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of 1321—King Milutin and Queen Simonis were painted on the lateral sides of the passage leading from the nar- thex into the naos, dressed in solemn vestments echoing Byzantine imperial garb. High above, accommodated at the apex of the arch, Christ pronounces a blessing on them, while the angels, expressing God’s will, are offering crowns to them.
The king on the left side holds a vividly articulated model of the church in both hands. This depiction, how- ever, does not show the exonarthex, today forming a well—balanced, inseparable and, it seems, logical part of the whole. The confidence with which all the details of the sprawling, compelling building model were executed leaves no doubt that at the time when the fresco painting of the church was about to be completed the exonarthex still did not exist. in all probability, it was added soon thereafter. excavations have revealed that it was of the same volume, but with a different spatial disposition: massive piers subdivide it into six bays above which a belfry formerly rose at the west end.
a large part of the original exonarthex appears to have been destroyed in the first Ottoman raids and in a fire in the monastery before the battle of Kosovo (1389). it is dif- ficult, however, to say what was retained from its original plan in the reconstruction undertaken soon afterwards. Having gained experience in the erection of open narthex- es in the second and third quarters of the 14th century, the master-masons raised a serene structure whose height, forms and construction were a fortunate addition to Mi- lutin’s endowment. The lateral sides were composed of sturdy piers with arches resting on the pillars between them, while the western façade featured narrower piers between the corresponding supports, also linked by arch- es—two on each side and three in the central section pro- viding access to the church. in that, the narthex success- fully adopted the rhythm of the upper portions of the church which was of tremendous importance for the en- tire structure: the apex of the blind dome above it was placed in continuation of the slanting plane, whose angle was determined by the height of the main and subsidiary domes.
Light and transparent, the narthex remained open in the course of almost two ensuing centuries. it was blocked up afterwards before being furnished with new wall-paint- ings after the renewal of the Patriarchate of Peć (1557). Prior to this time, in a wood-cut showing the contempo- rary appearance of the church in a book printed in Gra- čanica (1539), a belfry was depicted above the narthex. This belfry may have been demolished after that because of stricter measures imposed by the Ottoman authorities regarding the use of bells.
The full extent of the remodeling of the exonarthex carried out in the 16th century has not yet been ascertained. it is therefore difficult to perceive the character and all the merits of the former structure. its present-day appearance
The art of Gračanica
does not display the same polished, refined masonry as the church itself does.
in searching for the origin of the master-masons em- ployed by King Milutin and the place they were trained we cannot name any single workshop. The analogies re- garding the articulation and conception of space open up a series of possibilities in the northern regions of Byzan- tium, especially Thessalonica, while similar designs occur primarily in epirus and Thessaly. The masters from these regions readily joined building projects undertaken by the Serbian ruler and having brought in by local associates, developed ideas and experiences with them.
Now that the building has been cleaned the details are more visible; the wall surfaces in the interior of the church of the Mother of God accommodate numerous represen- tations, comprising the culmination of wall-painting in Serbia during King Milutin’s epoch with their profusion and selection. it can be claimed with considerable certain- ty that until the very end artists from Thessalonica were exponents of the new style which matured before the eyes of the Serbian founders and the clergy. architecturally preceded by the five-domed churches of the Mother of God of Ljeviša at Prizren and Saint George in Staro Na- goričino, created some years before in the restoration of earlier structures erected in the Byzantine tradition, the Gračanica wall-paintings grow out of this tradition in a confident manner. The underlying ideas and forms of ex- pression neither fluctuated nor flagged in further elabo- ration of the program and the refined interpretation of messages which the earlier seat of the bishopric had striv- en to transmit to its congregation. Finding a place for the entire subject matter in such a complex space necessi- tated experience and skill. We are not sure, however, that this was done in a manner befitting the abilities of the faithful. aside from those thematic segments which, de- spite noticeable differences in the shape of the building, were common to all, only with considerable effort could great connoisseurs of ecclesiastical history and doctrine follow the painted thought of the man who commissioned the building and the artist. Representations were frequent- ly placed at a large distance from the observer on surfaces difficult to be seen due to the angle. The question at is- sue, understandably, was not merely recognition of the subject matter, although this in itself was not always sim- ple. Scenes which were iconographically similar or even identical were interpreted by, and occasionally differed from each other only through Biblical quotations or vers- es from ecclesiastical poetry the texts of which, situated far from the observer, could only be read with great dif- ficulty. it is possible, however, to single out certain larger cycles, although their sequence is not always easy to grasp.
The sanctuary posed the least problems though it does include representations invested with various meanings. in the spherical area of the wide apse beneath Christ em- manuel, the Mother of God is painted with archangels

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