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The Church of Saint Peter of Koriša
Gojko Subotić
Followers of the anachoretic life, that “wild flower” of eastern Christian monasticism, made an early ap- pearance among the Serbs. Their modest dwellings
on cliffs of sheer rocks allow one only occasionally to rec- ognize that these were the old abodes of hermits who sought peace in craggy, inaccessible localities and isola- tion from the world in order to spend their lives in strict ascetic devotion. They lived in natural caves, which they roughly fashioned to fit the basic needs of their cult and to protect themselves from inclement weather and attacks of wild beasts. The generally dry wall partitions shutting the entrances to their cells were destroyed by time, oblit- erating traces of the hermits’ former presence. More visible signs of their lives have been preserved in better-protect- ed spots whose occupants were able to reinforce them with better materials and to decorate the prayer areas with wall-paintings. The hermits’ survival also depended on longer sojourns in these caves and more careful mainte- nance of the cells, particularly if one of its founders at- tained a measure of renown, as well as the disciples who followed in his footsteps.
in the Prizren region, in the rugged surroundings of Koriša, Peter the Hermit won fame in the early decades of the 13th century for his ascetic feats. His simple life of supreme renunciation and prayer was vividly described in the following century by well-known writer Teodosije who had expressly come from Hilandar (on Mt. athos) to see the site of Peter’s dwellings and to hear at first hand the legends about him that had been transmitted by his followers. Being familiar with the lives of ascetics, their spiritual moods and hesychastic conceptions which were experiencing a revival on Mt. athos at precisely that time, Teodosije described in the Lives of the Saints and in his Service, the spiritual drama of this hermit and the moral temptations that accompanied his seclusion from the world, as well as the rigors of survival.
according to Teodosije, in searching for a sanctuary which would give him the peace he sought, young Peter found himself in the Koriša River canyon in a deserted spot lodged between steep rocks. He settled in one of the barely accessible caves, “facing the wind and the sun.” There he lived “frozen by the cold and scorched by the sun’s heat”... as if he were bodiless, all the while gathering
wild plants and the bitter beech acorn, if these be called nourishment.” There preserved in this cave an interesting and early part of a wall-painting on the lower layer of un- even rock surfaces dating from the days of the Koriša her- mit himself. Where the altar was located on the eastern side there is a depiction of the Procession of the Hiero- monks under ornamented painted arches. above them is the Deisis—Christ enthroned with the Holy Mother of God and St. john the Baptist drawn in an unusual pose with heads folded in prayer over the chest. in the same row, in the “naos” of the cave, we see the archangel Mi- chael and the apostle Peter and, at a lower level, damaged figures of the Warrior-Saints (Demetrius, George, Proko- pius, Mercurius, Nicetas and Blasius) who are also under arches.
although sources do not record this, the hermit ded- icated his prayer area—as seen by the disposition of the drawings—to the archangel Michael. This celestial her-
 Hermitage of Saint Peter of Koriša,
the dome with two layers of frescos, 13th and 14th century

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