The Banjska Monastery is located below the Rogozna Mountain not far from Zvečan in Kosovo and Metohija. It was built in the period from 1312 to 1316, and dedicated to the Holy Archdeacon Stefan. It is the endowment of King Milutin, who built Banjska with the intention of being buried in it.
King Milutin and his brother Dragutin got into a conflict over the inheritance of the throne, which ended through their mother. After the war, the brothers reconciled and agreed to build a monastery dedicated to the Holy Archdeacon Stefan, the protector of the Nemanjić family.
The monastery was built on the model of Studenica. King Milutin was buried in the monastery, but after the end of the Battle of Kosovo, the relics were transferred to Trepca, and in 1460 to Sofia, where they are still located today.
The Banjska Monastery shared the fate of all medieval Serbian monasteries. Already in the 15th century, the monastery was hit by a large fire, which destroyed many books from the rich monastery library, and after that the monastery was deserted. During the 16th century, the Turks destroyed the monastery, because it gathered Christians who managed to escape from Turkish slavery.
The Turks turned the monastery into a military camp, where there were dungeons for torturing Serbs, and then they rearranged the destroyed monastery and turned it into a mosque. It remained so until the First Serbian Uprising.
The first conservation works were carried out in 1939, and in 1990 the first partial reconstruction.
Considering that it was built to be the tomb of the Serbian king Milutin, the Banjska monastery was the fourth most important in the then Serbia, right after Studenica, Mileseva and Sopocani.
Since 2004, life has been returning to the Banjska monastery, thanks to the young monks who gathered there. Already in 2006, the renovation of the main monastery church and the entire monastery complex began.
As for the rich monastery treasury, almost nothing has been preserved. During the First World War, two gold rings were excavated from the tomb of Queen Theodora, the mother of Emperor Dušan. One of them reads “Whoever wears it, God help him”.
The monastery belongs to the Raska school of architecture. It is a combination of Serbian-Byzantine style and classicism in Serbia. Banjska has a single nave base, with a so-called blind dome and a semicircular apse in the eastern part. In the space under the dome there are singing spaces, which are the same height as the main nave. On both sides of the entrance to the church, on the west side, there were two domes, which were supposed to emphasize the entrance.
The church tympanum used to be decorated with a figure of the Most Holy Mother of God holding the baby Jesus in her arms. This figure is kept today in the nearby church of Sokolica. The Belgrade National Museum and the Archaeological Museum in Skopje keep parts of the stone ornaments from the monastery facade, and some of those ornaments are also installed in buildings in nearby villages.
What the Banjska monastery was famous for and widely known for is the “Banjska gold”. These are thin sheets of gold that were used to cover the background of the frescoes. Unfortunately, a very small number of parts of the original frescoes of the monastery have been preserved today, which have mostly faded.
1. Monasteries in Serbia, Banjska Monastery, manastiriusrbiji.com
2. Serbian Orthodox Church Parish of St. Dimitrije Solunski, Manastir Banjska, svetidimitrije.no
Kosovo online, https://www.kosovo-online.com/vesti/drustvo/manastir-banjska-sutra-obelezava-ktitorsku-slavu-svetog-kralja-milutina-11-11-2019