The Serb Orthodox Church of Cajnice, a town nestled in the far east of Bosnia and Herzegovina along the border with Montenegro, is a proud guardian of two invaluable exhibits of Bosnia’s cultural, historical and religious heritage – the oldest preserved gospel manuscript in the country the “Cajnice Gospel” and the oldest icon in Bosnia, the icons of the Most Holy Mother of God “Cajnice Krasnica.”
The “Cajnice gospel” was also nominated for the UNESCO’s ‘Memory of the World’ register because of its uniqueness and because it would thus gain permanent protection of its universal value.
“It is unknown how the “Cajnice Gospel,” came to Cajnice. It is assumed that an unknown donor donated it as a liturgical book to the church, as was the case for many other exhibits, books and icons kept in the church museum,” said the elder of the Monastery of the Dormition of the Holy Virgin Cajnice the Arch-priest Dragisa Simic.
The gospel dates back to the end of the 14th, early 15th century. According to the writing on its 115th and 116th page, it was written during the reign of Prince Pavle Radenovic who died in 1415; thus the manuscript could not be much older.
The book belonged to the Radenovic family, whose property was in the eastern part of the Bosnian state. The gospel has 167 pages and contains texts of Matthew, Mark, and Luke’s gospel, while the entire gospel of John was lost. The manuscript was written on parchment.
“Five main scribes and four aids took part in the rewriting of the Gospel text. The manuscripts of all the scribes do not fit into the same type of the “Bosnian school” of the Cyrillic script, but the Gospel contains innovations that are characteristic for the neighbouring Raska literacy, which points to the interconnection and intermingling of scribe habits in this border area between Bosnia and Serbia,” Dragisa Simic told Fena news agency.
Unlike the “Cajnice Gospel,” the icon’s path to the church is more documented. According to the tradition, Serbian King Milutin brought it from the Holy Land and it was kept at the court during the Nemanjic dynasty. It was then given to the St. Nicholas monastery in Pribojska Banja in Serbia. In 1594, the Icon was returned to Belgrade when the Ottomans burned the monastery to the ground. As it burned, a local peasant saved it from the fire and after keeping hold of it for some time, he gave it to the Cajnice church.
The local tradition says that the Icon was made by St. Luke the Apostle at around first century AD, but experts say an unknown painter made it in the 14th century. This Icon is considered the most valuable icon in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
But the said gospel and icon are not the only valuables the Temple of the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos in Cajnice has. There is also a museum within the temple which contains 12 manuscripts, 56 printed books and a collection of 25 icons. The museum exhibits, together with the old and new church of the Dormition of the Holy Virgin were named national monuments in Bosnia.