Gracanica

Graçanica Monastery is a Serbian Orthodox monastery located in the village of Graçanicë just 20 minutes from Prishtinë. It was founded by Serbian King Stefan Milutin in 1321. Graçanica Monastery was declared a Monument of Culture of Exceptional Importance in 1990. In 2006 it became s UNESCO’s World Heritage site listed under the name of Medieval Monuments in Kosovo, an extension of the Deçani Monastery. This is one of the King Milutin’s last monumental endowments, situated near the ancient city of Ulpiana, a predecessor to today’s capital, Prishtinë. The monastery was constructed atop the ruins of the 13th century church of the Holy Virgin, which, in turn, was built upon the ruins of a 6th century Christian three-naved basilica. On the southern wall of the chapel is inscribed the king’s charter: “I have seen the ruins and the decay of the Holy Virgin’s temple of Graçanica, the bishopric of Lipljan, so I have built it from the ground and painted and decorated it both from inside and outside.” Of the former monastic compound, only the church has survived. The narthex (the entrance to the church) and the tower were added a few decades later, in order to protect the frescoes on the west facade. This monastery represents the culmination of Serbian medieval architecture in the Byzantine tradition. The church has the form of a double inscribed cross, one inside the other. The inner one providing for a vertical silhouette so as to raise the central dome upwards on a graded elaboration of masses. The dome rests on four free-standing pillars. Between the cross-shafts, four smaller domes give a regular structure to the whole crowning complex. Three three-sided apses (the central one being the largest) put a mild distinction on the altar’s external space. In the church three kinds of paintings can be discerned. The earliest can be found in the nave (the central approach to the altar), whereas two later ones can be found in the narthex. Here, the frescoes were painted between 1321–1322: all have been well-preserved. The compositions in the nave deal with the earthly life of Jesus and the ecclesiastical calendar. The focal paintings of the monastery include the Festival Cycle, the Passion and the miracles of Christ. Inside the narthex, there are portraits of the founders: King Milutin and Queen Simonida, Queen Hélène d’Anjou (the King’s mother) as a nun and King Milutin as a monk.