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 Gojko Subotić
Service of the Hierarchs, detail: Saint athanasius, altar, Church of the Mother of God of Ljeviša, 1308–1314
with his assistant, as has been said, rather well-known. His name appears in a note written by the artist Michael who in 1294–5 painted the frescos in the Church of the Holy Mother of God Peribleptos in Ohrid and heralded major changes in painting in the new spirit. The discovery of his name beneath age-old layers of grime soon gave rise to disputes which have not been resolved even today. The basic dilemma has been whether one interprets the names of Michael and astrapas as referring to two separate per- sons or to only one who appeared at first in Ohrid with a surname, and then later in Prizren without one. it seems natural that in the document ordaining the duties of the Ljeviša Church regarding the town poor, a master-build- er would be mentioned only by the name of the illustri- ous family to which he belonged.
From the preserved excerpt itself, though inscribed in fresco technique, it is evident that the work on building and painting had already been completed. at the same time, the language of the inscription, as in others, suggests that astrapas had local artists on his team or else that he
engaged men of letters for such needs who were well versed in Serbian church literature and able to accompany the frescos with the appropriate quotes.
The interior of the Church of the Mother of God, on the other hand, required of the artisans that the arrange- ment and nature of the decorative elements should fulfill all the requirements of religious rites and an increasingly sophisticated understanding of wall painting and its role. The elaborate space available after the earlier building was reconstructed was not suitable for the portrayal of cer- tain scenes associated with the functions of its respective parts. Many of the frescos were destroyed during the en- suing centuries of Ottoman occupation when the church was converted into a mosque and the walls covered over with plaster and slaked lime, thus masking their Chris- tian content. Nonetheless, the array of the cycles reveals their more or less preserved scenes while the position of the main themes can be detected by the remaining frag- ments.
in undertaking the vast task of painting the frescos several years after the church was built—probably from 1310 to 1313—the Thessalonian painter had the opportu- nity in the Prizren cathedral of demonstrating his excep- tional erudition and experience gained over the years in the lively transformation of Byzantine pictorial art. Most certainly King Milutin was well-informed of the excel- lence of the artists to whom he entrusted the decoration of his endowments through his royal court in Thessaloni- ca where he occasionally stayed. in this he would have been following a long-standing tradition of bonds between the Serbs and Thessalonica, the second largest city of the Byzantine empire, where St. Sava sojourned while trav- elling to athos, and where he met with church dignitar- ies and commissioned artistic works for the needs of the churches in Serbia and on Mt. athos.
Starting from the initial concept of a church as God’s dwelling on earth, the builders placed Christ Pantocrator in the main dome and Christ’s four other images in the adjacent ones—firstly in his usual aspect, then as the Great Hierarch, then the ancient of Days, and then as emman- uel. The Prophets who presaged the coming of the Savior were placed in the tambours between the windows, on the pendentives, and underneath them, the evangelists as wit- nesses to his life and deeds. in the altar space, in the calotte, and on the lower surfaces, there is the wide scene of the ascension. The sequence ends on the eastern side with the Holy Mother of God and the Service of the Hierarchs in the apse, the Communion of the apostles on the sides and a row of the Holy Fathers.
Little has remained of the Great Feasts, usually situ- ated on the highest surfaces as well as underneath them in the naos, on the lateral arms of the cross and in the subdomical area, where we see the Healing acts of Christ followed by the scenes of his Passion, the events linked to the Resurrection and his Second Coming. The last scenes

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