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Slobodan Ćurčić
the artisans needed by King Milu- tin. Others must have been recruit- ed from Thessaly and epirus. Stylis- tic aspects of King Milutin’s archi- tecture corroborate such a suppo- sition.
Seen against this background, Gračanica begins to make sense. a building in which diverse elements are brought together, it reveals a characteristic design approach of Late Byzantine builders-compila- tion of building components to achieve new entities. However, the degree to which these diverse com- ponents are integrated into the to- tal composition suggests a compe- tence which presupposes consider- able previous building experience.
The builders of Gračanica (at
least some from the group) must
have previously worked on other
commissions for King Milutin.
among the surviving churches the
church of Bogorodica Ljeviška in
Prizren is the most likely possibil-
ity. Our picture, unfortunately, will
never be complete, since several ma-
jor churches built for King Milutin
in and around Skoplje have vanished without a trace. in any case, it seems that once hired by King Milutin, the Greek builders remained in Serbia working on several of his commissions. although Greek builders are never men- tioned explicitly in any of the Serbian sources, their pres- ence in Serbia is implied by Danilo ii in his biography of King Milutin. Relating the decision to build the mauso- leum church for the king at Banjska, he states that he was chosen to supervise the construction of the church be- cause he was a Serb. Such insistence on national affilia- tion implies that not all builders in Serbia at the time were natives. Nor should they have been. Having initiated the process of expansion to the south, with clear imperial overtones, Milutin had made it plain that he was ready to transcend established local traditions. This undertaking was not simple, nor was it without internal opposition. its fruits were reaped only some three decades later in Dušan’s Serbo-Greek empire. Nevertheless, the monu- ments of art and architecture patronized by King Milutin remain unquestionable proof of the path he had chosen.
earlier attempts on the part of some scholars to see such aspects of Gračanica as its elongated proportions or its pointed archivolts at the base of the main dome as evidence of direct Gothic influence must be dismissed. even if Gothic input may be detected in such isolated de- tails as the crocket capitals, these are most likely a result
of a secondhand borrowing via epi- rus, rather than a perpetuation of the faint Gothic tradition estab- lished in Serbia in the course of the thirteenth century (e.g., at Gradac). Gothic influence on Gračanica can be properly understood only in light of a general exposure of Late Byz- antine architecture to western in- fluence. Thus attempts to portray Gračanica as a work of local build- ers who consciously perpetuated the established tradition of the Raška School appear highly superficial.
Having determined Gračanica’s place within the broader framework of Serbian culture under King Mi- lutin, we could turn our attention to some of its features that have previously been either overlooked or misunderstood. Foremost among these are the three arcosolia, planned from the outset and built integral- ly with the church. These arcosolia, considering that Gračanica was King Milutin’s foundation, must have been intended for burials of the members of the royal family. The arcosolium in the southern ambu-
latory wing is of particular significance because of its rela- tive location in the church. By observing earlier and sub- sequent localization of tombs of Serbian rulers, it was es- tablished that almost all of them occupy the same rela- tive position within respective mausoleum churches. On the basis of this and several other factors it was proposed that Gračanica was initially planned to be King Milutin’s mausoleum church. This notion is also supported by the subsequent adoption of the five-domed church as a royal mausoleum church type (the church of Holy archangels, Ravanica, and Manasija). Our hypothesis about the orig- inal intentions for Gračanica appears contradictory, be- cause King Milutin was actually buried in the church of Saint Stefan, at Banjska Monastery. By analyzing the le- gal relationship established between Banjska and Grača- nica through their monastic charters it was possible to detect that their relationship was altered in favor of Banj- ska, probably after the construction of Gračanica had be- gun. This, in turn, introduced a new factor into attempts to establish the probable beginning date of construction at Gračanica.
On the basis of the relative chronology of Banjska and Gračanica, it is possible to propose 1311 as the most plau- sible beginning date of Gračanica’s construction. This is corroborated by the historical circumstances. Seen in his- torical perspective Banjska appears as one of King Milu-
Window on the south façade, Gračanica

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