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Veljusa

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Veljusa


The village Veljusa is located at the foot of the mountain Elenica, at an altitude of 330 to 360 meters, 10 km north from Strumica. Two asphalt roads lead to the village. The one road is from Strumica through Banica and Vodocha, and the second one from the regional road Strumica – Radovish through the villages Gradashortsi and Angelci. In the vicinity of the village Veljusa flows the river Vodochnica. The village takes an area of around 30 km2, on which forests take a large part, but also arable land and pastures.

The village has a many-centuries history, and its first name was Paleokastro. This name was retained until the construction of the monastery “St. Virgin Mary Merciful (Eleusa)“, erected in 1080. According to the Greek word “Eleusa“ the village also got the name Veljusa. The village and the monastery were mentioned in the documents of the Byzantium tzar, Aleksij I Komnen in 1106, the Serbian tzar Dushan in 1346, and in the Turkish censure “defter” from 1519 and 1570. The occurrence of the name Veljusa, except with the monastery is related with the Greek word for olive – elea, a symbol of faithfulness. There is also a legend that the village got its name after a man called Veljo (Velju), who had a pen with a herd of goats and he was the first to inhabit this area.

In the past, the village has 12 watermills, pottery ovens in which clay pots were baked, made by the potters in the village, and there were coopers who made barrels and troughs and baskets were wrapped. Veljusa is one of the most popular villages known for the production of tobacco. Even today, on the old oriels of the few preserved traditional houses with rural architecture, one can notice hooks with tobacco being dried.

The monastery “St. Virgin Mary Merciful (Eleusa)”, is the main tourist potential of this village. The monastery was built by the Strumica bishop Manuil and in the first centuries of its existence, it had a large property and many nuns. In the 13th century, the monastery was given as a gift to the monastery Ivirion in Sveta Gora and became its metoh until 1913. That year, the monastery was burned down by the Greek priests, faced with the decision of the Bucharest congress that Strumica and the surrounding area needed to belong to Bulgaria, left the monastery, took the icons and the other church inventory. Still the monastery didn’t burn down, but only a partial damage of the frescoes occurred. Today, the monastery has preserved its original architecture, the floor mosaic and parts of the marble iconostasis. It is known for the unique fresco of Jesus Christ Emanuel, as a 12-year-old child, when for the first time he preached in the temple in Jerusalem. Except this fresco, the frescoes of Virgin Shirshaja, Virgin Mary with Jesus Christ, The Descending of Jesus Christ in hell, St. Pantheleymon, St. Onufrij and St. Pafnutij are also known,… The monastery is known also for the cross braid, called Veljusa cross, a symbol of the Macedonian Orthodox church. The cross can be seen on the external façade of the monastery. Other known frescoes derive from 11th and 12th centuries. Other than this monastery, as a stimulus for development of rural tourism there are three walking routes. One of them leads to the neighboring village, Vodocha, where another beautiful medieval monastery “St. Leontij” is located; the second route is through the village itself and the surrounding; while the third route leads to v. Belotino, where the artificial lake “Vodocha” is located.