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they repeated the earlier themes and disposition of St. Sa- va’s times. The conclusions arrived at also refer to the Peć Church, because it was precisely the cathedral church that they took as their model not only for its construction but also for its decorative elements.
The sepulchral nature of the church was primarily ex- pressed by the monumental painting of the Deisis in the spherical part of the broad apse, clearly visible above the low altar screen. The churchgoers knew that the prayer to the enthroned Christ offered by the Mother of God and St. john the Baptist referred mainly to the dignitaries buried there. But the believers were themselves comforted by their faith in salvation and by the knowledge that grace would be granted them on judgment Day, the depiction of which on the walls showed the same personages in iconographic form as defenders of the human race.
in the lower part of the church, as was customary from the end of the 12th century onward, there is depicted the Service of the Hierarchs together with a series of the most prominent representatives of Christian teachings, holding scrolls with excerpts from liturgical prayers. it is notewor- thy that this procession ends with the figures of St. Sava of Serbia, the already deceased and widely venerated founder of the autocephalous Serbian Church. even earlier custom allowed that eminent prelates of local churches could be portrayed in the altar space, while from the 11th century onward they appeared not only as a part of the autocepha- lous archbishopric, as in Ohrid and Cyprus, but also in a series of other bishoprics, principally in the Greek ones. it was natural for the image of St. Sava to have first appeared in the Church of the Holy apostles in Peć as it was most closely linked to the very heart of the Serbian Church. Pos- sibly about the same time an artist of less expressive power repeated Sava’s image in the prothesis, representing him as officiating together with his successor arsenije, but with- out the other holy fathers to whom this act should have been a priority honour.
The frescos in the cupola and subdomical area express a complex and unique notion: on the broad circular sur- face painted in ochre tones conjuring up the light enhanced with gleams of the gold leaf in the painting, Christ seems to ascend toward the dark azure of the sky, leaving behind him the disciples with the Mother of God and the archan- gels disposed between the windows of the tympanum. as usual, on the pendentives below them the evangelists are shown as engaged in writing the Savior’s life. Between them are the figures of Christ in Mandylion and Keramidion. But on the divided surfaces formed by the substructure of the dome, a number of episodes are illustrated in a special layout which totally differs from that depicted in other cy- cles. On the western side is the Sending Out of the apos- tles; on the southern side is the Resurrection of Lazarus and the incredulity of Thomas, while on the northern side is the Last Supper and the Descent of the Holy Spirit. in this unusual disposition, the paintings on the eastern sur-
Patriarchate of Peć
face, probably of the annunciation, are no longer visible. The reasons for this manner of linking scenes from various thematic entities have been sought in the statements made by archbishop Nikodim (1317–1325). in the Preface to his translation of the jerusalem Typikon from Greek, done in 1319, the head of the Serbian Church notes that St. Sava built the church in Peć modelling it on the famous and sa- cred jerusalem edifice visited by Sava in his journey through Palestine. This refers to the church in Zion and the monastery of St. Sabbas the Sanctified. This connection should not be interpreted as meaning that the shape of the models was emulated, but that their significance was in- voked. Of the episodes to be painted in the central part of the church, three were chosen from the upper part of the Zion church: the Last Supper’ the incredulity of Thomas and the Descent of the Holy Spirit.
The supposition that it was precisely the Zion church that served as a model for the Serbian sees in Peć and Žiča, becomes more convincing if we bear in mind that up to the 12th century, Zion, too, had been dedicated to the Holy apostles and that Christ, before the ascension, sent his disciples out to preach the new faith from that very church. The iconography of the Peć church, closely connected with Serbian Church leaders, was directly concordant with the scene recalling their apostolic role. Finally, in view of its significance, the church in Zion was called “The Mother of all Churches” and therefore this appellation was conferred in Serbia on the cathedrals in Žiča and later in Peć.
By being arranged along church’s walls whose surfaces were not always suitable for complex compositions, bibli- cal scenes were adapted to the space available, but not al- ways in a harmonious relationship in the architectural framework. Their simple depiction with an orthogonal projection of the ambience and its forms belong mainly to the tradition of earlier artwork. a new period in the devel- opment of the so-called monumental 13th century style portrayed mature and powerful plastic forms. The pictures are dominated by figures interpreting events in darkly res- onant colors with surfaces lit by sudden rays of light and faces with gleaming eyes and finely modulated brighter tones. The surprising facial expressiveness is barely sup- ported by the ancillary elements as, for instance, in the as- cension episode which is a veritable masterpiece but has only frail tree trunks in the background. The highest achieve- ment of these artists—analyses indicate that a number of hands were at work here—are testified to by the individual portraits and group figures deftly accompanied by seem- ingly neutral yet tastefully colored surfaces and interiors. The scenes of the incredulity of Thomas and the Resurrec- tion of Lazarus are examples of such a pictorial language, though an archaic one, due to the exaggerated size of Christ’s figure which nonetheless is successfully adapted to the re- quirements of the available space. The former scene is de- picted with firm symmetry under a gently pointed arch, and the latter on an irregular segment of the vaulted field.

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