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Studenica is the high point of Serbian history. The monastery contains the remains of the first Serbian kings, the remains, the shroud and the coffin of Stefan Prvovencani. This is where St Sava Nemanjic, the founder's youngest son, wrote the first literary work in the Serbian language and founded the Serbian Orthodox Church, which was separate from that of Byzantium.
The monastery is a veritable museum of 13th-century Byzantine painting (frescoes in the naos and the sanctuary of the Virgin Mary in 1208-9; frescoes of the southern chapel, in the same church, 1233-34; frescoes of St Nicholas, c. 1230) and 14th-century Byzantine painting (King's Church frescoes, just after 1314). Moreover, the monastery contains important and significant painted ensembles from the so-called post-Byzantine period and more than 100 precious objects in its treasury.
The monastery was built in the middle of a large clearing crossed by the Studenica River. It is surrounded by a circular wall roughly 115 m in diameter. Beyond the farmland are superb forests where broadleaved trees (oak, lime, elm, ash, beech and wild pear) and conifers (black and silver pines) grow on the slopes of three massifs which are 80% wooded. Here, in 1183, Stefan Nemanja founded the Great Joupan. He wanted to build a funerary church dedicated to the Virgin Mary. After abdicating in 1196 and withdrawing to become a monk on Mount Athos in 1197, his sons carried out his wish. The Church of the Virgin Mary was completed by Prince Vukan and his brothers who, in 1208-9, had it decorated with the paintings of Greek artists.
Studenica was the necropolis of the Nemanjic dynasty and over the centuries it developed into one of the focal points of Serbian history. The monastery grew larger within its walls, and refectories and the monks' living quarters were installed along the curve of the circular wall. As foundations increased, more sanctuaries were created in the central area. Some small constructions were clustered together to the south of the original church: St Nicholas (from c. 1240), St John and in the early 14th century, St Anne and St Joachim, the famous King's Church, completed in 1314. At the same time votive chapels, oratories and hermitages were built in the mountains outside the walls.
The two principal monuments of Studenica, the Church of the Virgin Mary and the King's Church, are both in a very satisfactory state of conservation. This is true of the brickwork and the wall construction in marble of the main church. The upper courses of this marble, which was drawn from nearby quarries, has acquired a beautiful golden patina, but the wonderful precision of the Romanesque sculptors responsible for the west and south gates and the great east window has not been obliterated by time.
The King's Church houses the most beautiful murals painted by Michael and Eutychios. Not long after 1314 they painted a cycle of the Life of the Virgin Mary which is among the leading works of Byzantine art. After having worked at the Peribleptos of Ohrid and painting a series of Serbian churches (those of the Virgin of Lievisa, of Zica, of Staro Nagoricino, of Gracanica, etc.) for King Milutin, these painters found the most perfect expression of their style in Studenica: density of forms and volumetric rendering of faces combined with astounding execution which, in terms of perfection, is very close to that of icons, with highlighting in bright colours, shadows and light executed a secco.
The primitive Church of the Virgin Mary served as a model for the churches of Rascie, which constitute a special branch of the great Orthodox family. This royal funeral church was imitated in Banjska, Decani and the Holy Archangels of Prizren. The murals of the naos and the sanctuary, made in 1208-9, are among the first examples of the 'monumental' style that emerged in various different regions after the capturing of Constantinople in 1205 by the Crusaders. These paintings, which are characterized by a new concept of space and a new expressiveness, are an essential milestone in the history not only of Byzantine art, but also of Western art. Cimabue, Duccio and Giotto were also part of this current.

whc.unesco.org

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Additional Photos by Aleksandar Dekanski (dekanski) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 169 W: 89 N: 230] (2374)
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