Josif Tropović

—By O.N.—

Josif Mršić Tropović, a Savina monastery monk and the parish priest of Topla, was born in Presjeka in 1775. His family – the Mršićs – had moved there from Risan. His mother, Tereza, was either from Venice or lived in the Venetian Republic.

As a boy, Josif was taken in by his uncle (according to Josif‘s nephew and student Petar Dostinić – his grandfather) Inokentije Dabović, the abbot of the Savina Monastery, to serve in the monastery. It was here that the boy received his education.

In 1808, he became the parish priest of Topla. This came about at the request of the parishioners themselves. Namely, Josif was the only one in the monastery who had accepted Inokentije’s introduction of the Fruška Gora style of church singing, and the Toplanians were greatly moved by it during the Ascension liturgy, so they asked the authorities to make Josif their parish priest.

Four years later, in 1812, Tropović received permission to open a school in Topla. Bishop Venedikt Kraljević commanded him not to leave the monastery completely, despite moving to Topla.

From 1825, he also became the supervisor of the Savina Monastery.

In addition to his duties as a priest and teacher, he occasionally took on the role of a judge in disputes.

He died suddenly of a heart attack in 1828. He was buried behind the small church of St. Lady in the Savina Monastery.

Due to the lack of contemporary information about Tropović, opinions about his education and activities are often contradictory. While some, like Luka Tomanović, believe that he was well-educated and knew Italian well, others believe that the education he received in the monastery was scarce and that he did not know Italian at all. However, most of them agree that he was an honest man and a hardworking teacher.

Isidora Sekulić writes in her book “Njegošu, knjiga duboke odanosti” that Father Josif “was well-educated by his mother who was raised in Venice, so the son spoke Italian correctly and well.”

Russian and Soviet Slavist T. A. Lavrov, in his master’s thesis “Petar II Petrović Njegoš, bishop of Montenegro, and his literary work,” says that Tropović “was known at the time as a leader of young men who wanted to become monks,” but later in the text he emphasizes that “he was deprived of any serious education.”

In 1825, Radivoje Petrović, later known as Bishop Petar II Petrović, became the student of Tropović. It is unknown how long Njegoš remained at the school in Topla, but according to his school friend Petar Dostinić, “he learned better than all the other students, and there were over twenty of them.” Tropović liked Njegoš because of his wit, and usually chose him to accompany him when something needed to be done. Rade enjoyed these visits, especially the visits to the villages of Herceg Novi. Due to the strict monk discipline enforced by Tropović, the main entertainment for the students during school breaks was throwing stones from their shoulders and long jumping. At the Savina Monastery, Rade was occasionally honored as the bishop’s nephew and allowed to dine with the monks, but as a student, he had to stand next to his teacher. There is a legend that Rade, secretly from his teacher, used to visit dances. Learning about this, the teacher was afraid that his student would be corrupted, and sent him back to the bishop, with a sincere justification that Njegoš had already learned everything a monk needs to know.

Besides Njegoš, Tropović’s students were also Vuk Popović, a well-known high school catechist from Kotor, and a close friend and collaborator of Vuk Karadžić, as well as Jovo Vojnović, an ancestor of the poet Ivo and the doctor Ljubomir Vojnović.

References: Dr Savo Vukmanović – Josif Tropović i Petar II Petrović NJegoš – Učitelj i učenik, Boka – zbornik radova iz nauke, kulture i umjetnosti 12, 1980, p. 263 – 281