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 Slobodan Ćurčić
West façade, Gračanica
he persistently quelled it in continuing efforts to estab- lish the undisputable legitimacy of his succession to the Serbian throne. He achieved these goals with the help of his advisors, outstanding among whom was the monk Danilo, the future Serbian archbishop Danilo ii (1324– 37).19 Danilo was an extraordinary man of many talents, who served the king in numerous capacities. He was an Orthodox monk, but above all he was a first-rate diplo- mat. although we know little about his specific diplomat-
19 The principal source for Danilo is his biography, written by one of his followers (arh. Danilo, Životi, pp. 328–77) although episodes from his life appear dispersed through biographies of King Dragutin, King Milutin, King Stefan Dečanski, and Queen jelena. Danilo’ s versatile career has been discussed lucidly by Milan Kašanin, Srpska književnost u srednjem veku (Belgrade, 1975), pp. 210–33. Danilo’s career was also analyzed by Miloje M. Vasić, “arhiepiskop Danilo ii: monah i umetnik,” Prilozi za književnost, jezik, istoriju i folklor, 6, no. 2 (1926), 231–64; also idem, Žiča i Lazarica (Belgrade, 1928), pp. 16 5–2 3 7 et passim. Vasić depicted Danilo as an exponent of Hesychasm, a controversial mystical movement widespread in the Orthodox world of the fourteenth century, and insisted that he was neither an artist nor an architect. The latter view was subsequently supported by Vladimir R. Petković and Djurdje Bošković, Manastir Dečani (Belgrade, 1941), i, 115–19, but they rejected Vasić’s ideas about Hesychasm. Most recently, Svetozar Radojčić, “archbishop Danilo ii and the Serbian architecture Dating from the early 14th Century,” Serbian Orthodox Church: Its Past and Present, 2, no. 2 (1966), 11–19, also rejects ideas concerning the influence of Hesychasm on Danilo. Radojčić, however, not only portrays Danilo as the principal art ideologist in Serbia during the first decades of the fourteenth century, but insists that he was also an architect.
ic activities, his long and eventful life bears witness to ex- traordinary human energy, patience, flexibility, and nego- tiating skill.
The construction of King Milutin’s mausoleum church at Banjska Monastery, perhaps better than any other epi- sode, illustrates Danilo’s skill in playing a compromising role to accomplish a specific goal. at the height of his power, following the military defeat of his brother, Dra- gutin, King Milutin convened an advisory council con- sisting of his mother, the Dowager Queen jelena, his brother, Dragutin, and the archbishop Sava iii, for the purpose of reaching a decision about the King’s mauso- leum church.20 The end result, the church of Sv. Stefan (St. Stephen) at Banjska Monastery (hereafter referred to as Banjska), at first appears surprisingly conservative. Built in the traditional Romanesque manner, Banjska stands out against the new architectural style adopted under the aus- pices of King Milutin. Danilo, who was charged with the supervision of Banjska’s construction, explains in the bi- ography of the King that it was Milutin’s explicit desire to have his mausoleum built “in the image of the Mother of God of Studenica.” While it might seem paradoxical that Milutin should have taken such a conservative stand at the height of his power, it should be remembered that his older brother was still alive and that the question of the eventual succession to the Serbian throne was still an un- resolved issue. Thus Banjska should be seen as a politi- cally motivated concept. By building Banjska Milutin was assuring his subjects of the continuity of the dynastic tra- dition, while emphasizing the legitimacy of his own suc- cession. The last decade of King Milutin’s life saw unprec- edented generation of political propaganda with art, ar- chitecture, and literature, all used as tools in the fulfill- ment of the King’s personal ambitions. The choice of the model for his mausoleum-church was but one of the many carefully calculated steps in a complex political scheme. The mastermind of such a political program was, in all like- lihood, the King’s confidant and advisor, the monk Danilo.
King Milutin’s reliance on art as a tool of his political propaganda is best witnessed in the surviving frescos. al- though the monumental painting of this period generally fits into the broader framework of Byzantine art, certain iconographic themes are distinctly Serbian. Some of these themes had long-established traditions; others were en- tirely new creations of King Milutin’s ideologists. among the revived cults, as reflected in monumental painting, we find the cult of St. Stephen and particularly the cult of Sts. Simeon and Sava. The promulgation of the cult of St. Stephen has been interpreted as a means by which Milu- tin chose to underline his personal importance vis-à-vis
20 On the building of Sv. Stefan, see arh. Danilo et al., Životi, pp. 149, 151; the current state of scholarship on the subject is summarized by Vojislav Korać, Graditeljska škola Pomorja, Srpska akademija na- uka i umetnosti. Posebna izdanja No 384 (Belgrade, 1965), pp. 102–6, with earlier literature.

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