Monday, 21 August 2017

Medieval Monasteries in Serbia   
The three most impressive monasteries in Central Serbia – Žica, Studenica and Sopoćani, are the first examples of the energy with which the Nemanjić Dynasty took on the consolidation of an independent Serbian state between the twelfth and the fifteenth centuries.

After having attracted some of the most skilful artists of Byzantium and the best builders of Zeta (contemporary Montenegro), which at the time was developing under the influence of Venice, they financed several masterpieces of medieval architecture.

Frescos with saturated, dark colours; expressive, albeit two-dimensional Biblical characters; façades that shine in the daylight – the monasteries and churches from this early period, known as Raška, already testify for the beginning of a whole new aesthetic époque in the region.

They are considered as evidence that – had the Balkans not fallen under the Ottoman Empire’s rule, a philosophy of art not any less humanistic than that of the Italian Renaissance would have blossomed in this part of Europe.

Žica: As Close to Rome as to Constantinople

With its tile-red façade, this monastery is one of Serbia’s most memorable landmarks.

Žica was built by Stefan Nemanja’s son – Sava, and stands, symbolically, at an equal distance from Rome and Constantinople. Its location is an expression of the desire of the medieval Serbian state to exist independently, by balancing between European Christianity’s two capitals MORE.

Studenica: Stefan Nemanja’s Tomb and the First Signs of Serbian Realism

The Studenica Monastery was built, according to Eastern Orthodoxy’s unwritten rule, in possibly the most inaccessible spot. Similarly to the Byzantine monasteries in Mistra, Sumela and Meteora, it used to be reachable only by a long mountainous trek.

High up in the mountain over the Studenica River, it was built at the end of the twelfth century by Stefan Nemanja, founder of the medieval Serbian state Raška, and became the scene of a series of dramatic events of the ruler’s life. MORE

Sopoćani: Serbia’s Failed Renaissance

From all the medieval monasteries in Central Serbia, this one has retained the most impressive frescos and icons. It is considered as evidence of the potential of Serbia’s fine arts, failed during the Ottoman Empire’s rule.

Sopoćani is located near the ruins of the erstwhile capital of Raška, Ras, in the direction of the source of the river by the same name. Founded by Uroš in the middle of the thirteenth century, it spent the period between the seventeenth and the nineteenth centuries half-demolished, somehow managing to preserve a large part of its interior decoration. MORE

This article is part of's Guide to Serbian Monasteries




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