Page 40 - Kosovo Metohija Heritage
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 Žiča Monastery
(the seat of the Serbian archbishopric before moving to Peć), Church of the ascension of Christ, 13th century
left their signatures on their works, thus immortalizing themselves and their royal sponsor. in the sponsorship of artists, Milutin followed the tradition of his family. His mother, Queen jelena, supported the school for embroi- dery arts, and undoubtedly many Serbian woman honed her skills there. Moreover, Milutin’s brother, King Dragu- tin, also sponsored an art school specializing in applied arts and crafts.
art historians in general, and Byzantinists in particular, have written volumes dealing with the style and iconogra- phy of Serbian frescos. in general, they agree that Serbian paintings preserved on the walls of these medieval church- es constitute a continuity in Byzantine artistic expression during the period when the artistic production of Con- stantinople was severely curtailed due to the political situ- ation of the empire in the late 12th and early 13th centuries. Most scholars also agree that Serbian art served as a link between the east and West, transmitting to Western art- ists, eager to learn and experiment, the venerable old tradi- tion kept alive in the superior Byzantine technique of fres- cos and mosaics, as well as style. This was the period of the 13th and 14th centuries, when Byzantium was undergoing an artistic revival (after 1261), and just as the West was on the threshold of the classical revival, self-discovery, and renaissance. The center of Serbian Orthodox Christendom was the monastic complex at Peć, most often referred to as the Patriarchate. Located in the vicinity of the rugged Ru- govo pass, a nightmare to any intruder, the walled monas- tery conveys a feeling of remoteness in a physical and spir- itual sense. The need to hide was understandable in view of the fact that Žiča, exposed in the plains, was sacked on several occasions by the marauding Bulgarians, Mongols, and other passing invaders. also, as the see, first of Serbian archbishops and later of Serbian patriarchs for three cen- turies, the monastery required seclusion. Many church dignitaries are buried there.
The complex itself consists of several churches, cha- pels, and a large outer narthex, all attached and forming an inseparable unit. The oldest is the Church of the Holy apos- tles, built by archbishop arsenije in the period between 1235–1250. Some of the original frescos are still preserved. especially noteworthy is the majestic representation in the dome of the ascension of Christ. To the north, archbish- op Nikodemus added the Church of Saint Demetrius dur- ing the years 1316–1324. The fresco ensemble is almost com- pletely preserved. The images are signed in Serbian, while the painter left a signature in Greek in the apse of the church. To the south, the famous Serbian archbishop, writer, and architect, Danilo ii, in 1330 added the church dedicated to the Virgin. among its preserved frescos are portraits of archbishop Danilo with a model of the church, and his namesake, the Prophet Daniel.
There are other Serbian monasteries and churches (pre- served or in ruins) that dot the landscape of Kosovo. among these are Devič, Gorioč, and Lipljan. Some of these served as sources of inspiration to national bards composing vers- es of epic poetry, e.g. Samodreža near Priština, one of King Milutin’s capitals.
Probably the most important of medieval Serbia’s Ko- sovo cities was Prizren, emperor Dušan’s capital. in its vi- cinity Dušan provided for his final resting place the only structure that he had an opportunity to build as donor. The church was dedicated to the Holy archangels. erected be- tween 1347 and 1352, it was one of the most magnificent of Serbian medieval royal foundations. its grandeur was meant to match in every way Dušan’s ambitions, particularly his planned conquest of Byzantium. The young emperor or- dered the annual production of his silver mine at Novo Brdo to be set aside to cover the expenses of building and decorating his ambitious enterprise.
although chronologically late, the style chosen was the Raška school. The exterior was purple and yellow marble blocks, while red stone was carefully selected for the inte- rior. all of these colors had royal connotations. No expense was spared on the interior, resplendent in marble encrus- tations, gold leaf in vaults, silver stars, and lavish mosaics. a magnificent mosaic floor was in the process of execution when Dušan’s sudden death resulted in bringing his body for burial there.
When the conquering Ottomans came to the region in 1455, this beautiful structure was almost completely de- stroyed. The conquerors ordered the building razed, and the marble blocks reused for Sinnan Pasha’s mosque. The excavations between the two world wars, and after World War ii, yielded a few precious fragments which attest to the church’s past splendor, and some of the large founda- tion stones remain. in the post-World War ii period, em- peror Dušan’s remains were brought to Belgrade to rest in Saint Mark’s Church, built in the interwar period as a large replica of Gračanica.

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