On the outskirts of Stari Ras, the first capital of Serbia, there is an impressive group of medieval monuments consisting of fortresses, churches and monasteries. The monastery at Sopoćani is a reminder of the contacts between Western civilization and the Byzantine world.
Stari Ras and Sopocani
© Lumen roma
The buildings of Stari Ras are an impressive group of medieval monuments consisting of fortresses, churches and monasteries. The monastery at Sopoćani is a reminder of the contacts between Western civilization and the Byzantine world.
Located at the confluence of the Raska and lbar, on the outskirts of Stari Ras, the ancient town of Ras became in 1159, with its accession to the Serb dynasty of Nemangic, the first Serb State capital. Situated on a hill at the border between the small kingdom of Raska and the Byzantine Empire, this old Balkan city drew its strength from its location at an important crossroads, influenced by its contacts with both Eastern and Western influences. Its many monuments make up a single architectural complex that testifies to the time when the capital of the Serb State became located at Stari Ras until the early years of the 14th century, when King Milutin transferred the capital to Skopje. These buildings, mostly built between the 9th and 11th centuries, in their plan and in their decoration and architectural interest, are characteristic of the Raska School:
The Fortress of Gradine, which from its rock has since the 9th century dominated the small town of Trgoviste, has an irregular layout, which made it possible to resist repeated Byzantine and Bulgarian attacks.
The Church of St Peter, built in the 9th century on the foundations of an Illyrian cemetery and an early Christian basilica, is an example of early Christian architecture. As the religious centre of Serbia over several centuries, this sanctuary exhibits a circular central plan with four radiating apses, capped by a cupola resting on four massive pillars. It is the seat of the Bishop of Raska, and is decorated with frescoes, mainly 13th-century.
The Monastery of Djurdjevi Stupovi, founded by the famous Serb leader Stephan Nemanja, is an example of Romanesque and Byzantine architecture. Surrounded by a strong defensive wall, now partly ruined, is one of the best-known monasteries in Serbia. The plan of its church of St George, built in 1171 and reconstructed in the 13th century by King Dragutin, belongs to the architectural school of Raska.
The Monastery of Sopoćani, on the road to Andrijivica, was built in 1260 by King Uros I as the resting place for the ashes of his parents and his own tomb in its vault. This building, surmounted by a cupola and extended to the west between 1336 and 1345 by the Emperor Dusan, is noteworthy for its exceptional frescoes. Those in the narthex, out of which two projecting vaults open, provide invaluable historical evidence about the family of the founder of the monastery. The plastic quality of these compositions, mostly from the 13th century, testifies to the vitality of Byzantine art at a time when Constantinople was in the hands of the Crusaders. Source: UNESCO/CLT/WHC