The monastery of Lesnovo is one of the largest, visually stunning and culturally significant monasteries in Eastern Macedonia. This complex, composed of a monastery dedicated to St. Gavril Lesnovski and a church dedicated to St. Archangel Michael, is located up a long mountain road, on the south-western slopes of Mount Osogovo. It is spread over an old volcanic area, surrounded by beautiful hills forming a natural amphitheater. This crater is a masterpiece of nature and its beauty is compared with the Vulcan Etna in Italy. Because of its uniqueness, Lesnovo Monastery was declared a national monument. It was built in 1341, in the middle of a very interesting landscape, naturally shaped rocks, among which the most impressive is the one looking like the Virgin Mary with her Child. While entering inside you can still see the mosaic floor of the XI century church on whose foundations the current church was created. Today the complex consists of the church tower ‒ bell tower and restored mansions. It is a male monastery with an active monastic life.
The value of this monastery is increased by its high beautiful iconostasis from the XIX century, carved in walnut, made by masters Miak led by Petre Filipovski ‒ Garkata. It is the oldest of the three preserved iconostasis made by these masters. In the monastery yard there is unusual mulberry tree, more than six hundred years old grown in the form of a cross. According to Lesnovo monks there are only three of such trees with delicious, black fruits in the Balkans.
This monastery has kept its rich spiritual and literary tradition till today. Lesnovo is considered as a great sanctuary, instrumental for the spread of Slavic literacy and where one of the oldest schools in Macedonia founded in the XI century is placed. The school, called Lesnovo Scriptorium, and the calligraphic school existed there.
Between the X and the XIV century in Lesnovo the biggest monastic republic in the Balkans was created with more than two hundred monks in the monastery and about a hundred from different chapels, caves for hermits, skits (small prayer cells in the rocks). Nowadays there are remains of over twenty prayer cells disseminated in attractive natural sites, unavoidable places for visitors. Attraction are the rocky hills full of holes caused by the exploitation of water millstones, which were very demanded because of its quality of processing. There are still unfinished millstones everywhere on the walls of the caves. Nearly each cave belongs to some family from Lesnovo, from where they were transporting the draught rocks across the Balkans in horse carts.
We spoke with one of the visitors, Wacek Apostolov, a mountaineer and reporter who five years ago began to write stories about mountains, churches and interesting places. Why, I asked him. "Because people know little of Macedonia and its beauty", he said. "Everywhere there are high peaks, rivers, green meadows. Far from towns we can smell natural fragrances, hear the songs of birds and the bells of our churches. My love for nature is like a drug: once I fall in love, I can never live without it".
In Macedonia there are about one hundred and fifty preserved monasteries and ninety more in ruins, which makes Macedonia the first place in the Balkans according to the number of monasteries and churches. For centuries these representatives of cultural heritage and medieval art located throughout the whole territory of Macedonia hidden in the middle of the most beautiful natural scenery and landscape, have been spiritual centers, witnesses of the Macedonian orthodoxy. Today they are inexhaustible source and challenge for people searching fo iconic spiritual and cultural values.