Visoki Decani Monastery is located next to the place Dečani in Kosovo and Metohija, next to the river Pecka Bistrica. It is the endowment of Stefan Uroš III of Dečani. Construction began in 1327.

The main master was Fr. Vita from Kotor, and the works were supervised by Archbishop Danilo II. In 1330, King Stefani of Decani issued a founding charter by which he richly donated his endowment.

After his death, the construction was continued by his son Tsar Dušan and completed in 1355. At the same time as the church, lodgings and a monumental dining room were built, the monastery was surrounded by large walls with a tower above the entrance, and a hospital was built near the monastery.

The fresco painting of the monastery began immediately after its construction and lasted until 1350. An important role in the completion of these works was played by George Ostush Pecpal, whose grave is in the narthex, together with the graves of his wife Vitosava and Ivanis Altomanovic, nephew of Prince Lazar.

After the Battle of Kosovo, the monastery fell into a difficult position. Princess Milica and her sons visited the monastery in 1397, returned the stolen property and gave it richly. With the renewal of the Pec Patriarchate in 1557, better times began for the monastery. From then until the entire 17th century, the monastery treasury, library and other monastery buildings were enriched with valuables, and there was a transcription school in the monastery. During the Great Migration of Serbs, under the leadership of Arsenij Čarnojević, the Turks looted the monastery. Difficult times arose again, but the Serbs who crossed the Sava and the Danube did not forget the monastery and helped it.

In the second half of the 18th century, the walls around the monastery gate and some monastery buildings were renovated. The renovation continued at the beginning of the 19th century, when the icons for the iconostasis in the chapels of St. Demetrius and St. Nicholas were painted.

Prince Milos built a building for monks in 1836, and Prince Aleksandar Karadjordjevic in 1849 gave his life for the relics of the Holy King Stefan of Decani.

Decani Monastery is one of the largest Serbian medieval monasteries. It is over 36 meters long, 24 meters wide, and the height of the dome reaches 29 meters. On the east side of the central space of the church is a larger semicircular apse. The central part contains five ships, of which the central one is the widest. Above these ships rises a central dome that rests on four pillars. The side naves of the Decani temple are vaulted with a ribbed vault. In the side naves, special spaces were formed, ie chapels with apses on the east side. The south chapel is dedicated to Saint Nicholas, and on the north side there is a chapel dedicated to Saint Demetrius. The Decani narthex is three-aisled and is slightly lower and narrower than the nave. Each of the ships has three traves. Ribbed vaults, in addition to the pilasters, are supported by four marble eight-sided pillars in the middle of the narthex.

The church of the Decani monastery was built of marble squares in three colors. Due to its architectural complexity, due to the fact that the romantic shaping of the mass and the Gothic arches and groundbreaking arches are intertwined with the Byzantine one, the Decani Monastery is truly unique.

The church of the Decani monastery was built of marble squares in three colors. Due to its architectural complexity, due to the fact that the romantic shaping of the mass and the Gothic arches and groundbreaking arches are intertwined with the Byzantine one, the Decani Monastery is truly unique.

The church in Decani has the richest and best-preserved sculpture made in the spirit of romantic understanding. Four portals, on the west, south and north walls of the narthex, as well as on the wall between the nave and the narthex, testify to the richness of Decani plastic. The most magnificent is the portal on the west side of the narthex, where the patron saint of the temple, Jesus Christ, is depicted on a throne with two angels. In the lunette of the southern portal is the Baptism of Christ and an engraved text about the origin of the Decani monastery. A blossoming cross is shown on the northern portal. The doorframes and capitals of the portal are decorated with floral interweaving, and the western and northern ones with fantastic creatures – centaurs and dragons. Above the capital of the western portal there are free sculptures of lions and griffins.

The painting of the monumental church in Decani lasted from the end of the construction, around 1335 until 1350. Several painting groups of the best painters of Dušan’s empire worked. Their task was difficult, both because of the huge area of ​​the temple, and because of the themes and theological complexity. In the altar space, the usual performances are Adoration of the Lamb and Communion of the Apostles. The most complex space is the central part of the temple – the nave, where, in addition to the established layout, several units from the history of Christianity are illustrated. In the higher zones of the domed space there are big holidays, a little lower are performances from Christ’s life, his miracles, teachings and sufferings, followed by scenes from the life of the Mother of God and the Akathist and special units dedicated to St. John the Baptist, St. Demetrius and St. Nicholas. The nave also shows selected scenes from the Acts of the Apostles, then Old Testament themes: scenes from the First Book of Moses, the Story of Solomon and events related to the prophet Daniel. This area is dominated by the monumental Jesse tree with the Mother of God.

