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Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Martyrdoom of Father Chariton

A Brief Account Of The Martyrdom Of The Holy New Martyr Hariton (Lukic) of Serbia
Kidnapped on June 14th, 1999
Body found August 2000

Father Chariton (also spelled Hariton) was a monk in the Holy Archangels Monastery near Prizren. He was born on November 21, 1960 in central Serbia and became a monk in Kosovo in 1995. Father Chariton was kidnapped by armed persons wearing UCK (KLA) forms and insignia on June 16 in the streets of Prizren. In the time of his disappearance the German KFOR troops have already entered Prizren area. Unfortunately they were followed by armed gangs of UCK extremists who have killed and kidnapped a dozen of Serbs in the city during the first days.

The body of Fr. Chariton was found near Prizren on August 8th, 2000. They body was decapitated and severely mutilated. The head of Fr. Chariton has not yet been found. (Editors notes: Father Chariton's burial service took place without his head).

According to the forensic report the remains of Fr. Hariton was found in an unmarked individual grave in the cemetery of the Albanian village of Tusus near Prizren. These are many evidences that the body was left in open air after the murder because only skeleton remains. Several ribs are found broken as well as the left hand. The head and a few vertebrae are missing. The body was found dressed in the clothes displayed. The sweater is found cut in the front side which might suggest that Father Hariton's belly was ripped. The holes around the area of heart are found which also might suggest that he was stabbed by knife. In any case it was a painful death. With his clothes the investigators have found his ID and his praying rope. All evidence and the forensic report have already been handed over to ICTY investigators who will proceed the investigation of this crime.

History before reconstruction

"You showed me the church of Yours as the source of
Dusan's gift charter

In Prizren where he had frequently resided King Dusan set about founding the large monastery of the Holy Archangels in the spring of 1343, three kilometers south of the town. The very place on which the monastery was being erected - on the left bank of the Bistrica, on an expansive plateau formed in the gorge by the river's fast course - had previously been the site of a church dedicated to archangels Michael and Gabriel. It was shielded by an old fortress towering above it, standing on one of the lowest slopes of Mt Sara. The majority of the monastery holdings spread over the region of Prizren, but a considerable number of them were situated in a broader area, in the environs of Skoplje and Tetovo, in Albania, and on the coast around Scutary. Stefan Dusan's prohibition, to which the lessee of the mine in Trepca refers in March 1349, that lead was not be sold to anyone before the needs of the monastery of the Holy Archangels were met is, therefore, not surprising. The main church, dedicated to the "strategists" and "leaders of the heavenly powers," Michael and Gabriel, was - as evidenced by the ground plan - one of the grandest monuments of Serbian architecture.Holy Archangels is a monastery complex encompassing an area of approximately 6,500 square. It was encircled by massive walls and connected to the fortress of Višegrad, added to the Monastery for defensive purposes in times of war. In addition to the large Church of the Holy Archangels, residential quarters, library and other buildings, within the Monastery there was another, smaller church, the Chapel of St. Nicholas. In the Monastery Charter one can read that a separate building within the complex was designated as the infirmary. The main church is based on the shape of an inscribed cross with three altar apses topped by five domes, which is typical of Byzantine architecture. The "Prizren floor" as the chroniclers named it, is unique in the land of Serbia. Its geometrical ornaments have analogies in the floors, the portals and the stone furniture in the churches on Mount Athos, in Sicily and in southern Italy. Parallels for the figures are to be found in the church of the Pantocrator in Constantinople, in the St. Giovanni Baptistery in Florence and in that city's church of San Miniato al Monte. The emperor's tomb was erected in the southwest corner of the naos. The monumental refectory was cross-shaped with an apse on the eastern side. A bridge across the Bistrica River connected the Monastery with Dušan's castle at Ribnik and the royal palace in Prizren.The monks whose number is unknown to us had their cells in the dormitory riased by the ramparts towards the river. According to the typikon, they gathered twice a day in the refectory. As one might expect of the monumental endowment of the most powerful Balkan ruler of the age, it housed no less than 200 monks and its first abbot, the blessed Metropolitan Jacob, who was responsible for the construction of the monastery.Tsar Dušan was interred in the main monastery church. The reconciliation of the Serbian Church and the Patriarchate of Constantinople, which took place in the Monastery, is the most important event after Dušan's death. The historian Constantine Jiricek wrote that in 1375, after the reconciliation of the Serbian and Greek Churches, representatives of both Churches served a Divine Liturgy at the tomb of Tsar Dušan and on that occasion the Greek representatives removed the anathema from Dušan, Tsar Uroš, and Patriarchs Joanikije and Sava. At one time the Monastery was the residence of St. Jefrem, the Serbian Patriarch in the time of the Battle of Kosovo.During Turkish rule the Holy Archangels, like other monasteries, lost large estates and struggled on the verge of subsistence level. Their misfortune, however, was even greater: at the outset of the 17th century, Sinan Pasha ordered a large mosque in Prizren to be constructed with remarkable dressed stone taken from the churches on the Bistrica. After that, the monastic complex fell completely into ruin, and, in the course of time, became largely covered with earth deposited from the hill-side. The numerous remains of its cross-sections - a large number of which have been incorported into the Prizren mosque - indicate that the drum may have had twelve or even sixteen sides. The windows piercing the drum, perhaps double, measuring almost one metre in width, afforded sufficient light to the spacious and clearly articulated interior. The dome, however, after the Constantinopolitan practice which had left but a few traces in Serbia, was of a melon shape.This appearance of the monastery became deeply entrenched in people's memory and for centuries they concocted legends about it and lit candles on its ruins. Twice a year, on the feast days of the Holy Archangels, in summer and autumn, they gathered from afar at night, and waited for the sunrise praying with priests. One traveller left an exciting descripiton of this ancient shrine in darkness, with the contours outlined solely by the candlelight of the faithful.In 1927 Dr. Radoslav Grujic conducted extensive research and archeological excavations of the Monastery and he transferred the articles found to the present-day Archeological Museum in Skopje.Because of its strong association with Prizren and Tsar Dušan, as well as its unfortunate fate, the Holy Archangels Monastery was a frequent motif in Serbian art. Chroniclers from the 14th century who had the opportunity to see the building in its full splendor claimed that nothing under the sun was equal to it. There are also stories about the suffering and punishment which befell Sinan Pasha for destroying the Monastery.


