one world that overcomes the borders of the rational knowledge.
The monastery complex is comprised of monastery church, ossuary located next to the church, the seymen defense tower, complex of monastery mansions as well as the newly built guest mansion. The church most probably is built on the foundations of an older basilica from the 11th century, more precisely from 1021. This is written in the icon-painter’s record. There is a great probability that the icon of Sveti Jovan Preteca (St. John Forerunner) was painted the same year when the old church was built and fresco-painted.
The monastery seemed to suffer big damages and devastation in the time under Turkish slavery. The new church is large, covered with big dome. Within the church there is a belfry. It is built of scale blocks and covered with roof tiles. Its rich interior is composed of frescoes, icons with the iconostasis and its wooden inventory including pulpits, tables, bishop’s throne, etc. Most of the frescoes of the large hemisphere (apse’s semicircle) of the dome are work of the famous fresco-painter Dičo Zograph, who is an author of many frescoes and icons in the churches all over Macedonia. The rest of the frescoes in the smaller hemisphere are painted by some less skilled fresco-painter.
In the porch of the church, from the left and the right end, there are frescoes dating from 19th century, distributed in three zones. In the first zone figures of Saints-eremites are presented, while the second zone is filled with scenes of the life of the first Bible people, Adam and Eve and the composition "Last Judgment."
The already mentioned iconostasis of the church St. Jovan Bigorski" is one of most beautiful ones in our country. It is done in tiny woodcarving and together with the one in the church "St. Spas" (Holy Saviour) in Skopje, presents an extraordinary art achievement of the affirmed carvers-masters Petre Filipovski-Garkata, his brother Marko and Makarie Frčkovski. They did not miss to present in woodcarving their own figures through the scene of the master in contemplation and his associates while working. This scene is present at the iconostasis in both churches where these masters worked.
The wooden iconostasis is divided into six horizontal belts. The first one in its base is comprised of rectangular fields on which there are ornaments of flora and fauna. The second belt, where throne (big and non-movable) icons are placed, finishes with a figure of an eagle with spread wings. The third belt is divided into three smaller horizontal compartments where symmetrically distributed angels, grapes and vineyard sprouts are presented. Above them there are two rows of icons-festive (icons that are being taken out for festivities) and ones with presentation of angels. In the central part there is the large cross with the Crucifixion of Christ. From both sides of the cross there are figures of dragon from whose mouth are lifted the icons of St. Jovan and Holy Mother of God. The presentation of the dancer Salome is particularly interesting, she is dressed in traditional Miyak costume.
The monastery ambient is redeemed with the old mansions with the spacious wooden balconies and the dining room furnished with authentic furniture from the time of construction, late 17th and early 19th century. The special guest mansions offer possibility to each of the visitors, under certain conditions, to stay longer and to enjoy the marvelous sunrise of this heavenly site.