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Monasteries

Studenica, Žiča, Ljubostinja, Lazarica, Kalenić, Gračac, Veluće, Stubal

Studenica

Studenica Monastery is located 80km from Vrnjačka Banja. It is one of the greatest, richest and best conserved monasteries of Serbian orthodox Church. Its founder is Stefan Nemanja, great Serbian ruler (1166-1196), founder of the medieval Serbian state, who was buried there as monk Simeon. Studenica was declared Monument of Culture of Exceptional Importance in 1979 by Republic of Serbia and in 1986 UNESCO included it on its list of World Heritage Sites Stefan Nemanja founded the monastery in 1190. The monastery's fortified walls encompass two churches: the Church of the Virgin, and the Church of the King, both of which were built using white marble. The monastery is best known for its collection of 13th and 14th century Byzantine-style fresco paintings. The monastery Studenica, dedicated to the Presentation of the Holy Virgin, is the mother-church of all Serbian temples. It was constructed over a quite long period of time. The first stage of works were completed by the spring of 1196, when Stefan Nemanja abdicated and took monastic vows at the monastery. When he later left for Hilandar, his son and successor Stefan took over taking care of Studenica. Nemanja died in Hilandar in 1199. His remains were moved to Studenica by Nemanja's third son Rastko (later Saint Sava) in 1207.Under guardianship of Sava, Studenica became political, cultural and spiritual center of medieval Serbia. Among his other endeavors, Sava composed the "Studenica Typikon", a liturgical book of orders where he described the life of Saint Simeon (Nemanja), leaving evidence of the spiritual and monastic life of his time. Studenica enjoyed continual care by the members of the Nemanjić dynasty. King Radoslav added a splendid narthex to the church in 1235. King Milutin built a small but lovely church dedicated to saints Joachim and Anna. Since the fall of the last of the medieval Serbian states in 1459, the Turks often assaulted the monastery. The first of the significant restorations of the damage took place in 1569, when the frescoes in the Church of the Virgin were repainted. In the early 17th century, an earthquake and a fire befell the monastery, and historical documents and a significant part of the artistic heritage were lost forever. The Virgin's Church is a domed single-nave basilica. At its eastern end there is a three-sided apse, while an extended narthex faces west; there are also vestibules on the north and the south. In the 1230s, a large exonarthex was added. The facades were built with slabs of white marble; inside, the church is revetted with tuff blocks. Externally, the Church harmoniously reconciles two architectural styles, the Romanesque and the Byzantine. The blending of these two styles eventually produced a particular style of architecture known as the Raška School. Northwest of the Church of the Virgin is the church of saints Joachim and Anna, known after its founder King Milutin as the King's Church. The church was constructed in 1314, in the form of a compressed cross, with the exterior structure of an octagonal dome. It is built of stone and tuff, with plastered facades. The complex of the Studenica monastery includes the Church of St. Nicholas, a small single-nave church frescoed inside with works from the 12th or possibly early 13th centuries. West of the Virgin's Church is an old refectory made of rubble, built during the time of Archbishop Sava. Finally, on the western side of the monastery complex is a bell tower, erected in the 13th century. There used to be a chapel inside; now, only fragments of frescoes can be seen. Remains of fresco painting have also been numbered on the external part of the narthex, splendidly representing the Nemanjić dynasty genealogy. They obviously relate to the frescoes from the Virgin's Church which date back to 1208-1209. Northward from the Studenica refectory is the 18th century monastic residence, which now houses a museum and displays a number of the precious exhibits from the Studenica treasury. However, the frequent wars and plunders have considerably reduced the depository of the Studenica treasury. The artistic achievements of the sculpture of Studenica culminate in four portals of the Virgin's Church, primarily the west one, between the narthex and the exonarthex. On the north wall under the dome, there is a window made of many square panes with medallions carved on a leaden plaque which represent eight fantastic animals - symbols of the Virgin's virtues. There are also two rosettes denoting the Divine Eye. The masons came to Studenica most probably from the Adriatic region, perhaps from Kotor, where Nemanja used to have a palace. They left an inscription in Serbian lettering on the tympanum of the west portal. The Virgin's Church was painted in the first decade of the 13th century. The original frescoes have been partly preserved in the altar area, under the dome, on the west wall, and in the lower registers of the nave. The most splendid representation is that of the Crucifixion, painted on blue background in 1209, one of the paramount achievements in Serbian art. On the south wall there is the "founders' composition" which shows the Virgin taking Nemanja (Simon) with the church model to Jesus Christ as the Magistrate Impartial. The narthex was painted in 1569. Those frescoes include an exquisite representation of the Last Judgment in the upper registers, and the portrait of Nemanja's wife Ana as the nun Anastasija. The earliest fresco painting in King's church marks the supreme achievement of Byzantine art in the region. The frescoes in Radoslav's narthex and the pareclesions originate from the 1230s and display a close relation to the painting style of the main church. The north chapel, dedicated to St. Nicholas, contains a composition of the Hetoimasia and a cycle dealing with the life of St. Nicholas. In the south chapel one finds the portraits of Nemanja, Stefan the First Crowned and King Radoslav with his wife Ana. On the north wall of the narthex, three dignitaries of the Serbian Church are portrayed - the archbishops Sava, Arsenije and Sava II (Radoslav's brother). Next to south part of the Virgin's Church is the oldest Serbian "clock": sundial where shadow is cast on letters instead of numbers.
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Žiča

