We drove through tobacco fields along a narrow, steep mountain road to Zrze Monastery, where only 7 monks live now. It is located on the clifftop above the village Zrze at an elevation of 1000 meters, around 26 kilometers from Prilep. The monastery’s tranquil position around a spacious lawn, with views over the outstretched Pelagonian Plain, is stunning. Traditionally the monks lived in carved-out stone hollows, from the mountainside cliffs. This is believed to date back to the 3rd and 4th centuries. During Ottoman times, Zrze underwent periods of abandonment, rebuilding, and plunder, but it remained an important spiritual center. Its 17th-century Church of Saints Peter and Paul contains significant frescoes and icons. While the museum in Skopje houses Zrze’s most famous icon, the Holy Mother of God Pelagonitsa (1422), a large copy remains in the church. We arrived late, but a friendly monk still opened the church for us and explained its history and life in the monastery.

Parking location – Zrze Monastery: 41.521623N 21.344312E