in Crna Reka Monastery
The monastery is settled in the peaceful surrounding, amidst the mountains, which is very convenient for the monastic life. The first known ascetic who lived in this area was a hermit Joanikios, later called St. Joanikios of Devic. He lived in Crna Reka at the end of the 14th century and soon became a spiritual teacher of many young monks who joined him in his ascetic life. Probably it was him who built the first cell inside a big cave. Later, Joanikios and his monks constructed a little church inside the cave, several new cells and a bakery. Thus the monastery gained its present appearance. Only a little draw bridge connected the monastery with the other bank of the Crna River. When St. Joanikos became famous for his saintly life a lot of people used to visit the monastery. In order to find a more peaceful place for his monastic life, Joanikios moved to Devic region (present Kosovo) where he built another monastery and finally reposed in God.
It is supposed that his spiritual disciples continued to live in Crna Reka monastery although there are no written records about the monastery until the 17th century. The legend says that the neighbouring people and monks used to hide in this area during the difficult times of the Turkish oppression and persecutions.
Crna Reka - the spiritual fortress in the mountains
From the end of the 17th century there is a record of hieromonk Maxim who made a great spiritual and material rebirth of this shrine. He opened the first school for monks and priests. There was also a scriptorium where many old books were rewritten and translated. The Turks did not like these activities of Fr. Maxim and they soon persecuted him from the monastery. The next known abbot was Sophronius who lived in the beginning of the 18th century. He gathered several young monks and made a reconstruction of some parts of the monastery. The next record, from the middle of the 19th century says that there were no monks in the monastery but only a married priest, Stephen, with his family. His successor built the new konak on the other river bank where he soon in 1898 opened a lay school. In that time the monastery church served as a parish church for the neighbouring villages. It was only in 1933 that monks came to live again in Crna Reka. Before the Second World War there lived monks Damascene and Athanasios. When the war broke the Muslim militia persecuted the monks and the monastery was deserted.
Like a nest amidst the rocks
Soon after the war there came abbot Dositheus who reorganized the monastic life in several South Serbian monasteries. His successors were abbots Myron and Sava who lived alone as hermits.
In was in 1978 that the present bishop of the Raska and Prizren Diocese - Fr. Artemy came to live in Crna Reka. As soon as he finished his post-graduate studies of theology in Athens, hieromonk Artemy wanted to devote himself to monastic life in seclusion and constant prayer. His arrival marked the turning point in the history of Crna Reka monastery. In the following years the new monks came and joined Fr. Artemy.
Bishop Artemy and his monks and nuns in Crna Reka Monastery, Aug 1998
His first spiritual child, Fr. Justin, is now the Bishop of Timok (East Serbia). The most of the young monks who joined Fr. Artemy had university education but were nevertheless eager to live in solitude and devote themselves to the life of prayer and obedience. As a spiritual father Fr. Artemy became well known all over Serbia. A lot of his spiritual children are the monks in his monasteries now, while the majority of the Crna Reka monks became abbots of several monasteries in Raska and Prizren Diocese. After his election for the Bishop, Fr. Artemije left Crna Reka in 1991. The next abbot became Fr. Nikolai who continued with the work of his spiritual father.
The life in Crna Reka monastery is organized according to the coenobitic typicon of the Athonite monasteries. Since the monastery is small and far from the world the monks can devote much more of their time to prayer and meditation.