Zica is a symbol of the founding of the Serbian state, the autonomy of the Serbian church and national identity, which makes its significance in the Serbian people immeasurable. Seven Serbian kings were crowned in Žiča, and today the relics of Stefan the First-Crowned rest in it.
The exact time of the construction of Zice was not recorded in the sources, so it was determined indirectly on the basis of data brought by Domentian and Theodosius, biographers of Saint Sava. They note that the construction of the Savior’s Home was started by Stefan Nemanjić, still as a great prefect, at the time when his younger brother was the elder of Studenica. Even Sava, according to Teodosije, supervised the construction of the Savior’s House. Based on these data, it is concluded that Žiča was built in the period from 1206 until Sava’s departure to Hilandar in 1217. Some historical events also contribute to determining the time of completion of works on the church. It is known that Stefan Nemanjić was crowned in 1217 or 1218 with a crown obtained from Pope Honorius III, so it is believed that this rite was performed in Žiča. The Church of the Savior was not completed, judging by Teodosije’s claim that some more works on the Zice temple were done after Sava’s return from Nicaea, where he was ordained archbishop on Cveta in 1219. We also know that until 1220, when the Archbishopric was proclaimed in Žiča and when the new bishops of the Serbian Independent Church were ordained, the Church of the Savior had not yet been painted on the inside, but these works, as well as the complete exterior of the church, were completed. of the State Assembly held on the Day of Savior in 1221. At that council, Archbishop Sava I held his famous sermon with lessons on the holy true faith and heretics, and announced the Serbian edition of the Synod of Orthodoxy. The holiday ended with a solemn rite of confession of Orthodoxy on the second day of the holiday. At that Serbian parliament, according to Teodosije’s claim, Stefan Nemanjić was crowned as an autocratic Serbian king, and perhaps only the act of appointing Radoslav as the king’s deputy or representative was performed at that time.
Throughout its long history, Zica has unfortunately not been fortunate enough to remain intact. At the end of the 13th century, it was probably killed in an attack by the brothers Drman and Kudelin, lords of Braničevo, who ravaged Serbia with the Tatars, and perhaps there was a somewhat later war with Prince Shishman of Vidin, which penetrated into the country all the way to Peć. Then the Monastery was set on fire and devastated. The archbishopric was transferred to Peć. The devastated Žiča was restored by Archbishop Eustatius II (1292-1309), one of the most important people the Church had in the Middle Ages. The greatest work that Archbishop Eustatius II himself had done in the field of art was the renovation and fresco painting of the Church of the Savior in Žiča.
Until 1459, life in the monastery was so normal. In the middle of the 16th century, monks left it seeking salvation across the Sava in today’s Vojvodina.
In 1562, Metropolitan Zaharije of Smederevo found the monastery deserted. He built cells for monks, so by the end of the 18th century the monastery was inhabited.
According to a list of monasteries in the Belgrade pashaluq and its surroundings, which originates from the legacy of Bishop Lukijan Musicki, and which could have been created between 1804 and 1805, Zica is one of the abandoned monasteries. He visited Karadjordj in 1806 and then promised to renovate it, which he did by building four-storey cells. During the uprising (1804-1813), the monks of Žiča took part in the battles with Tuci, and after the collapse of the uprising, Žiča was destroyed again. It stood ruined for half a century.
According to the decisions of the Holy Synod of April 4, 1854. The Bishop of Sabac, Joanikije Nešković, was transferred to the vacant Diocese of Žička and began work on the renovation of this monastery.
Until 1928, it was the most extensive operation on her repair. Between the two World Wars, the restoration and partial reconstruction of Žiča was carried out.
Serbian architecture of the 13th century is represented by large monasteries built according to the concepts of Byzantine monasteries. The latest archaeological research reveals the buildings of these units, designed to enable the life of monastic communities. Among the monastery buildings that can be reconstructed in an ideal sense, works of various purposes are worthy of attention. However, the main monastery churches – Catholicos – are the best preserved, the largest and most representative buildings that follow the main course of architecture.
The program of the space and the architectural idea of the whole remained two important determinants of Serbian architecture in the 13th century. In Žiča (1207-1219), the founder of King Stefan and his brother Sava, the first Serbian archbishop, the program of the space was completed in important elements. A single-nave building with a dome in the middle, parts of the space for choirs along the nave and separate narthexes with side chapels, would belong to the indispensable whole for the next monuments. Additions to that program were the result of special purposes.
In Žiča, the outer narthex with the tower was erected at the request of the first archbishop as the seat of the newly established Serbian archbishopric. The construction of that part of the church was entrusted to a group of masters from the western parts, from the Romanesque area, who probably built a large external narthex in Studenica, a bell tower above the entrance to the monastery, then Pridvorica and Bogorodica Hvostanska, both in the described Raska concepts.
All researchers of wire painting, in addition to the indisputable fact that it was performed in three stages – 1220/21. year, between 1229 and 1234 and in the first years of the XIV century – they agree that the youngest layer repeated the first from the XIII century, and thus preserved and repeated and the basic ideas that guided St. Sava painted Žiča immediately after her adaptation for the first Serbian archbishopric. The key text for the explanation of the Zice frescoes is the preface to the translation of the Jerusalem typeface into Serbian by Archbishop Nicodemus from 1319.
Starting from such sources, and the fact that Zica was painted as the cathedral church of the newly established Serbian archbishopric, it is easier for us to understand the painting of the altar space, preserved only partially on the layer from the beginning of the 14th century. It was mostly dedicated to the performance of the liturgy and to those who perform it, so the Service of the Holy Liturgy was shown in an honorable place – in the apse. The mystical rite of turning wine and bread into the blood and body of Christ offers a sacrifice to Christ’s heavenly altar.