Žiča was declared a Cultural Monument of Exceptional Importance in 1979, and it is protected by Republic of Serbia. Žiča is an early 13th-century Serbian Orthodox monastery near Kraljevo, Serbia. The monastery, together with the Church of the Holy Dormition, was built by the first King of Serbia, Stefan the First-Crowned and the first Head of the Serbian Church, Saint Sava, in the Rascian architectural style (Raska School) between 1208 and 1230, with the help of Greek masters. Žiča was the seat of the Archbishop (1219–1253), and traditionally the coronation church of the Serbian kings. A king could be crowned in any Serbian church, but he was never considered a true king until he was anointed in Žiča. After death of Srefan Nemanja in 1199, his two elder sons, Stefan II and Vukan, were engaged in a succession feud. Their youngest brother, Rastko, joined Russian monks and traveled to Mount Athos where he took monastic vows and spent there several years. In 1195, his father Nemanja joined him, and together they founded the Hilandar, as the base of Serbian religion. Nemanja died there in 1199. Sava returned to Serbia in 1207, taking the remains of his father with him, which he relocated to the Studenica monastery, after reconciling Stefan II with Vukan. Stefan II, now ruler of Serbian state, asked Sava to remain in Serbia with his clerics. He founded several churches and monasteries, including Žiča. In 1217 Stefan became first Serbian king and, accordingly, the Serbian Church gained autocephaly in 1219 by Patriarch Manuel I of Constantinople. Archimandrite Sava became the first Serbian Archbishop.The church, dedicated to the Ascension of Our Lord, displays the features of Raska school. The ground plan is shaped as a spacious nave with a large apse at its eastern end. The central space is domed. The church was built of stone and brick. Architecturally, the Byzantine spirit prevails. There are three layers of painting, each being a separate entity. The earliest frescoes were painted in 1219, but only in the choir portions of these have been preserved. Sometime between 1276 and 1292 the Cumans burned the monastery, and King Stefan Milutin renovated it in 1292-1309. Renovation was carried out during the time of Archbishops Jevstatije II (1292-1309), and Nikodim (1317-37), when the refectory was adorned with frescoes, the church covered with a leaden roof, and a tower erected. The new frescoes were painted during the reign of King Milutin, but they have since suffered serious damage. Fragments have survived to the present day on the east wall of the passage beneath the tower (composition of King Stefan and his son Radoslav), in the narthex, nave and side-chapels. Following medieval Serbian tradition, contemporary Serbian kings Aleksandar Obrenović (1889-1903) and Petar Karađorđević (1904-1921), were anointed in Žiča, too. Žiča was damaged during I and II World War and then in 1987 the region was hit by an earthquake. Huge reconstruction followed that brought back authentic look from the beginning of 13th century.
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Ljubostinja

