Studenica Monastery

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May, 2019

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“Studenica Monastery”:вести/, in central Serbia, is said to be one of the country’s greatest monasteries and one of the holiest of places and is, unsurprisingly, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s set in a splendid mountainous area high above the river of the same name and was established by Stefan Nemanja at the end of the 12th century.

Although there were originally nine churches arranged in a circle, only three are left. At least this made our visit more straightforward.

CHURCH OF OUR LADY – A young curator, Marco, led us into the largest, the Church of Our Lady. The first section had a doorway whose arch was adorned with devils and other beasts, and underneath and around the sides was Jesus and the disciples. The main section was full of scaffolding as the frescoes were being renovated and we noticed that some appeared to be daubed with what can only be described as thumb prints and we learned this was a clumsy, earlier, attempt at renovation. The frescoes, from different centuries, had byzantine blue as a prominent colour which was made from lapis lazuli from Afghanistan and said to be as expensive as gold at the time.
There were two tombs: of Stefan Nemanja, a marble one on the right covered with red felt and a sword, and to the left, what looked like an old silver one, bearing the body of his son, Stefan Prvovenčani, although Marco said it had been made in 1995.

KING’S CHURCH – Next door was King’s Church a much smaller version, again made out of white marble, and with equally impressive frescoes.

CHURCH OF ST NICHOLAS – known as the ‘potting shed’, the Church of St Nicholas was less impressive and we did not tarry too long there.

There are signs saying ‘no flying of drones’ in English and Chinese which says a lot, but earlier in our trip around Serbia, we’d seen a poster of the site from above. Having walked past the bell tower, and down to the nearby River, another curator opened the gift shop for us and presented us with a ‘goody bag’ containing fridge magnets, bookmarks and wooden necklaces. We bought a book as sadly, but understandably, photographs of the interior were not allowed.

Helen Jackson

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