Page 53 - Kosovo Metohija Heritage
P. 53

 The Spiritual and Cultural Heritage of Serbia in Kosovo and Metohija Gojko Subotić
Chrysobull seal of Prince Lazar,
gold, 1379–1380, appended to document granting rights to the hospital of Hilandar
In the long course of its existence, Serbian art, in the Kosovo region, reached its peak in the first half of the
14 century. We focus on a limited selection of build-
ings here, most of which date to that period, with the aim of representing the chief stylistic currents and outlining the complexity of ideas on which their sophisticated sculp- tural decoration and painting rely. These shrines especially exemplify the character of artwork in surroundings exposed to simultaneous influences of Byzantium and the West. in political life, this ancient duality was displayed in the exis- tence of two Serbian lands, Raška and Dioclea (Zeta), which from the second half of the 12th century onwards perma- nently united their destiny into one state. in art, these dual concepts became clearly manifested as early as the era of the state founder, the Grand župan Stefan Nemanja. The churches he raised articulated, on the one hand, character- istic features of Byzantine architectural skill, even of Con- stantinople masters (in all probability, St. Nicholas in Topli- ca), while, on the other, of Romanesque style, notable in the articulation of the marble façades and the outstanding sculpted ornamentation on the church of the Mother of God in Studenica, a level of artistic achievement which was never to be attained in later years.
During the 13th century, the Raška school of architec- ture produced churches of monumental dimensions and harmonious proportions, but, in terms of sculptural deco- ration, the simple features of their outward appearances were modestly executed in the western spirit. elements of plastic ornamentation hardly appeared on them; the church of the Holy apostles in Peć—for a long time the only sur- viving church in Kosovo invested with some importance, did not have them either. Hence, it certainly is no coinci- dence that no major sculptural works, typical of the towns in Dalmatia, came into existence along the southern adri- atic coast in this period.
The wife of Uroš i, Queen Helen, of French descent pro- vided a powerful inspiration for architecture in the west- ern spirit. When she supervised the building of the monas- tery of Gradac on the river ibar around 1270, she engaged
master-masons who were the first to make more extensive use of Gothic elements in construction. in the modulation of portals and windows on the main church they incorpo- rated the appropriate sculptural repertoire. at a later time in the coastal region where she ruled after the death of her husband, Queen Helen had an Orthodox church built in the vicinity of Scutari and dedicated to St. Nicholas. She also aided the construction of a much greater number of Catholic places of worship, giving support to members of the order of St. Francis. early sources reveal that in 1288 she consecrated Franciscan churches in monasteries in Cattaro (Kotor), Bar, Ulcinj and Scutari which echoed the characteristic appearance of religious buildings of the Um- brian-Tuscan type, with a simple, elongated space that could accommodate a large number of believers.
These ambitious ventures of Queen Helen were also aided by her sons. a well-preserved inscription from 1290 states that with kings Dragutin and Milutin she had the church of Sts Sergius and Bakchos built near Scutari on the bank of the Bojana; this church was subsequently worn away by the river. With her sons dressed in royal robes and herself clad in monastic attire she is depicted praying to St. Nicholas who blesses her in the famous icon of Sts Peter and Paul which she presented to their church in Rome.
Despite the fact that she had assumed the Orthodox monastic habit, the Dowager—Queen lavishly aided mon- asteries of her earlier religious denomination. Milutin did the same at a later time: an inscription from 1318 relates to his merits, probably in the renewal of the Benedictine church near Scutari. By protecting his Catholic subjects, the king evidently adhered to the practice of religious tol- erance cherished in his country.
Of buildings erected by Catholic, not to speak of Or- thodox, inhabitants of mining settlements for their reli- gious needs, examples worthy of attention are the frag- ments still standing of a church dedicated to the Mother of God in Novo Brdo, and of St. Peter’s in Stari Trg in Trepča the former, like Dečani and churches along the coastal re- gion, was built of alternate layers of red and white stone,

   51   52   53   54   55