Studenica Monastery is one of the most beautiful and richest Serbian monasteries. It is 57 kilometers away from Kraljevo, and it was founded by Stefan Nemanja.
It was built from 1183 to 1196, when Stefan Nemanja abdicated the throne in favor of his middle son Stefan and became a monk and was named Simeon.
There used to be 14 churches and chapels (smaller churches) in the monastery complex, of which three are preserved today, which are liturgically active and three chapels.
The period of Turkish rule was especially difficult for the Studenica monastery, as well as for the entire Serbian people. The Turks first melted the lead roof structure into ammunition. The monastery was looted after the great Austro-Turkish war (1683-1699), after the withdrawal of the Austrian army. The monastery suffered the greatest suffering during the First Serbian Uprising. The Turks burned the monastery. A part of the monks took refuge in the Vraćevšnica monastery and took with them the relics of Stefan the First-Crowned. The relics were transferred from Vraćevšnica to the Kalenić monastery and finally returned to Studenica in 1839.
In addition to burning, the monastery church underwent an unprofessional renovation in 1846, when painters applied a new layer of plaster over old frescoes and painted new frescoes. One hundred years later, in 1951, during restoration work, this layer was removed. At that time, the founder’s inscription of Saint Sava was discovered.
The monastery church was built as a family tomb, ie a crypt. On the right side, in the nave, there is a tomb with the relics of the founder and ancestor of Nemanjić, Saint Simeon. In front of the altar partition, on the right side, there is an ark with the relics of Saint Simon (Stephen the First-Crowned), and on the left rests the relics of Saint Anastasia, the mother of Saint Sava.
Since 1986, the Studenica Monastery has been under the protection of UNESCO.
Churches of the monastery complex
Church of the Mother of God
The Catholicon of the Studenica Monastery was built between 1183 and 1196. Its founder and founder is the great prefect Stefan Nemanja. It is one of the most valuable monuments of the Raska architectural school. The church is single-nave, with an altar space and an inner narthex, while the outer narthex was later erected by King Radoslav.
The external appearance of the Church of the Mother of God maintains a harmonious relationship between two architectural directions: Romanesque, the ruling style in the west, and Byzantine design. From this permeation arose a specific architectural style known as the Raska school.
The culmination of artistic design in the Studenica Monastery is represented by four portals, among which the western portal stands out, located between the outer and inner narthex.
On the north wall of the domed space is a window made of square fields with medallions, carved in lead plate, depicting eight fantastic animals – symbols of the virtues of the Mother of God, and two rosettes symbolizing the “eye of God”.
The original frescoes are partly preserved in the altar, then in the domed space, on the west wall and in the lower zones of the nave. The central place in the altar is occupied by the composition of the Mother of God with angels, below it is a performance in which Christ communes with the apostles. The plays of the Annunciation and the Meeting on the western part of the altar partition also belong to the old painting. The most monumental, and the most perfect in terms of artistic features, is the composition of the Crucifixion of Christ, in the nave.
In 1569, the student frescoes were restored, as evidenced by the preserved inscription in front of the play The Assumption of the Virgin, on the west wall. On the south wall, the founder’s composition is shown, in which the Mother of God brings the founder, Simeon Nemanja, with a model of the church in his hand – Christ, the Righteous Judge.
In the narthex, which was painted in 1569, there is a significant cycle of frescoes of the Last Judgment, in the upper zones of the east and west walls. The earliest frescoes of the Church of the Mother of God are the highest achievement of Byzantine art from the very beginning of the 13th century. The restored frescoes from the 16th century were made professionally and expertly and represent the first restoration undertaking by Serbs. Based on some features of the frescoes, it is assumed that the monk Longin, one of the best Serbian artists of that time, also participated in that endeavor.
The frescoes in Radosavlje’s narthex and side chapels date from the fourth decade of the 13th century, and in terms of stylistic features it is close to the frescoes of the main church. In the northern chapel, which is dedicated to St. Nicholas, there is, in addition to the composition Adoration of the Sacrifice, a cycle about St. Nicholas. The southern chapel shows: Nemanja, Stefan Prvovenčani and his son, King Radoslav, with his wife Ana, and on the north wall, three Serbian archbishops: Sava, Arsenije and Sava, the younger brother of King Radoslav.
The King’s Church
Northwest of the Church of the Mother of God is the Church of St. Joachim and Anna, named after the founder, King Milutin, the King’s Church. On its facade, under the roof wreath, an inscription is carved in stone:
“In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, I, the slave of God Stefan Uroš, the great-grandson of Mr. Simeon and the grandson of the First-Crowned King Stefan, the son of the great King Uroš and the king of all Serbian and maritime lands, built this temple in the name of the holy righteous Ana, in the year 1314, indictment 12, and I attached to that holy temple Chrysostom. And whoever changes this to be cursed by God and by me a sinner, Amen. The temple is being built by the work of the archimandrite and archangel abbot Jovan… “.
