Page 130 - Kosovo Metohija Heritage
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Gojko Subotić
ers created in the inland of the country. This is confirmed by the continuity of the stone-masons’ workshops along the Coast engaged to work for rulers and other commis- sioners from Serbia. a Dubrovnik document dated au- gust 1313 mentions the departure of five master-builders and stone-masons to Serbia where they appeared to have remained for several years in view of the fact that the Dubrovnik archives do not refer to them again until 1320. it is feasible that they were the ones who worked on the Banjska Church. One year earlier, in 1312, one of the skilled Dubrovnik artisans, Giovanni della Vecchia, signed a con- tract at the request of King Stefan Uroš to spend one year roofing his churches with lead. During those years, con- struction was underway on sites throughout the country; the exodus of good craftsmen from Dubrovnik early in 1314 compelled the authorities there to express concern for the needs of their own city and decree that builders, stone-masons, carpenters and caulkers could no longer accept jobs in Serbia without a special permit from the Duke (Knez) of Dubrovnik and the Minor Council.
at times, builders engaged by the ruler travelled from further afield. it has been noticed that certain animal heads of Romanesque character situated on the consoles of the capitals under the eaves in Banjska, are virtually identical with those on an earlier portal of Milutin’s church in Hilandar, although that church was chiefly executed in the spirit of Byzantine sculptural decoration. On the oth- er hand, parallel with western-style sculptural ornamen- tation in Banjska there are fragments which by their stone- -cutting and ornaments in the niello technique—mean- ing a carved-out back filled with a dark paste accentuat- ing the drawing—reveals the work of artists trained in the tradition of Byzantine art. This was perhaps an influence which came via italy, where Byzantine art dominated in certain periods. The shrines of Kosovo and Metohija as well as the coastal parts of the medieval Serbian state and even a broader area of the Mediterranean reflected in var-
ious degrees the symbiosis of two stylistic modes visible mainly in their structural forms, building practices and ornamentation.
in the devastated interior of the Banjska Church, nu- merous ornamental fragments have been found. These will find their proper place in the restored whole. among them we recognize certain elements of the early, rich, stone furnishings of the churches and on the high arches we still see the remains of dazzling painted ornaments. it was in the tradition of the rulers’ endowments of the 13th century for frescos to gleam against gold backgrounds. The paintings of the King’s mausoleum church largely covered in gold leaf confirm this in a rather convincing manner. For this reason, a Belgrade writer of the early 15th century ranked “Banjska gold” among the finest works of art in the country. a small number of remaining images which by their soft delineations, broad modeling and warm colors harken back directly to the then still vital Hellenistic tradition in the major Byzantine centers speak of the work of skilled artisans, probably from Thessaloni- ca. They represent the mature phase of a style to be found here as somewhat later ornamentation on other shrines.
Further excavations will probably clarify the nature of the edifice on the slope south of the monastery, built in the same technique as the others in the complex. judging by available evidence we can infer that this was Milutin’s palace to which reference was made in his biography, namely, that he built “royal palaces” in Banjska.
after King Milutin’s death at Nerodimlje, in Kosovo, in October 1221, his body was placed in the tomb he had prepared for himself in Saint Stephen’s Church. Howev- er, by the time of the Battle of Kosovo in 1389 his body had to be removed because of the insecurity of the loca- tion and reinterred in the Trepča citadel, and subsequent- ly, in the 15th century, to Sofia where it still reposes.
The Sacred Land: Art of Kosovo,
The Monacelli Press 1997, pp. 63–80.

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