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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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