Page 141 - Kosovo Metohija Heritage
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Gračanica: King Milutin’s Church and its architecture
  Main apse window, Gračanica
ence of an imperial court at Thessaloniki and the pres- ence of the Byzantine princess Simonida at the Serbian court must have been the most vital factors influencing the course of development of Serbian culture at the time. Seen in this context and in terms of King Milutin’s per- sonal aspirations, his artistic and architectural patronage emerges in a new light.
in considering the architecture in Serbia specifically, major practical factors must also be kept in mind. Up to about 1300 Serbian architecture exhibited only occasion- al direct contacts with the Byzantine sphere. after 1300 the shift was dramatic. Virtually overnight, Byzantine church architecture took firm root in Serbia. We must ask ourselves certain pertinent questions. How did this hap- pen? Where did the builders come from and why? The answers are not simple, but they can be sketched in broad outline. The usual explanation that the architectural style and the builders were inherited from the Byzantines by King Milutin after his successful conquest of large por- tions of Macedonia falls short of being satisfactory be- cause the surviving monuments indicate that this con- quered area was characterized by small-scale, provincial
Main dome, Gračanica
architecture, with the most representative monuments found in such centers as Prilep and Ohrid. The architec- ture of Prilep and Ohrid, however, has very little in com- mon with the architecture of King Milutin. The churches built under the direct patronage of King Milutin (Hilan- dar, Bogorodica Ljeviška, Staro Nagoričino, Gračanica), on the other hand, display standards of construction qual- ity as high as one may expect to find in Thessaloniki, or even in Constantinople. Such standards could hardly have been maintained by local craftsmen operating on the ter- ritory conquered by King Milutin. Furthermore, the sheer quantity of construction compels us to question the no- tion that a few stagnant provincial building crews could have produced so much within a decade or two. Consid- ering all the factors involved, we can hypothesize that King Milutin, in his ambitious efforts to compete with the patronage of the Byzantine emperor and relying on his substantial resources, had reached beyond the imme- diate frontiers of his own realm to acquire skilled crafts- men. Some must have come from Thessaloniki, the most accessible and the best source of artisans at the time. How- ever, Thessaloniki most likely could not have provided all

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