The image of the founding of the Church on earth, based not on Old Testament examples – as it will be in the art of the Palaeologus – but on representations of events from the New Testament, found its fullest expression in the under-dome space of Zice. The intention to suggest the connection between the Old and the New Temple by choosing and arranging the paintings was close to the people of the early 13th century, as well as to Saint Sava. The choice of performances in the domed space, which tradition tied to Zion, was influenced by the fact that Žiča was already a cathedral church when the frescoes were performed in it, and it was also at the beginning of the 14th century, when they were restored. The idea of establishing continuity between the oldest church founded by Christ himself, the one in Zion and the young autocephalous Serbian church was led by St. Sava to point out in Žiča those moments that are related to the founding of the Church on earth, and what happened in Zion. Savina’s idea to repeat the look of the first Christian cathedral church in her church by choosing paintings, and the intention to direct it to Jerusalem models by worship, was remembered and respected during the 13th and early 14th centuries. Therefore, Milutin’s painters repeated the original arrangement of frescoes in Žiča, and Archbishop Nikodim will explain, at the same time, Savina’s intention in words.
Sava Srpski – says Nicodemus – became similar to Moses who made a tabernacle in the image that God showed him on the Mountain; in the same way, Sava created “this great church” (probably referring to Zic) in the image of the Church of Zion and the Church of Saint Sava the Consecrated, which he saw in Jerusalem. Since in that way the Serbian church is similar to these Jerusalem sanctuaries, it is natural for it to be similar to them in the monastery constitution, “Typical of Saint Sava”, as Nicodemus calls it, because it really is. Because of that, the writer returns to the model of the Serbian church a little later and reduces it only to the Lavra of Saint Sava, because Nicodemus needed that comparison.
On the vaults of the western aisles and on the vaults of the choirs as well as on the higher parts of the walls there were probably other Great Feasts, those which were not included in the image of the Old and New Temples and the founding of the church at Zion. Traces of only the Transfiguration in the southern choir, the Entry into Jerusalem in the middle lawn, the Ascension in the dome and the Assumption on the western wall have reached us. Due to the image of the temple’s glory in the dome, the prophets were lowered into the lower zone, and below them were the busts of martyrs whose large number, probably for prophylactic reasons, were also on the bellies of the arches.
The ground floor of the frescoes had traditional representations of God’s favored ones, some of which are mentioned by name during the separation of prosphora particles in the service of proscomedy, but it, more than other parts of the painted decoration, was subject to changes and adaptations to special monastic requirements. Thus – along with the figures of holy warriors, silversmiths, venerable and angels – around the iconostasis were large frescoes-icons of the Mother of God and Christ, and next to them the figures of protectors and respected saints of the first founders: Sava the Consecrated, Stephen the First Martyr, George and Demetrius. City of St. Sava Osvećenog and St. Stefan near the iconostasis was also dictated by the fact that they are the patrons of the side chapels next to the nave.
On the layer from the 13th century in both choirs, in the lowest zone of the eastern sides, two scenes have been preserved: the Crucifixion in the south and the Removal from the Cross in the north choir. Their descent into the ground zone was performed for special reasons. Probably, there were once proskinitarians in front of them, where the relics of Christ’s passions were exhibited, which we know that Žiča possessed.
Very few frescoes have been preserved in today’s narthex. Other parts are the lineage of Jesse and the cycle of Baptism. The decoration of the wire entrance has all the features of a portal theme, and it was composed with the intention of emphasizing the character of the Temple and showing examples of faith to those who enter it. Probably by order of Archbishop Sava III, the entrance of the portico is covered with figures of the apostles Peter and Paul, in a rare iconographic form: Peter holds the church above his head, and Paul the book of his epistles. The two of them are presented here as the foundations of the church and the teachers of the universe, with the idea of the origin of the church on earth and its apostolic or conciliar character. The portraits of the founders, who, by their act of raising or renewing the church, joined the ranks of those who establish the Church on earth, also fit into this theme. Next to the entrance on the east wall of Zice are its founders, King Stefan Prvovencani and his son Radoslav, then still his father’s ruler, and on the side walls of the portico are two charters issued by them to the church, where many of their gifts are mentioned, starting with relics. to land holdings.
King Milutin and Archbishop Sava III were equally responsible for the renovation and decoration of Zice, which was noted in an unusual and new way in Serbian art. Their figures include, in Byzantine art, the well-known image of the Christmas stanza, a poetic interpretation of the incarnation of the Word and its gift. With the presence of Archbishop Sava III with the clergy and King Milutin with the court entourage, a beautiful hymnographic theme gained the mark of a historical moment, turned into a picture of a solemn Christmas service, led by the archbishop and attended by the Serbian king.
Serbian Orthodox Monastery – Royal Lavra of St. Zica, zica.org.rs
Nešković, Joanikije: Monastir i Hram Žiča.
In: Takovac. Serbian national calendar for the simple year 1867, Belgrade
Canak-Medic, Milka: Zica Monastery, Belgrade 1999.
Zica Monastery: monograph; Organized by Žička sestrinstvo, Kraljevo, Žiča, 2004.
Šuput, Marica: Arhitektura vizantijskog sveta, Beograd 2005.
Todić, Branislav: Topography of wire frescoes.
In: Manastir Žiča: zbornik radova, Kraljevo 2000.