Page 128 - Kosovo Metohija Heritage
P. 128

Gojko Subotić
 Opening page from the King Milutin’s Charter of Banjska Monastery
This Charter also known as the Chrysobull of Saint Stephen, was carried of to istanbul by the Turks after the Battle
of Kosovo (1389). Since the mid-15th century its been kept in the Sultan’s Treasury of the Old Saray.
floor and with porches that gave the façade a lightweight appearance. By analogy with other monastic complexes whose ground plans are known to us, the initial excava- tions on the northern end have already indicated that the residential quarters and subsidiary buildings followed the line of the external walls on the other sides as well, thus enclosing the complex almost totally.
Today the open prospect of Milutin’s church enables us to view its monumental forms in their overall harmo- ny, better than they could be viewed in medieval times when this was not visible from inside the walled edifice. Present restoration of the ruined parts of the edifice, how-
ever, reveals only a section of its former sculptural orna- mentation. in the days when it served as a mosque, espe- cially in the subdomical area, these ornaments were al- tered with regard to their original condition. On the other hand, excavations have shown that the church, erected on a rocky base high above the other structure, was clear- ly visible from the outside.
While building his sepulchral church in Banjska, King Milutin did not retain parts of the early, still well-pre- -served cathedral church as he did in Prizren. according to the ruler’s design this new church was to be built “af- ter the image of the Church of the Mother of God at Stu- denica” because it held the remains of Stefan Nemanja, the founder of the Royal House. The previous building was therefore demolished and completely replaced by a new one. The recently adopted Byzantine architectural mode was replaced here by the older Raška type. The special rea- son for this was that the ruler, devotedly remembering his forefather had clearly in mind “the kind of building and religious ornamentation he chose to preserve the peace of his holy body.”
The large new church did not, of course, literally copy Nemanja’s endowment. its forms point to the spatial struc- ture of later thirteenth-century shrines with subsequent- ly appended elements that came into existence here si- multaneously with the others. in the central part beneath the dome, the wide naos was given a broad span subse- quently not seen in any blueprint. in the north and south, churchgoers had an unrestricted view of the rectangular choir as wide as the diameter of the dome. On the east side this developed into a three-part altar space with a semi-circular apse whose proportions were meant to be seen from the center of the subdomical area. From out- side, the church looks like a three-aisled basilica with low lateral roofs traversed by a high transept. in front of the naos there was also a broad narthex and on each flanks two parekklesia, some of which were undoubtedly of a funeral character. One of King Dušan’s charters reveals that his mother Theodora, the wife of King Stefan Dečan- ski, was buried in Saint Stephen’s Church. it appears that two rings were found in her tomb in the northern chapel near the narthex, one of which bore the inscription: “May God help one who wears this.”
The chief entrance to the church, reached by steps, was located on the western side framed by towers of which only the lower part of the southern one still stands. The comprehensive and delicate task of restoring the for- mer appearance of the church which could be undertak- en only after all the parts have been excavated would dem- onstrate more tangibly the sculptural values of the church. it is not very probable, however, that we could obtain reli- able data about the height of the dome preceding the present one which was constructed without a drum or an opening at the time when the church was converted to a mosque.

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