With the arrival of Bishop Artemije to the throne of the Orthodox bishops of Raška and Prizren, a momentous reconstruction of monasteries and coenobia in Kosovo and Metohija began. Thus, with the blessing of His Grace, in the 1990's the reconstruction of Holy Archangels near Prizren began, too. The necessary infrastructure was built and within the old walls a new residential quarter (konak) was built for the brotherhood of monks. A chapel was built inside the konak dedicated to Holy Bishop Nicholas of Žica. The first monks arrived in 1998 and the monastery since then has gained an important role in the spiritual life of the Serb people, especially in this area.Full reconstruction was interrupted by the war in this region, which has not spared the brotherhood of the Holy Archangels. In June 1999 a monk from the monastery, Fr. Chariton, was abducted. Immediately afterwards, a dozen of monks, together with the majority of the Serbs from this region, left the monastery. The headless body of Fr. Chariton was found in mid 2000 and buried in Crna Reka Monastery. After the arrival of KFOR the brethren gradually returned to the monastery. German soldiers surrounding the monastery complex maintain a security zone.The life of the monastery unfolds in complete isolation and consists of everyday services and monastic duties. The woodcarving workshop produces miniature carved items which are very rare and have become well-known abroad. The tailoring workshop is also busy and the monks are learning to work with computers. Today the monastery has become a spiritual center gathering the remaining Serb Orthodox people from Prizren and Sredacka Župa. The young monastic brotherhood is full of religious enthusiasm and remains confident that one day Holy Archangels will be completely reconstructed.


On 17th March 2004. a part of mob which destroyed orthodox churches, houses in Prizren came by foot to Monastery. They came face to face with German guard. When monks asked Bishop what to do, he said to surrender in KFOR hands because they are responsible.Monks were asking themselves why KFOR didn't blocked a road from Prizren to Monastery. Completely unprepared for such an event? This was a time when most of internationals were coloring reality in Kosovo, together with KFOR stuff. In incidents before (kidnapping a monk, bomb above Monastery, stonening a monk) none of perpetuators were punished. One month before riots appeared, escorted monks have been attacked in KFOR vehicles (It is recorded by German Zepo film company). KFOR simply cover event mislead public. Instead of improving security KFOR was trying to promote Kosovo institutions. Monks were pushed to ask Kosovo Police for escorts (most of their members are connected with terrorist incidents, in 2005. year they organized three attacks to their own Serbian colleagues). Monks refused this suicide possibility.So, on 17th March soldiers were ordered just to save monks lifes, and not monastery building together with church and religious and historical values. They did exactly this and left site. During mob were destroying Monastery with petrol of KFOR generator, soldiers watching them from mountain above.After a month monks came back to live in Monastery ground in containers given by Serbian Red Cross. Instead of real and simple help to restore Monastery, international community and Albanian Kosovo institutions start one political game. There were many stories, issues, agreements, promises (specially before media), and on the end even donation conference but not restorations. Instead of restoration, in a basic document which was made by Council of Europe experts with their Kosovo colleagues it is said that our Monastery should be closed, monks evicted (means expelled), and to become archeological site (Integrated Rehabilitation Project Plan / Survey of the, Architectural and Archaeological heritage (IRPP/SAAH)).In 26th July 2004. KFOR general Errico with his deputy Mr. Buehler made an initiative to restore Monastery. So, with their help (construction machines and more), with help of Orthodox people (donations and voluntarily work) and some Slavic Muslims from Kosovo, and on the end Serbian government, one part of old building was restored.It was real triumph to restore such a building with such a beauty with no capital, and no continual support. Few commissions of Council of Europe were coming during restoration with no comments but their Albanian counterparts asked how we dare to restore our own house out of their plan. Kosovo/Albanian institutions try to stop restoring of house saying we didn't have administrative permission for such a thing. But, in this case KFOR supported monks, and their attempts failed.…The young monastic brotherhood is full of religious enthusiasm and remains confident that one day Holy Archangels will be completely reconstructed.