Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Studenica - History lesson

Belgrade, May, 21. 2010  (Serbia Today)  Monasteries are Orthodox,  cultural and historical heritage of Serbia. Since the 12th century they have been the cultural and spiritual center of Serbia. There is no single state ruler who has not left behind a temple – reminder of his name and importance. Studenica is  one of the largest and richest Serb Orthodox monasteries,  founded by  great ruler Stefan Nemanja (1171-1196), the founder of  independent state Raška and the founder of powerful Nemanjić dynasty (1169-1196), built the Church of the Mother of God, his foundation.  There he rests, not as a ruler, but as a modest monk Simeon, with his wife, nun Anastasia, and their sons, Vukman and Stefan (the First-Crowned). The monastery was founded around 1190 and placed near Kraljevo town 2000 kilometers from Belgrade. Way to Studenica Monastery goes through the Ibar’s “Valley of Centuries” where once was the heart of Serbian medieval state Raška. Studenica was declared  Monument of Culture of Exceptional Importance in 19179 and protected by Republic of Serbia. In 1986 UNESCO included  included  Studenica  monastery on the list of  World heritage Sites. The crucifix and the portraits of the saints at the altar make Studenica a unique monastery. The legend says that, while he was hunting along the Studenica River close to the place where it empties into the Ibar River, the grand county ruler Stefan Nemanja and his escort stopped to rest. Delighted by the nature and guided by the Providence, he decided to build a church dedicated to the Virgin Mary. The Holy Virgin’s Church in Studenica was built in the last two decades of the 12th century. It is one of the most beautiful monuments of Raška architectural style and the most respectable among Serbian monasteries. Its rich sculptural plastics in white Radočelo’s marble has Romanesque-Byzantium forms, and gorgeous wall-paintings personified in The Crucifixion attracts tourists, and modern pilgrims, to gather around it and to admire it. In the year 1986, when it celebrated eight centuries of its existence, Studenica was enrolled in the list of UNESCO world heritage, as a monument of a universal value.  Today, the architecture of Studenica is made of the main monastery church dedicated to the Mother of God, King’s Church (dedicated to SS Joachim and Anna) and St. Nicola’s Church – Nikoljača, and in the scope of the monastery complex there are also the remains of the foundation of St. John’s Church, Sava’s Dining-Room, Tower, Treasury and Dormitories. The Church of the Mother of God, the greatest building of Serbian Middle Age, was built between 1183 and 1196. Its founder and patron was the great ruler Stefan Nemanja. It is one of the most valuable monuments of so called Raška architectural style. The church has the nave, altar room and interior narthex, while exterior narthex was built some later by king Radoslav.  From outside, the Holy Virgin’s Church in Romanesque style, decorated with rich marble plastics of high stylish values. Beside the main portal, the most valuable detail on the fascade of Studenica is three-parted window of the middle apse.  Walking from the Virgin’s Church to the northwest, there is the Church of SS Joachim and Ann, also named, after its founder King Milutin, King,s Church. The inscription on the facade below the roof cornice says: In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, I, servant to God, Stefan Uros, great-grandson to Lord Simeon and grandson to the First-Crowned King Stefan, son to the great King Uros and (myself) King of all Serbian and coastal lands, have built this temple to (celebrate) the name of the sainted righteous antecedents of Christ Joachim and Ann, in the year 1314, indictum 12, and I have contributed a  Chrisovoulia  to the holy church. May God Himself and my sinful self anathemize  whoever changes that. Amen. The church has been built under the auspices of Archimandrite  Protosinkellos  Jovan. King’s Church is constructed in the form of a compressed cross and with a dome octogonal without. It is built of stone and tufa and the facades are plastered. Of particular value are the frescoes inside this little church which date from the second half of the 14th century; they were painted by King Milutin’s favorite artists. Close to Studenica, going upstream the Ibar River towards Raska, there is Gradac monastery, situated at the foot of Golija Mountain. Gradac was a memorial built by French princess and Serbian queen Helen of Anjou. She entered a monastic order and died there. In her honor, as the legend says, king Milutin had lilacs planted along the whole Ibar Valley. Maglic Fortress, the best preserved medieval fortress, is situated on a hill above the valley. Close to Gradac Monastery there is Zica Monastery and its Church of Holy Assumption which was built by Stefan I, the first Serbian king.

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