In the narthex, there is a particularly important cycle of the Seven Ecumenical Councils, which are presented on the vaults, then the cycle on St. George, and on the west wall is the Loza Nemanjić with St. Stephen Nemanj as the ancestor. The rest of the area of ​​the Decani narthex is mostly illustrated with performances from the Calendar. The founders and members of their families are shown above the places in the fresco-painting in Decani, as well as the logo of George, who is credited with painting the narthex. Tsar Dušan has been shown five times, and the character of Stefan Dečanski four times. In terms of the number of characters and scenes, as well as the total painted surface, Dečani’s frescoes are at the forefront of Serbian medieval painting. This painting is the work of several hands, so there is a noticeable stylistic inequality and a difference in artistic quality. Of the numerous painters who fresco-painted the church of Christ Pantocrator, only the name of Srdj grešnog, who signed on one capital, is known.

The treasury of the Decani monastery, in terms of the richness of objects, artistic range and historical duration, is unique in the overall Serbian artistic duration. Of special value is the entire gallery of icons from the 14th to the 19th century. A number of icons from the old iconostasis have been preserved, as well as the icons of the monk Longin and the monumental icon of the Holy King Stefan of Decani from 1577. Among the numerous items, the abbot’s throne from 1335 stands out, as well as the ark for the relics of the Holy King from approximately the same period. A special treasure of the Decani monastery is the cross of Tsar Dusan and the cross of King Stefan of Decani. A significant whole is the collection of manuscripts and old printed books from the 14th to the 19th century.

Decani hermitages. On the vertical rocks, below the village of Belaja, there are hermitages from Decani, which stretch from the monastery on the left side of Bistrica, upstream, about ten kilometers, all the way to the village of Gornja Belaja.

Hermitage of the Holy King Stefan of Decani. This hermitage is located 5 km from Decani, upstream along Bistrica. It has the appearance of a fortified four-storey stone tower without openings and entrance doors. It was most likely entered by a ladder or through an attached ground-floor building on the east side, which was vaulted.

Hermitage of St. Helena. This hermitage is slightly west of the King’s hermitage and is closer to the monastery. It is a building composed of two equal parts, vaulted with a semi-barrel vault, which rests on a rock on the north and part on the west. According to tradition, this hermitage belonged to Jelena, the sister of Stefan Dečanski.

Middle hermitage. This hermitage is located between the king’s and Jelena’s hermitage.

Hermitage of St. Ephraim. It is reliably known that in this hermitage (1335) Jefrem Pustinožitelj, a brother of the Hilandar monastery, struggled. After the death of Tsar Dušan, this respectable clergyman moved to the hermitage of several Ždrelo above the Patriarchate. As a respected monk and writer, he was twice at the head of the Serbian Church: he was elected patriarch in 1375-1379. and 1389-1392. year, when he thanked for the offered patriarchal throne and again dedicated himself to ascetic life and literary work.

Belajska hermitage – Temple of the Most Holy Mother of God. This hermitage is located 5 km from the Decani Monastery, on the left bank of the Bistrica. It is located in a hidden and natural rock. It was the main hermitage of the Decani monastery, where all the hermitages of Decani gathered for prayer and lunch. Remains of frescoes from the 14th century are preserved in the chapel of this hermitage. Especially interesting is the representation of the Holy Trinity in the form of three angels, or three beardless figures in one body. During the 15th and 16th centuries, copying activity flourished in the hermitage. Two manuscripts, written in this hermitage, were burned in 1941 in the National Library in Belgrade. A number of manuscripts and other church-artistic treasures from this hermitage are stored in the Decani treasury.

Unfortunately, all these hermitages of the Visoki Decani monastery were damaged and desecrated by the Albanian population of this area.

Today, the monastery is under the protection of Italian soldiers within KFOR.

Since 2004, Visoki Decani has been on the UNESCO list of world cultural heritage.

Literature:

Orthodox Serbia, Visoki Decani – Jesus Christ Almighty, orthodox-serbia.com

Visoki Decani Monastery, group of authors, Metropolitanate of Montenegro and the Littoral, IIU Svetigora, Cetinje, 2011.