It was built between 1388 and 1405. Princess Milica took her wows here after Battle at Kosovo Polje in 1389 together with many other widows of Serbian noblemen who were killed in battles against Ottoman Empire.Ljubostinja was declared a Monument of Culture of Exceptional Importance in 1979, and it is protected by Republic of Serbia. Monastery Ljubostinja has one dome and a narthex. It was built with trimmed stones, while the facade was re-plastered and painted to imitate masonry of stone and bricks. The monastery was built in the Morava School Style. The builder was master Rade Borović, whose name is on the threshold of the passage from the narthex to nave. Paintings are only partially preserved. Church was painted on two occasions. Portraits of Prince Lazar and Princess Milica made by Hieromonk Makarije are in the narthex. The church also has very valuable iconostasis, which was painted by Nikola Marković in 1822. During the Koča's Rising in 1788, the people were invited to join rebellion from Ljubostinja monastery. After the rising collapsed, Turks burned the monastery in revenge and most of the frescoes were destroyed. Also, when the monastery was set on fire, a secret treasure was discovered hidden in the monastery wall behind icons. It was hidden there by princess Milica. Among the stolen items was crown of prince Lazar, now in Istanbul. Princess Milica was buried in Ljubostinja. Today, Ljubostinja is a female monastery. It is preserved and maintained by about fifty nuns.
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Lazarica

Church Lazarica, dedicated to Holy Martyr Stephen, is located 38km from Vrnjačka Banja in downton of Kruševac. As an outstanding achievement of the Serbian medieval architecture, Lazarica was declared a Monument of Culture of Exceptional Importance in 1979, and put under protection of the Republic of Serbia. Lazarica was built as a prototype of the Morava school of architecture, as a palace church associated with the Kruševac Fortress, the capital of Prince Lazar.  Today, only Lazarica and parts of the keep remain from the vast fortress complex. The church is in the form of a trefoil, a variant of the cruciform plan, with three bays in length, a dome over the central area and narthex, originally with open side passages.It has a semicircular apse on the inside, which is five-sided on the outside, with attached colonettes. Lazarica's masonry is basically done in Byzantine style: continuous horizontal rows of dressed white sandstone with three rows of brick joints associated with thick plaster, without insisting on randomly placed bricks. A peculiar process was used to draw thick mortar joints out from the wall. In 1455, Kruševac fell under Ottoman Empire rule, and the church was abandoned and desecrated. Lazarica was used as a stable for horses, and the roof was torn down for use elsewhere. During the Russo-Austrian-Turkish War (1736 -1739), Lazarica was partially reconstructed, and the interior was painted with frescos by Andra Andrejević.  After that, Kruševac fell under Ottoman rule again. The first major reconstruction of Lazarica occurred after the establishment of the independent Principality of Serbia, with numerous modifications over the next hundred years.
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Kalenić

It is endowment of a wealthy patron - protovestarios Bogdan, respectful treasurer at the court of despot Stefan Lazarevic, who built it in 1410s. Kalenić was declared Monument of Culture of Exceptional Importance in 1979, and is put under protection of Republic of Serbia. The church of the Kalenic Monastery is dedicated to the Presentation of the Holy Virgin in the temple and was erected and fresco painted between 1407 and 1413. Its foundation is trefoil of compressed type with a dome and a narthex. It is uniquely beautiful from the outside, thanks to the masterly-laid blocks of white stone and red bricks and stone-carved relief decoration. The most beautiful parts of the shallow relief decoration of the Kalenic Monastery church, depicting birds, griffins and lions, are the two-stranded braids around windows and portals. The fresco decoration of Kalenić Monastery is the masterpiece of one of the greatest Serbian artists of the first part of the 15th century, master Radoslav and his company. In narthex is fresco depicting founder Bogdan, his wife Milica and his brother Peter, as well as the portrait of Despot Stefan Lazarević. The scenes of Wedding in Cana and the Holy Warriors distinguish themselves among many wonderful frescoes. After repeated Turkish assaults and attacks, the Kalenić Monastery was abandoned in the late 17th century. It was restored in 1766, but during the rebellion against the Ottomans (1788-1791), in which monks from the monastery took part, the building was set aflame. The monks returned to the monastery towards the end of the 18th century.
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Gračac

