Gračanica Monastery

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Things to do


Date of travel

September, 2019

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Having spent five days spent in “Prizren”:, we were on route to North Macedonia. However, before crossing the border, we made one final stop in Kosovo at the Serbian Orthodox “Gračanica Monastery”:, a 45-minute driver from our hotel, the “Kaçinari”: A UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2006, it’s said to be one of the finest examples of late Byzantine architecture, with well-preserved 14th century frescoes.

Unlike the “Patriarchate of Peć”: and “Visoki Dečani Monastery”: we’d visited earlier, Gračanica was in the centrally located and in the middle of the village of the same name. It was surrounded by a tall wall and having parked, our driver Edmond went to find the right entrance. Beside our car, was a Land Rover belonging to KFOR, the NATO-led international peacekeeping force. I decided to take a photo of the logo on the door, and immediately a soldier came out of a café and I had to explain, I just wanted a reminder of the logo.

Edmond returned and we entered via an arch with a thick wooden door. Inside and to the right, was a sign saying ‘candle shop’ but rather than selling candles, it was a place where people lit them. Opposite was a souvenir shop and Edmond went to enquire about a guide and was told we needed to wait 10 minutes. We spent our time wandering around the path and lawns surrounding the church. The guide eventually arrived, but apologetically told us he only provided tours for groups. However, he asked the German speaking lady in the souvenir shop to provide a leaflet which had photographs of the most important frescoes.

Entering the first room, the narthex, many of the frescoes had been damaged by the Ottomans so there was a lot of bare brick wall. An arch, with a fresco of Jesus Christ as an infant over it, led us into the nave. We used the pictures on the leaflet to try to find the various frescoes but struggled with one which was under an arch and down the pillars on either side, whereas the picture made it look flat.

There were two small chapels to the right and left and in one we heard the guide vacuuming behind the iconostasis or altar screen. Totally out of place were lower level frescoes, The Last Judgement, showing tortures in hell.

We virtually had the place to ourselves but just as we were thinking of leaving a group of around 8 Slovenian soldiers came in and began snapping away with their phones. As they were totally ignored by the nun, so we took a couple of discreet photos too. However, the “website”: has many other photos of the building and the colourful frescoes.

Helen Jackson

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