If visiting Montenegro by car, it is almost impossible to miss this town that owns much of its prominence to the Podgorica- Belgrade road which passes through it. This “White Field” in the valley of the Lim River which was named after its abundant daisies (bijela rada) was well populated already in the Middle Ages. However, the town itself appeard first in the late 16th c. as a trading post next to the monastery of Nikoljac and was initially called Nikolj-Pazar, but this name gave way to the name of the field in which it spread. The face of the oriental small-town changed drastically during the days of socialist Yugoslavia when it was industrialized and rebuilt to a great extent. Today, it is best known for the sparkling mineral water “Rada” which is drunk all over the country.
The best known historic monument of Bijelo Polje is the Church of Saints Peter and Paul ( Crkva svetih Petra i Pavla) that lies immediately to the left of the main road from Podgorica towards Belgarde. This unusually looking small church was built in 1195-99 by prince Miroslav, brother of Serbian ruler Stefan Nemanja, who governed a region from here to Dubrovnik , known at the time as Hum and later Herzegovina. When in the mid of 13th century the seat of bishop of Hum was transferred here, the church got its two high towers (25m) an obligatory element of cathedrals. After the Turkish conquest the church was turned into a mosque , one tower was pulled down while the other was kept as a minaret. It remained a Muslim shrine until 1922 when it was returned to the orthodox community. This is tiny church of odd shapes has a rectangular apse and a blind dome and is the earliest example of western pre-Romanesque tradition in Orthodox architecture, a clear sign that it was constructed by builders from the Adriatic coastline invited here by prince Miroslav. The main stone portal still bears the original Cyrillic inscription with prince Miroslav’s dedication. Only a few fragments of the original fresco-painting remain to this day. The one just to the left of the entrance is by far most important: here we see the remains of the portrait of prince Miroslav, with the model of the church in his hands. By using this image the modifications on the interior walls: even a mihrab, a niche designating the direction of Mecca, still endures on the right hand wall.The few remaining frescoes were painted around 1320 and are fine examples of the monumental style prevalent in Serbia at the time. Church of St Peter and Paul is also known for its connection to Miroslav Gospel (Miroslavovo jevadjelje, a 12th c. illuminated manuscript written on the others of prince Miroslav for this church. The Gospel is one of the oldest examples of the Serbian redaction of the Old Church Slavonic languages and contains 300 splendid miniatures from Byzantine and Romanesque tradition. During the centuries it was kept in the Serb Hilandar monastery on Mt Athos, it was then carried by the Serbian army in WWI to Greece and is today kept in the Belgrade’s National Museum as one of its most valuable works of art.
The town’s centre is a square with a pleasant park highlighted by a social realist monument to the fallen in WWII. The main town street, the pedestrian Ulica Slobode, branches from the square. Of the lower side of the square begins a small street in which one can see the recently reconstructed House of writer Risto Ratković, the nicest example of oriental architecture in the town. Regrettably, the house is closed for visits. One block above the square lies Radnička street with its Local Museum ( Zavičajni muzej) located in the white washed house (1905) of the old high-school. In the museum one can see Neolithic artifacts found in the surrounding area, an interesting example of a plough from the Roman era, medieval weapons various folk costumes, numismatic collection ( mostly Roman, Medieval Serbian and Montenegrin coins) and finally documents, photos and weapons from WWII.
The other ecclesiastical monument of Bijelo Polje the Nikoljac Church lies on the opposite side of the town from St Peter and Paul’s. The church which once belonged to the monastery of the same name was built around 1560 and was one of the largest Serb churches constructed under the Ottoman rule. Its form is one of basilica with three distinctive parts and large octagonal cupola. Apart from the faded frescoes on its western façade the rest of the exterior is plainly painted in white while the roof is covered with gray shingles. The interior, on the other hand, is on the most impressive in the whole of Montenegro since it completely covered in frescoes from the late 16th c. The frescoes depict the cycles of the life Christ, the life of St John and Baptist and the miracles of St Nicholas but also some unusual scenes such as the eternal suffering of sinners ( to the right of the entrance) amongst them a dishonest innkeeper and a miller with the tools of their trade hanging from their necks. The highlight of the church is without a doubt its splendid iconostasis: opulently carved and ornamented in gold, with an inspired work of crucifixion surrounded with seemingly free standing starts and angles as well as number of exceptional icons dating from 16th to the 19th c. The most interesting of these icons in the one of St Nicholas with scenes from his life, painted by Radul, one of the most talented icon-painters of his day. Note also the unusually tall 16th c candlestick of white marble standing in front of the iconostasis.
Montenegro Hostel Team