Its patrons were, it is believed, Saint Sava and his father Stefan Nemanja. "Temple in Gračac was built in the beginning of 13th century. It is believed that it was erected on already existed building. Coming to Gračac with his father, Simeon (Stefan Nemanja), to draw material (specially lime) for building of Žiča, Saint Sava erected temple in the glory of Holy Virgin Mary and her Presentation. Through centuries, the temple suffered fate of its country. It was damaged and rebuilt over and over again. The last grand renewal, before the latest one, was in 1812" says in a statement of Serbian Orthodox Church site. Besides the church, village Gračac is famous for its crafts, namely chorchet and barrel making. Gračac has water mill that is still in use.
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Veluće

It used to be called Srebrenica, from Serbian "srebro", meaning silver. Even today you can still find someone look for gold or silver on the shores of river Srebrenica. The Veluće Monastery, dedicated to Virgin Mary, was built about 1377, founded by an unknown noble family that served Prince Lazar of Serbia and most likely perished in the Battle of Kosovo in 1389. According to patron's fresco in the church, it was endowment of a woman. Great similarity of decoration in Veluće with Lazarica Church and Ravanica Monastery (near Ćuprija), indicates that patroness of Veluće was someone of a higher social rank in prince Lazar's state. Some experts believe that she was in tight family relations with Lazar. According to oral tradition, patroness was Mara, daughter of prince Lazar and wife of Vuk Branković. Architecure-wise, church was built in Morava School style, very similar to Lazarica. Its foundation is trefoil with three apses with stone ornaments on door and window frames. Ornaments are in form of animals and intertwined ribbons. Facade was partly painted, too. The patroness' wish was clearly to imitate endowments of Lazar and had sufficient means to do so. Frescos were painted before 1389, and they are completely different from contemporary Morava style painting. Its artistic achievement is modest. There are four painted male figures in narthex, believed to be patroness' sons. Their names are now lost, but they were recorded: Oliver, Dejan, Bratan and Konstantin. They were overpainted and crosses were added next to them. This drastic change lead experts to conlude that their portraits were made while they were still alive and that crosses were added after they were killed, most likely in the Battle of Kosovo. Spring of mineral water, Velućki kiseljak, is near the monastery. Its water is being sold under "Mivela" label. At Global Bottled Water Awards in Lisbon, Portugal held in 2015, Mg Mivela was amongst three finalists in functional water category as only natural mineral water without additives.
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Stubal

According to sources at the monastery, first people settled here around 1780, and they came from Herzegovina. Village was named Stubal after square rock that looks like column ("stub" in Serbian) and that stands in the village since ancient times.It is believed that, with prayer and faith, the rock does wonders. It was probably part of some ancient church made of fragile material. The rock was firm enough to stand the test of time. When owner of meadow in which the rock was situated, sick and tired of people coming to his property and worshiping it, threw the rock into stream, his stepson became immediately gravely ill. He repented, put the rock back in the meadow and his stepson got cured. Two of them the built wooden church in 1906 near the rock. The stepson sold the meadow, due to feud with the church authority. Stojan Komatović bought the property in 1965. and built new church and monastery. After the wooden church vanished in a fire (but the rock survived!), Dragiša Gojković built a chapel around it in 1988. It still stands there today. The rock still draws many people who believe that, through it, God works his miracles. Religious people claim that many miraculous healings occurred thanks to prayers to the rock.
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