Page 575 - Kosovo Metohija Heritage
P. 575

The Serbian monasteries and churches in Kosovo and Metohija—include today four UNeSCO World Heritage Sites of Serbia situated in Kosovo:
“The Monastery of Visoki Dečani was the first that was listed as a World Heritage site (2004), and the extension in 2006 included the Patriarchate of Peć, the Monastery of Gračanica, and the Church of the Mother of God of Ljeviša in Prizren (Serbia: Date of inscription: 2004; ex- tension: 2006, Criteria: (ii)(iii)(iv); Property: 2.8802 ha; Buffer zone: 115.3879 ha autonomous province of Koso- vo; N42 39 40 e20 15 56; Ref: 724bis). UNeSCO describes them as follows: “The four edifices of the site reflect the high points of the Byzantine–Romanesque ecclesiastical culture, with its distinct style of wall painting, which de- veloped in the Balkans between the 13th and 17th centu- ries. The Dečani Monastery was built in the mid-14th cen- tury for the Serbian king Stefan Dečanski and is also his mausoleum. The Patriarchate of Peć Monastery is a group of four domed churches featuring series of wall paintings. The 13th-century frescos of the Church of Holy apostles are painted in a unique, monumental style. early 14th-cen- tury frescos in the church of the Mother of God of Ljeviša represent the appearance of the new so-called Palaelogan Renaissance style, combining the influences of the east- ern Orthodox Byzantine and the Western Romanesque traditions. The style played a decisive role in subsequent Balkan art.”16
These and many other Serbian monasteries and church- es, built in unusually large numbers between the early thir- teenth and late fifteenth centuries, were, according to al- banian propagandists, constructed on the foundations of earlier“illyrianchurches”.Someofthemindeedwerebuilt on earlier foundations, but those were the remnants of Byzantine–era churches, which is a phenomenon typical of the whole of the “Byzantine Commonwealth“, as well as elsewhere in southern europe and in wider Mediter- ranean area.17
The Serbian position is, however, most often support- ed by tangible evidence. apart from written historical sourc- es, foreign and domestic, attesting to Serbian presence in the area since the medieval period, there still are in Ko- sovo thirteen hundred Serb Orthodox Christian church- es, monasteries, monuments, and archaeological sites.18 The process of ethnic change unfolding from the seven-
September 1998). More balanced, but still incomplete is Miranda Vickers, Between Serb and Albanian A History of Kosovo (London: Hurst & Co., 1988). in the French-speaking countries, an ardent sup- porter of the most prolific pro-albanian positions is a geography professor at the University of Toulouse, Michel Roux, Les Albanais en Yougoslavie Minorité nationale, territoire et développement (Pa- ris: editions de la Maison des Sciences de l’Homme, 1992).
17 For more see Gojko Subotić, Art of Kosovo: The Sacred Land (New York: Monacelli Press, 1998).
18 Comprehensive documentation available in : Zadužbine Koso- va. Spomenici i znamenja, passim.
Kosovo and Metohija: History, Memory, identity
teenth to the twentieth century, by which albanians grad- ually replaced Serbs as Kosovo’s majority population, is well documented as well. among its causes, the primary one was foreign oppression, which often obtained alba- nian support it was for the first international Peace Con- ference at The Hague that Kingdom of Serbia, as one of founding states, prepared a volume of diplomatic docu- ments exchanged between Belgrade and Constantinople concerning albanian-organized violence and persecution of Kosovo Serbs in Old Serbia at the close of the nineteenth century, under the following title: Documents diploma- tiques Correspondance concernant les actes de violence et de brigandage des Albanais dans la Vieille Serbie (Vilay- et de Kosovo) 1898–1899.19 Nevertheless its official presen- tation at The Hague was prevented in the last moment after the strongest pressure of Vienna through austro– Hungarian diplomats in Belgrade on Serbian King alek- sanda i Obrenović and his government to withdraw this document.
The contrasting versions of the historical past of Ko- sovo and Metohija became a significant factor causing the profound political and cultural distrust between Serbs and albanians. Nevertheless, the usual approach, often lack- ing reliable scholarly background, is to compare the Ser- bian historical account, overwhelmingly based on verifi- able data, with albanian romantic–historical theses that have significantly less backing in sources, in order to of- fer a kind of “balanced” version of history. However, such attempts to find a middle ground usually produce a dis- torted and misguided view of the region’s past.
The Rise and Fall of Medieval Serbia
Until the early Middle ages it was successively includ- ed into different Roman and Byzantine provinces and in- habited by different ethnic groups. its pre-Roman popu- lation of varied origin (illyrian in the west and Thracian in the east and south) was gradually Romanized during the long rule of both Rome and Constantinople.20
With the mass settlement of Slavs during the seventh century most of the central Balkans became a fief of dif- ferent Slavic tribes under stronger or weaker control of Byzantium. a former Bulgarian and Byzantine possession, the region that has come to be known as Kosovo–Meto- hija was integrated between the early twelfth century and the middle of the fifteenth century into the medieval Ser- bian state: the Kingdom (1217–1346), empire (1346–1371), various princedoms (1371–1402) and the Despotate of Ser- bia (1402–1459). as a predominantly Serb-inhabited area Kosovo–Metohija became the prestigious centre of the
19 Belgrade, Ministère des affaires Étrangeères 1899., 149. P.
20 Illyriens et Albanais, ed. Milutin Garašanin (Belgrade: acadé- mie serbe des sciences et des arts, 1990), bilingual Serbian and French edition.

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