The Sopoćani Monastery is located near Novi Pazar, not far from the source of the Raška River. It is an endowment of Stefan Uroš I, and it was built in the middle of the 13th century.
The outer narthex with the bell tower was probably added at the end of the 13th century. The monument of King Uroš from Sopoć is called the first founder, which means that there was probably another founder of the monastery. Ana Dandolo, the mother of King Uroš, Stefan Prvovenčani, Grand Duke George and King Uroš I are buried in the monastery.
Shortly after the Battle of Kosovo, the monastery was hit by the first casualties. It was renovated during the Serbian despotism, when the main entrance was added and another tower was built. In the 16th century, the monks moved to the Crna Reka monastery, taking with them the relics of Saint Stephen the First-Crowned. Then the roof was destroyed, and the narthex was partially demolished.
Sopoćani suffered again in 1689, when the monastery was set on fire by the Turks and the lead roof was taken away. The monastery was in such a state until 1926, when its renovation began. The demolished walls, vault and dome were built, and the church was covered with shingles.
After the Second World War, the renovation of the monastery continued and then a lot of work was done on the conservation of the frescoes. Extensive work on the protection of the monastery began in 1951.
The base of the church is in the form of a single-nave building with a semicircular apse and a narthex on the west side. The nave consists of three aisles, and a dome is erected above the middle one. There are two chapels along the sides of the narthex. The exterior of the church is reminiscent of the Romanesque style. The portal and windows are built of stone. It is built of whitewash blocks and plastered on the outside.
Remains of other monastery buildings were discovered in the monastery complex, including the dining room on the west side, opposite the entrance to the church.
The earliest frescoes are in the nave and were created around 1273/1274. years. There are relatively few scenes on the walls because the figures of the saints are quite large. The composition of the Assumption of the Mother of God, on the west wall, stands out in particular, as well as the cycle of the Great Feasts: The Crucifixion of Christ, Descent into Hell, Birth, Meeting and Transfiguration of God,
The founder’s composition is located on the south wall of the nave, next to the sarcophagus in which King Stefan Uroš I is buried.
This composition shows Christ on the throne, to whom the Mother of God brings Stefan Nemanja, Stefan the First-Crowned and King Uroš I, with a model of the temple in her hands.
The frescoes in the narthex were created later and are the work of another master. For the first time, the Ecumenical Councils, biblical stories about Joseph, the Last Judgment and the Family Tree of Christ were illustrated in Sopoćani. Especially significant is the historical composition The Death of Queen Anne Dandolo, displayed on the north wall. Above the queen’s scaffold stands her son King Uroš with his sons Dragutin and Milutin and other members of the ruling family. Queen Jelena, the wife of King Uroš, is kneeling in front of the stage. Members of the ruling family Uroš I, Jelena, Dragutin and Milutin once again appear on the east and south walls.
The frescoes in the chapels are from a later time. The performance of Stefan Nemanja’s death in the southern chapel stands out here, as well as the transfer of his relics to Studenica.
Fragments of frescoes from the middle of the 14th century have been preserved in the added outer narthex, which is quite damaged. South of the door leading to the interior of the temple are the figures of Emperor Dušan and Empress Jelena.
Painting in Sopoćani represents the greatest artistic achievements not only in medieval Serbia but also in Europe. What the painters from Sopocani achieved will appear in part only during the Italian Renaissance.
In 1979, the monastery was included in the UNESCO list of world cultural heritage.
1. Serbian Orthodox Church, Parish of St. Dimitrije Solunski, Sopoćani Monastery, http://www.svetidimitrije.no/crkva/srpski-manastiri/62-manastir-sopocani.html
2. Monasteries in Serbia, Sopoćani Monastery, http://manastiriusrbiji.com/manastir-sopocani/
- Sopoćani Monastery, https://manastirsopocani.org