Medieval Monuments in Kosovo
Inscription Year on the List of World Heritage in Danger: 2006
The four edifices of the site reflect the high points of the Byzantine-Romanesque ecclesiastical culture, with its distinct style of wall painting, which developed in the Balkans between the 13th and 17th centuries. The Dečani Monastery was built in the mid-14th century for the Serbian king Stefan Dečanski and is also his mausoleum. The Patriarchate of Peć Monastery is a group of four domed churches featuring series of wall paintings. The 13th-century frescoes of the Church of Holy Apostles are painted in a unique, monumental style. Early 14th-century frescoes in the church of the Holy Virgin of Ljevisa represent the appearance of the new so-called Palaiologian Renaissance style, combining the influences of the eastern Orthodox Byzantine and the Western Romanesque traditions. The style played a decisive role in subsequent Balkan art.
The Dečani monastic church is the endowment and mausoleum of Serbian King Stefan Dečanski. The original founding charter from 1330 has been preserved. The construction lasted 8 years (1327-1335), and the master builder was Fra Vita, a Franciscan from Kotor. Stefan Dečanski died before the construction was completed, and was buried here. Supervision of the construction works was continued by his son Dušan. The church interior was decorated at the same time, including the icons for the main iconostasis and the church furniture. The wooden throne of Hegoumenos was made around 1335, and the carved wooden sarcophagus of King Stefan Dečanski around 1340.
The writer Grigorije Camblak, author of The Life of Stefan Dečanski, was the head (hegoumenos) of the Monastery at the beginning of the 15th century. Great artistic enthusiasm was brought to life in the monastery during the second half of the 16th century. This is when the painter monk Longin spent here two decades. He created some fifteen icons with depictions of the Great Feast and hermits, but his masterpiece is the icon of Stefan Dečanski with scenes from the life of this sainted king.
At the close of the 17th century, the Turks plundered the monastery, but made no serious damage. During the 19th century, the monastery was restored, and new iconostases were placed on the parekklesions (side chapels) of St. Demetrius and St. Nicholas. At present, the property is used for liturgical purposes, as an Orthodox monastery with all the corresponding functions, and as a cultural and historical monument.
Serbian Medieval Monuments
The flowering of ecclesiastical culture in the area during the 13th century, was fostered by King Milutin (1282- 1321) who as King of Serbia made Serbia the dominant power in the Balkans. Milutin was the most generous monastic benefactor of the dynasty, building as many as forty churches not only in Serbia but also in Jerusalem, Constantinople, Rome, Salonika, Macedonia, and on Mount Athos.
Slightly earlier, the first Nevanjič King Stefan (1166 - 1196), had founded Studenica Monastery, which became the necropolis of the dynasty. (It was inscribed in 1986 on the World Heritage List). And in 1219, the patriarch of Nicea had allowed the establishment of an independent Serbian archbishopric. State and Church joined together to develop a strong identity for Serbia - the first archbishop was from the ruling family. In 1346 an independent Serbian Patriarchate was established by King Dusan, with Peč becoming its centre.
Under Dusan's successor, Serbia became split into several states none of whom could offer resistance to the Turks. In 1389 at the Battle of Kosovo the Serbs lost a critical battle against the Turks, and many Serbs and the centre of their power moved north. In 1459 the capture of the Serbian capital by the Turks bought to an end the medieval Serbian State.
In 1557 with the permission of the Turks, the Patriarchate of Peć was restored. It then once again played a dominant role as a spiritual centre together with the Patriarchate of Constantinople and the Monasteries of Mount Athos.
Some time before 1756, after Turkish re-conquest, the Church of the Virgin of Ljeviša was turned into a mosque and substantial readjustments were made.
The Patriarchate was again abolished in 1766 when it became part of the Kingdom of Montenegro, and in 1912 was annexed to the Cetinje metropolity. After the liberation of Prizren from the Turks, the Church of the Virgin of Ljeviša once again became a Christian place of workshop.
In 1918 the Serbian church was restored with the foundation of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenians. In spite of heavy conflict in the Balkan region in the past decades, Peć and Gračanica churches have kept alive their monastic function and remain spiritual centres. Gračanica and Peć Patriarchate monasteries were not damaged during the war in Kosovo, largely because of respect of local communities of all ethnic origins.
The function of the Church of the Virgin of Ljeviša was disrupted after violence in March 2004. When sufficient safety is ensured, it is intended that the church will once again function as a place of worship.Source: Advisory Body Evaluation