About 5 km north of the villages Modrich and Drenok, near the border with the Republic of Albania which descends to only 500m proximity to the river Crvenica (Trebishka River), and around 7,5km South-East of the village Djepishte, above the locality known as “Three spouts”, near the regional highway Struga – Debar, one can see the remains of the Monastery of St. Archangel Gabriel. On the archaeological map of the Republic of Macedonia this place, i.e. this site, is noted as a church of the Middle Ages.
Today the only remaining of this once great church are the half-ruined massive walls, fallen inside the church together with the fallen roof construction. But nevertheless, one can easily perceive the impressive dimensions of the church, probably one of biggest in the region of Struga, dating back to medieval times and the Renaissance, that is, the first half of the XX century. The division of the space and the architectonic division of its interior is best seen through the unique concept of the nave and the altar area, as well as through its functional division into an apsis part separated by stone walls and arches towards the Prothesis and the Deaconicon in the altar.
You can notice in its wholeness the monumental dimensions of the church, probably one of the biggest in the Struga region.
The monastery of St Archangel Gabriel was restored in the period between 1930 and 1932, after having been completely ruined to the ground by the Asiatic conquerors. It was built of stone all the way up to its roof, which was built of tiles, the church was 23 meters long and 15 meters wide. The ceiling was made of lime mortar, and inside the church there was a wooden iconostasis.
The monastery possessed an enormous property, its borders extending to the river Black Drim on the north, and to the border with Albania on the west – up to the river Crvenica on the north and to the municipal forest on the south. Beside this property the Monastery in its closer surroundings possessed 6 acres of grain and an orchard of 2 acres.
Monastic life was uninterrupted for many years, until the monastery went through a fire in 1944.
The monastery celebrated the Synaxis of St Archangel Gabriel on 13/26 July.
On the day of the Monastery feast the main part of the visitors were from the neighboring places, Jablanica, Nerezi, Bezevo, Piskupshtina, Lukovo, Modrich, Drenok, Djepishte and the city of Debar. According to the local citizens, thousands of people gathered on that day.
After the fall of the Yugoslavian Monarchy, the Monastery fell under the administration of the Municipality of Manastirec, at the time under Italian occupation. In this period the monks left the Monastery and the responsibility and care for it was taken over by the priests from the villages of Modrich and Drenok. The last priest that served church services in the monastery in the autumn of 1944 was Milan Jovanovski from the village of Modrich, and by the end of 1944 the Monastery was robbed and burned.
During the fire, the villagers from Modrich and Drenok had several unsuccessful attempts to put it out. They only managed to save a couple of icons, which were later brought to the village of Modrich. After that the villagers made a wooden chapel at the site known as Napreslok and dedicated it to St Archangel Gabriel. Inside that chapel they placed the saved icons. In the spring of 1971 the chapel was destroyed in a fire together with those preserved icons from Manastirec.
On 26 July 2000, the Metropolitan of Debar and Kichevo kyr Timothy consecrated and laid the foundation stone of the Monastery church of St Archangel Gabriel, which is in the proximity of the old church, but its building was not realized. In 2014, the brotherhood of the Bigorski Monastery with the Act of denationalization managed to regain possession of this property, so we sincerely hope that soon there will be another Orthodox beacon in this area.
Fr. Riste Naumoski, MA