Page 112 - Kosovo Metohija Heritage
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 Gojko Subotić
Enterior of the Church of the Mother of God of Ljeviša, view from the east
after reconciling with Byzantium and marrying Prin- cess Simonis, the daughter of the emperor andronikos ii, King Milutin was at the threshold of large-scale undertak- ings which lasted the duration of his reign (1281–1321). Before that, he had built a new church on the site of an old katholikon dating from the time of St. Sava and St. Simeon Nemanja, without a doubt the most significant of the early athonite shrines to survive. This was followed by raising and restoring churches and monasteries in his own country, marking a new era in the history of Serbian architecture (Saint Nicetas near Skoplje, Saint joachim and anna in Studenica, Staro Nagoričino and Saint Prochoros of Pčinja near Kumanovo). Banjska and Gračanica were in Kosovo, in addition to the Mother of God of Ljeviša. a most active benefactor at home who enjoyed the support of his prelates at a time of internal rifts, Milutin gained renown by also building shrines and donating churches to large centers abroad. He built a church and a hospital at the Petras Monastery in Constantinople where the sick
were cared for by physicians surrounded by famous med- ical codices. Milutin built his palace and the Church of Saint Nicholas in Thessalonica, while within the Hilan- dar Metochion he erected the church of Saint George. in Palestine he assisted in the restoration of shrines which included the monastery of Saint Sabbas the Sanctified near jerusalem, inhabited by Serbian monks.
Generally speaking, the restoration of the Ljeviša church was an articulation of new circumstances and close ties between the Serbian ruler and Byzantine social and artistic life. in this context a new spirit suddenly domi- nated architecture, especially sacral architecture, which did not exclude western building traditions. The latter were also in evidence during the subsequent decades, particu- larly in Kosovo and, naturally, in its westernmost parts. a skillful master mason undoubtedly from the coastal area recorded his share in the work on the Mother of God of Ljeviša at the entrance to the church from the outer nar- thex. Being entirely in the tradition of the Byzantine style, the church did not have the monumental Romanesque portal which was typical of the Raška school (an open porch, vivid detail and a bell-tower imposing its solemn character on the front). The stone-cutter, therefore, ap- plied his western-type skill to the execution of the stone doorposts and architrave. a curling design emerges from the dragon’s mouth at one end, hovers over all the sur- faces except in the center where a representative of celes- tial powers, a six-winged seraphim, blocks the entrance of the evil powers while reminding the approaching be- liever that his heart must be pure. as part of the painted decoration, this was usually conveyed by archangel Mi- chael with his unsheathed sword and unfurled roll of un- equivocal warning. The vine and floral pattern which had been around for quite some time in the Romanesque tra- dition was to be found on later shrines as well, especially in Dečani which was decorated by master-masons from the adriatic coast.
These heralds of new ideas and the builders of early shrines in Serbia, have mostly remained unknown to us. However, the name of the talented craftsman of the Priz- ren cathedral was unexpectedly recorded. as was the cus- tom, several years after the completion of a building, the interior would be painted. The painting included the arch- es and sides of the portico in front of which the commo- tion of town life never ceased throughout the day, even in the Middle ages. This open space was a link between the church and life outside it where local and foreign trades- men, emissaries and messengers, soldiers, merchants and travellers walked by, but most of all the poor from near and far came to the church for alms. among the Serbs, as in Byzantium and the West, monasteries gave food to the poor and to all who came to their gates. On certain days people who came were offered wine, and on special occa- sions even money. The first typica of Hilandar and Stu- denica monasteries in the early 13th century modeled after

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