Page 635 - Kosovo Metohija Heritage
P. 635

The Fate of the Serbian Cultural Heritage (13th–20th Century)
Milan Ivanović
In the region of Kosovo and Metohija, the ancestors of the Serbian people have left invaluable traces of their life and creative work, from as early as the time of the first
waves of their migrations toward the central parts of the Balkan Peninsula. The time of the disappearance and de- struction of the antique towns under the attacks of the av- ars and during the migrations and settling of the Slaves in this region is well-illustrated by the ceramics and jewelry of the Slav origin excavated from the ruins of ancient Ulpi- ana near Priština, and dated around the late 6th century. The Byzantine historical records prove that the final set- tling of the central Balkan area by the Slav people ended during the course of the 7th century. even though the early Slav archeology in Kosovo and Metohija was only sporadi- cally paid attention to by experts, the archeological finding places—at Koretin near Kosovska Kamenica, in the far east of the region, at Matičani near Priština, Doblibar near Dja- kovica, Prčevo near Klina, in the central part, as well as at Vrbnica and Vodica near Prizren, in the Beli Drim river valley, close to the albanian frontier, in the far west of this region, have proved an uninterrupted and compact pres- ence of the Serbian population in the region of Kosovo and Metohija from the time of their advent right down to the period of the ripe Middle ages. The anthropological-ar- cheological records which offered excellent proofs of the Slav character of this region in the early Middle ages, were in the case of the Vodice location simply and deliberately destroyed already during the very excavation, in 1975!
Remaining to testify about Kosovo and Metohija as the center of the governmental and social authority of “all Ser- bian countries,” particularly in the 13th and 14th centuries, are not only the magnificent temples on monasteries De- čani, Gračanica, The Mother of God of Ljeviša, and of the Peć Patriarchate, preserved until our day, but also the im- posing ruins of the churches such as isposnica (asceterion), of Peter of Koriša, Bogorodica (Holy Mother) Hvostanska, the Holy archangels, Banjska, Novo Brdo, Zvečan, Ubo- žac, ajnovac, and tens of our other rulers’ and feudal lords’ pious endowments (foundations) from the 13th and 14th cen- turies. Some of these monuments rank among the highest artistic creations of the Christian civilization. But these landmarks and historical sights were never the only ones;
they were followed by hundreds of rural churches, monas- teries and temples which represented (and partly some others as well) a firm foundation in the evolution of our culture and arts.
With the Ottoman conquests in the late 14th and 15th centuries, this rise was interrupted, and with the sufferings of the Serbian people came also devastations of their mon- asteries and churches, towns and villages. There are many historical and material records about it. On the Serbian Menaion in the National Library in Paris there is a note of monk adonius who, on his arrival at Banjska, in 1419, found “the temple and books burnt down and the treasury loot- ed.” in the early 17th century, Sinan-Pasha of Prizren used the building material of the destroyed monastery of the Holy archangels, the pious endowment of emperor Du- šan, to erect his large mosque in the same town. The Turk- ish Yegen-Pasha looted Monastery Gračanica and moved, on nine horsebacks, its valuables to Constantinople.
Particularly difficult situations were after the years of 1690 and 1737, when following the great anti-Turkish wars waged by the austrian army sided by the Serbs, it came to the well-known migrations of the Serbian people across the Sava and Danube rivers.
The cruel Turkish retaliations also resulted in a series of destructions of Serbian Churches and monuments. These revengeful acts were, by their consequences, heavier than those in all the preceding times. The oppression and driv- ing of the Serbian people out of Kosovo and Metohija, de- structions of their material and cultural wealth were con- tinued even during the 19th century, especially after the Ser- bian Uprisings in 1804 and 1815 and the liberation wars in the last decades of the century. With brief interruptions they were continued in the 20th century as well, in the times of the austro-Hungarian and German-italian occupations of the country in the First and Second World Wars. De- structions of the Serbian churches and monasteries had been particularly heavy in the 19th century. Yashar-Pasha Džinić, of albanian origin, the usurper-master of Kosovo, had systematically carried out these destructions. Using the stones of the destroyed Kosovo former churches, he built up bridges on the Sitnica river near Lipljan and Vra- golija.

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