- Gračanica monastery
Gračanica (Serbian: Манастир Грачаница or "Manastir Gračanica", Albanian: "Manastiri i Graçanicës") is a
Serbian Orthodox monasterylocated in Kosovo. [See also: International reaction to the 2008 Kosovo declaration of independence.] It was founded by the Serbian king Stefan Milutinin 1321. On July 13, 2006it was placed on UNESCO's World Heritage Listunder the name of Medieval Monuments in Kosovoas an extension of the Visoki Dečanisite which was overall placed on the List of World Heritage Sites in danger. [http://whc.unesco.org/en/danger/]
Gračanica Monastery is one of King Milutin's last monumental endowments. It is situated in the village of Gračanica, 5 km from
Priština, in an enclave with the same name. [ [http://www.balkantravellers.com/en/read/article/551 Balkan Travellers - The Serbian Convent of Gračanica: Heavens Made of Stone] ] The monastery is in the close vicinity of Lipljan(ancient Roman town of Ulpiana), the old residence of bishops.
Gračanica was constructed on the ruins of an older 13th century church of the Holy Virgin, which was built on the ruins of a 6th century early Christian three-naved basilica. On the southern wall of the chapel is written the king's charter, including the following words: "I have seen the ruins and the decay of the Holy Virgin's temple of Gračanica, the bishopric of Lipljan, so I have built it from the ground and painted and decorated it both within and without"."Of the former monastic compound, only the church has survived. The
narthexand the tower were added a few decades later, in order to protect the frescoes on the west facade. The narthex was heavily damaged by the Turks several times between 1379–1383, when the tower was burned and the fire devoured a rich collection of manuscripts and other precious objects. The narthex was reconstructed in 1383. Again, Gračanica suffered damages at the time of the Battle of Kosovo(1389).
During Turkish rule Gračanica became an important cultural center. In the time of
Metropolitan Nikanor(1528–1555) several icons were painted on the altarpiece. Also, because of the printing press, Nikanor obtained numerous service books and objects for the monastic use. The royal doors were commissioned in 1564 by Metropolitan Dionisije, whose death is represented on a fresco in the narthex. Major restoration took place through efforts of Patriarch Makarije Sokolović. All the openings on the external narthex were walled up and new frescoes were completed in 1570. Thanks to Patriarch Pajsije, the church got its leaden roofing, and in 1620 the large cross with the Crucifixwas made on the iconostasis. The monastery was exposed to new damages toward the end of the 17th century, in the war between Holy League and the Turks, after the second siege of Vienna - in which the Serbstook part on the Christianside. Turks removed the leaden cross and pulled out the floor tiles, together with the treasure hidden in the church by Patriarch Arsenije III.
Second World Warit was renewed by nuns and has been serving as a conventsince. Today there are 24 sisters in the monastery who are active in icon painting, agriculture, sewingand other monastic obediences.
After the Kosovo war of 1999 Bishop of Raška and
PrizrenArtemije transferred his official seat to this Monastery from Prizren and since then the monastery has become not only the most important spiritual but also the national and political center of the Serbian people in Kosovo.
Gračanica represents the culmination of the Serbian medieval art of building in the Byzantine tradition. The church has the form of a double inscribed cross, one inside the other, the inner one providing for a vertical silhouette so as to raise the central dome upwards on a graded elaboration of masses. The
domerests on four free-standing pillars. Above the spaces between the cross-shafts, four smaller domes give a regular structure to the whole crowningcomplex. Three three-sided apses (the central one being the largest) put a mild distinction on the altarspace externally. The diaconiconand the prosthesisare separated by full walls. Between the naveand the narthexthere are wide, heavy pillarsand the catholicon is on a level higher. The church was built in alternate courses of brick and stone. At the end of the 14th century an exonarthex was added with double arcades, but these were blinded in the 16th century.
In the church three kinds of
paintingcan be discerned. The earliest is found in the nave, whereas two later ones can be recognized in the narthex. The frescoes were painted in 1321–1322. The painting works have been well-preserved. The compositions in the nave deal with the earthly life of Jesusand the ecclesiastical calendar.
The focal paintings of Gračanica include the Festival Cycle, the Passion and the miracles of
Christ. Inside the narthex, there are portraits of the founders: King Milutin and Queen Simonida, Queen Hélène d'Anjou(king's mother) as a nunand King Milutin as a monk. Of particular importance is the Nemanjić dynasty genealogy, the first ever painted, which starts with Stefan Nemanjaand ends with Milutin. Also in the narthex, there is an exhaustive illustration of the Last Judgment. The scenes from the life of St. Nicholasare in the north parecclesion, while the walls of the south one display scenes from the Old Testamentand the lives of Christand the Mother of God. The master painters supposedly were Michael and Eutihijewith their assistants.
There are also considerable frescoes from 1570 in the exonarthex, commissioned by Patriarch
Makarije Sokolović. There are some paintings in the narthex that date back to the late fourteenth and early fifteenth centuries, including the Baptism of Jesus, parts of the Virgin's Acathistus Hymns and the Ecumenical Councils. Two subjects, however, dominate the narthex of Gračanica: the Doxologyto the Holy Virgin and the procession of the Serbian archbishops from Saint Savato Patriarch Makarije Sokolović. A historical composition of the death of the Metropolitan of Gračanica Dionisije covers the southeastern part of the narthex.
The paintings of Gračanica rank highest among the achievements of Milutin's period, characterized by influences of the Byzantine splendiferous and luxurious style called the "Paleologan Renaissance". In terms of style, they are also related to the art of the other of Milutin's foundations.
Third Lake, Illinois, a suburb of Chicagois home to the New Gračanica church and monasterycomplex, which houses a detailed replica of the Gračanica monastery in Kosovo. Built on land that the Most Holy Mother of GodSerbian Association purchased in 1977, New Gračanica Church and the main building on its grounds dedicated to the feast of the "Protection of the Most Holy Mother of God" were completed and consecrated in 1984. It is an impressive architectural replica of the original Gračanica of Kosovo, but built in a scale eighteen percent larger than the original. New Gračanica is richly attired with detail such as hand-carved wooden entrance doors depicting twenty-three monasteries and churches from various regions of Serbia.
List of Serb Orthodox monasteries
Podujevo bus bombing
References and notes
* [http://eparhija-prizren.com Official web presentation of Raska and Prizren Diocese]
* [http://www.suc.org/culture/history/Serb_History/Monasteries/Gracanica/index.html Serbian Unity Congress]
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