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Transromanica in Serbia

Updated: May 6, 2021

Admiration for a quality or an art can be so strong that it deters us from striving to possess it.

(Friedrich Nietzsche)

The European culture stands in silent testimony of its common origin, albeit it has gone along different social, religious and historical pathways, marked by certain diachrony though, it somehow blends into harmony firmly rooted in the eternal and the timeless, and still it is the one that seems to connect the points remote in time and space whilst remaining deeply anchored in art all along. With that idea in mind, Serbia seems to have joined the very same route in 2007, in the wake of the Romanesque style, embracing both painting and architecture from its outset and complete with other regions of European continent it seems to have integrated into one of the most beautiful and culturally most significant tourist routes of today. Apart from its geographic elements, the Transromanica Route tends to connect cultures as well, particularly the one created as part of Roman Catholic and Ancient Rome discourse and the other one, with almost like a sibling’s affection for it due to their common descent, which is part of Byzantine and Orthodox culture. The monasteries of Medieval Serbian Royal Dynasty, particularly the ones which belong to the Raska School architectural style, are incorporated into the lengthy list of invaluable European and world heritage.

Transromanica map, photo source:

First and foremost there is Studenica Monastery, which was constructed in 1190 by its patron and founder and one of the most important Serbian rulers who established the Nemanjic’s Dynasty , which used to be the symbol of might , power and prosperity of Serbian State in the Middle Ages . The whereabouts of the monastery complex are near Kraljevo consisting of the fortress where four churches are located. The first one is carved in marble – Bogorodicina crkva (the Holy Mother`s Church), the second is Kraljeva crkva (the King`s Church), Nikoljaca Crkva (the St Nicola`s Church) and the church the foundations of which were salvaged only . Studenica is the most famous for its frescos, partly from the 13th century, of which the most beautiful one is the fresco of Christ`s Crucifixion in the nave of the Church.

Studenica monastery, Photo source:

The Crucifixion painting in Studenica, Photo source:

As for its architecture, the complex consists of the nave of The Holy Mother`s Church with the dome, made of the white marble blocks, whereas the interior features intricately enmeshed Byzantine and Romanesque style. To the north-west from this church there is The King`s Church (built in 1314, the patron benefactor of which was Nemanja`s descendant , King Milutin, in the shape of a basic cross with an octagonal dome made of stonework and tuff, whilst the facades are coated in plaster. In the close proximity there is a small church called Nikoljaca, which is the one nave domeless church , and in between these are the rubble of which only the foundations of the church, from its outset dedicated to John the Baptist, have withstood the passage of time.

Another gem of Serbian medieval architecture of Raska school style is the Monastery of Sopocani, from 1260, which was built by the King Uros I (1243—1276), and is located in the vicinity of Novi Pazar. The origin of the monastery’s name comes from the Slavic word `sopot` which means the water spring, since it was founded by the water spring of the river Raska.

The architecture of the Holy Trinity Church suggests the classical features of the Raska School. The foundation is a single building with a semicircular apse as wide as the nave on its east side. At the centre there is a circular dome with eight windows, whilst at the west side there is a spacious square shaped porch with two sided rectangular chapels. The church was built of tufa stone formed in riverbeds and then sawn , in the Romanesque style with double wing windows made of white marble.

Sopocani monastery, Photo source:

Fresco painting represents the expression of the highest artistic achievements in Sopocani monastery in which the frescoes are exquisitely preserved. Some of the most beautiful and most famous frescos are in the nave and the altar, and mainly portray the images of holiday making and the scenes of life of Christ:

Assumption of the Virgin, Sopoćani monastery, Photo source:

In the vicinity of the Studenica monastery there is the monastery of Djurdjevi Stupovi, on the hillsides right above Novi Pazar. The construction of the monastery was completed in 1175, making it one of the oldest monastery buildings in Serbia. It was built by Stefan Nemanja, the founder of the Royal dynasty of the Nemanjic`s. Similar to other monasteries of Raska School, in architectural terms it represents a synthesis of Eastern, Byzantine and Western, Romanesque architectural style, and it was exactly this monastery that was a landmark and a harbinger of the prevalence of these styles in medieval Serbia. Of the original frescoes today , few have remained, yet we are able to fully appreciate their beauty by taking a closer look at their photographs taken between the First and Second World War.

Djurdejvi stupovi monastery, Photo source:

Monastery Žiča is another one in a lengthy list of the foundations of the famed Stefan, built in the first part of the 13th century, located near Kraljevo, as well as Studenica. Apart from it being famous for its riveting beauty and artistic achievements both architecturally and artistically Zica is also famous for being the centre of Serbian archepiscopy in 1219 during the period when Serbian Orthodox Church gained their independence and became autocephalous. The main monastery church was constructed following the Raska style. The interior features two rows of frescos: from the 13th century, the period duly called `the Golden age of Serbian art` and another one created at the beginning of 14th century.

Zica monastery, Photo source:

adapted and submitted by Natasha from Angloland

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