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alex Dragnich and Slavko Todorovich
of the Nemanjić dynasty, their noblemen, and high cler- gy—the end result being untold artistic and cultural riches, the pride of the Serbian nation to this very day.
One of the early structures sponsored by Nemanja was dedicated to a military saint, Saint George, and placed as a proud symbol on a tall promontory overlooking Nemanja’s capital city of Ras. it was a single nave, domed structure and its twin-towered entrance gave it the popular name Djurdjevi Stupovi (1170–1171). This church was sumptu- ously decorated (1175) by an outstanding but anonymous artist. Due to military and other calamities, the frescos sur- vived only in small fragments (recently the structure was restored and roofed). in spite of the losses of painted sur- faces, the entire iconographic schema is clear—a lower zone of standing saints; two zones of compositions from the life of Christ; and in the dome the image of the Lord in bust.
an addition to the painted program of Djurdjevi Stu- povi was provided by Nemanja’s great grandson, King Dra- gutin in 1282–1283. Most interesting for Serbian history is the painted program of the ground floor chapel, under the entrance tower, created as a burial place for Dragutin him- self. Here one sees the members of the Nemanjić dynasty, from founder onward (with their wives) in ceremonial pro- cession approaching the enthroned Christ. in the groin vault covering this chapel there can be seen, as a perma- nent document for posterity, four illustrated events: Ne- manja as Monk Simeon relinquishing his throne in favor of his son Stefan; the enthronement of Uroš i as king of Ser- bia; Dragutin’s assumption of the throne; and finally, his relinquishing the throne in favor of his brother Milutin.
Nemanja’s laying of religious foundations was more than an artistic endeavor. it served political and religious purposes, but it was above all aimed at the salvation of his soul. To house his own crypt, Nemanja built a monastery (1183–1191), well-hidden in the canyon of a swift tributary of the ibar River, to which he gave the name Studenica. it is
to this site that Nemanja withdrew from ruling duties to become Monk Simeon, living there for over a year and a half before going to Mount athos.
The Church of the Virgin, the center of this monastic complex, later served as a prototype for several other churches destined to be burial places of Serbian kings. While the frescos in the church are typically Byzantine and the marble portals and their sculptures and reliefs Roman- esque, the parts taken together bear the imprint of the Ser- bian spirit. after the transfer of Nemanja’s remains from Mount athos to Studenica, Byzantine painters were en- gaged to decorate the walls of the church (1209). Most like- ly, Sava helped plan the iconographic program, and most certainly gave instructions about historical personages to be included. although the painter left an inscription in Greek at the base of the dome (now only partially pre- served), all other inscriptions throughout the church are in Serbian, written in large and beautifully formalized letters, undoubtedly under the explicit influence of Sava.
To the original church a large outer narthex was added in third or fourth decade of 13th century, certainly before 1234. Here, too, fragments of fresco paintings are preserved. among the more significant ones are those in the south chapel, where one finds the oldest preserved historical com- positions with specifically Serbian subjects, which togeth- er with the religious scenes indicate that they were inspired directly by Sava’s writing. The historical events deal with the transfer of Simeon’s relics from Mount athos to Stu- denica. also present are the dynastic portraits, from the founder to King Radoslav carrying the model, indicating that he was the donor of this addition to the Church of the Virgin.
To the south of the church stands a much smaller struc- ture, the so-called King’s Church, built by Nemanja’s great grandson, King Stefan Milutin. This powerful and wealthy ruler of Serbia for almost forty years reputedly built or re- novated a church for every year of his reign. Some say that this number is exaggerated, but the numerous religious structures still standing throughout Serbian lands, and even reaching to jerusalem and Constantinople, are his- torical testimony to King Milutin’s generosity.
The King’s Church, dedicated to joachim and anna, with a small, single nave and domed, was decorated in or around the year 1313/14. The total iconographic program is rela- tively well-preserved. in the opinion of scholars, the quality of the preserved frescos is the best of this period outside Constantinople. Besides representations of the twelve li- turgical feasts, saints and prophets, and cycles from the life of Christ, there are dynastic portraits from Nemanja and Sava to King Milutin (holding a model of the chapel) and his child queen, Byzantine Palaeologan Princess Simonida. although this tiny monument endured much destruction over the centuries, a part of the king’s inscription remains and reads: “...whoever alter this let him be cursed by God and sinful me, amen.” The long dead king still seems to be guarding the small foundation.
 Djurdjevi Stupovi Monastery, Church of Saint George, 12th century 34

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