The church is the work of experienced masters. The construction, which leaves the impression of simplicity, is in fact a well-developed model of a complex assembly. The base belongs to the type of concise cross inscribed in the shape of a square. Similar to the Church of the Mother of God, the cross from the Crucifixion painted in the church itself, proportionally enlarged, is inscribed here as well. The idea of the cruciformity of the building is emphasized by the skillfully prominent arched roofs. This church, as well as the Church of the Mother of God, is a symbolic image of the cosmos. In the dome, which is a symbol of heavenly space, resides the heavenly emperor. Painters and, it seems, highly educated clients of the program tried to point out the unity of the act of earthly and heavenly liturgy in the service of saving the world and glorifying God.
The greatest value of the Church of St. Joachim and Anna presents her remarkable frescoes. Preserved to a large extent, uniform in style and aesthetic value, it covers all the walls from the floor to the dome. The painting of this church was created in the second decade of the 14th century, as the supreme work of Milutin’s masters who painted most of his endowments. With its artistic values, it ranked this, modest in size temple, among the most precious Serbian monuments of the 14th century. The very uniform artistic level of the entire ensemble of frescoes makes this painting, according to its aspirations and achievements, fit into the greatest artistic achievements of the classicist style of the early Palaeologan epoch in the entire Byzantine cultural sphere.
In the second decade of the 14th century, when the King’s Church was painted, there was a unique understanding of painting in the entire Eastern Christian world. King Milutin decided to dedicate his endowment to the Mother of God’s parents in this celebrated monastery. Celebrating St. To Joachim and Anna, he glorifies and glorifies the Mother of God herself.
Church of St. Nicholas
The Church of St. Nicholas or St. Nicholas is the smallest and simplest of the three preserved churches in the monastery complex. The single-nave building with a semicircular altar apse on the east is vaulted in a semicircular shape. The emphasized three-part of its liturgical space was achieved by means known and consistently used in the construction of the 11th and 12th centuries in the area of the southern Adriatic coast. Nikoljaca was built of crushed and hewn stone in lime mortar. The time of its occurrence has not been reliably determined. Two opinions were confronted. One, that it was served during the construction of the Church of the Mother of God, and the other, that it was created at a time when painting.
Until recently, the Church of St. Nikola gave the impression of a small low building, almost a chapel. Research work in 1968 established that Nikoljača was buried in the ground at a height of one meter. When the church was freed from the deposits of earth, the building gained significantly in proportionality. In addition, traces of porches, the remains of frescoes in the plinth, as well as several medieval tombs were discovered.
The church was originally painted in its entirety, but to this day the frescoes have been preserved only in fragments. Today, the figure of the Mother of God with two angels who worship her is preserved in the altar. Below Her are three holy fathers, parts of the composition Adoration of the Sacrifice. Of the standing figures, the most impressive is the figure of St. John the Baptist. The entrance to Jerusalem and the Myrrh on the tomb of Christ on the west wall are the only remnants of the composition Great Feasts. The mentioned conservation works in Nikoljača revealed a fresco of very interesting ornaments of connected circles, rosettes, medallions and charts woven into the vine. This rich and almost completely preserved ornamentation complements the rather modest existing fresco-decoration of the Church of St. Nicholas.
The treasury contains the oldest portraits of the great prefect Stefan (later King the First-Crowned) and the great prince Vukan. The brothers of Saint Sava and Nemanja’s sons were portrayed in Studenica in 1208/9. years. To preserve them, these portraits were moved from the entrance gate.
Among the preserved liturgical and other church-artistic objects, we single out: the shroud of Anthony of Heraclea, embroidered with gold and silver threads, from the 14th century; cover for the ark of St. Stephen the First-Crowned, Olivera, daughter of Prince Lazarus.
Among the objects made of precious metals, the most precious is the ring of King Stefan the First-Crowned. The ring is gold, in filigree, and is a Byzantine work from the period 11-12. century.
An extraordinary work of art is also represented by the staurotheca from 1628, made of gilded silver, decorated with blue and silver enamel. On it are relief representations of Christ’s Ascension, surrounded by symbols, evangelists, while along the rim are given hunting scenes and depictions of the student founders Stefan Nemanja and Stefan the First-Crowned.
In the seventeenth century, there are several exhibited items made of gilded silver, such as ripides, five loaves of bread and two glasses with scenes from hunting, while the finely updated Gothic incense burner of the Abbot of Studenica, Sava, was created in 1590/1. years. A very small number of manuscripts have been preserved from the once precious student library, among which the most important is the Four Gospels from the 15th century, decorated with large headers and intertwined initials that are richly colored. The richly decorated letter of Tsar Alexei Mihailović (1663), the second ruler from the famous Romanov dynasty, stands out. Charters of the Vlach dukes which testify to the branched ties of this monastery. Of the painters’ works, special attention is drawn to the breast triptych from 1750. decorated with mother-of-pearl marquetry and gilded filigree shackles.
Carska Lavra Studenica, manastirstudenica.rs