Without knowing Serbian monasteries, it’s difficult to understand the Serbian people. Serbian history can be best viewed through her churches, monasteries and temples.
Monasteries tell the story of Serbian endowment. The most beautiful and the oldest temples were built by the powerful Serbian rulers. Some of them spent their last years of life as monks.
There are many monasteries in Serbia. The most of them are of great importance for European and world medieval architecture and art. The interior walls of the most of monasteries are beautiful examples of conserved medieval world of art.
Monasteries as the sacral building were built at various locations. While some of them were built outside the settlements, the most were located on isolated and sometimes on hard to reach places. The most of them were bounded by stone walls.
Due to the long period of Ottoman occupation and the frequent rebellions of the Serb population, monasteries played an important role. For this reason, they have always been places where people gathered and found refuge.
Monasteries geographical division
Monasteries spread all over Serbia from north to south. However, there are four geographical regions where the monasteries are located.
Valley of kings
The ‘Valley of the Kings’ is related to the valley of rivers Ibar and Raška. This is where in the 12th century Serbian medieval state was born.
This area hosts some of the greatest monasteries of Serbia. Most of monasteries were built between 13 and 14th century. Their proportions and decorative facade show the mixture of Byzantine and Romanesque influence.
Monasteries built in this area belong to Raška architectural school, also known as the Raška style. This style flourished in the Serbian High Middle Ages (roughly between 1170 to 1300). It was a period during the reign of the Nemanjić dynasty.
This style combines traditional Slavic architecture with early Christian church design. It was used a combination of stone and wood material.
On the above map, you can see four of the most representative monasteries in the Valley of Kings. No matter where you start your visit from, Studenica, a gem of the Serbian monasteries, to Zica, a spectacular red monastery or Sopocani and Djurdjevi Stupovi, these four are must visit.
Serbian monasteries Morava school of architecture
During the Late Middle Ages due to the continuous dangers of Ottoman invaders, a new architectural style started flourishing. This was a period of the reign of the Lazarević and Branković dynasties.
The Morava school of architecture , lasted from 1371 to 1427. Most of monasteries were built along the Morava river. Decorative elements characterized this artistic school. It typically consists of geometric stylized floral ornaments, which include fantastic animals and human figures.
Morava monasteries Manasija, Ravanica, Kalenić , Lazarica and Ljubostinja represent a new style of church building, where decorative sculpture occupies an important place. One of the most visited is Manasija monastery.
Manasija Monastery is the Medieval Serbian Monastery with the church dedicated to the Holy Trinity located 1 km from Despotovac in East Serbia. Set in the valley of the Resava river, it’s also called the Resava Monastery.
Serbian monasteries on Fruška Gora
Fruska Gora (mountain) is another important location where about 35 monasteries were built from 15th to 18th century. Today, only 16 survived to this day.
This area belongs to Vojvodina province. Fruška Gora isn’t known only for being the only mountain in Vojvodina, but also as the oldest national park. The monasteries are located in an 50km long and 10km wide area.
This area was selected as a safeguard place of Serbian culture from the Ottoman invaders. The monasteries of Fruška gora were built by the Branković despot family. It was a continuation of the old state governing traditions of the Nemanjić family.
This mountain is sometimes called ‘Holy Mountain’ and today it represents religious, historical and cultural objects of great value and importance.
Serbian monasteries in Kosovo
Kosovo was and will be the cradle of Serbian culture. It has been called the ‘Serbian Jerusalem’. It was a place where the creation myth of Serbian civilization, took place.
When in 1389 after the Battle of Kosovo, the Christian Serbs were defeated by the Muslim Turks, started 500 years of Ottoman rule. The most of Serbian Orthodox churches and monasteries has been built in Kosova.
In 2008 Kosovo unilaterally declared independence from Serbia. Serbia could not, or would never, recognize Kosovo as independent state.
As a result, 155 Serbian Orthodox churches and monasteries were destroyed by Kosovo Albanians between June 1999 and March 2004. Today, visiting Kosovo you can still admire the four, the most important Serbian monasteries:
Gracanica Monastery one of King Milutin’s last monumental donation is situated in the village of Gracanica, 5 km from Priština. In 2006 placed on UNESCO’s World Heritage. See results about Medieval Monuments in Kosovo.