Studenica Monastery Stefan Nemanja Endowment
The magnificent Medieval Studenica Monastery is regarded as the mother church of all Serbian shrines. Studenica Monastery was founded around 1190 as the principal endowment and mausoleum church of Stefan Nemanja, the founder and most powerful and prominent ruler of the Serbian Medieval State. The church remains the most important of all Serbian Orthodox Monasteries offering a rich glimpse into the cultural heritage of Serbia.
This well-preserved 13th century monastic complex sits at the end of a 12-kilometer road, which begins in the small town of Usce, in a gorgeous well-preserved natural setting known as the wooded slopes of Radocelo, Cemerno and Troglav Mountains.
Within the UNESCO “Man and Biosphere” programme, Nature Park “Golija” joined the biosphere reserve network in 2001 after which it was named “Golija-Studenica”.
Studenica Monastery Complex consists of four medieval churches, the Lower and the Upper Saint Sava Sanctuaries and the dwelling /dormitory, hospice, refectory/ with the high tower enclosed by defensive walls in a form of an almost perfect circle. Those are: The Church of the Virgin Mary, Saint Nichola’s Church, SS Joachim’s and Anne’s Church /the King’s Church/ and well preserved foundations of St.John the Baptist’s Church. Church of the Virgin Mary is constructed between 1183 and 1196 in the brilliant combination of Byzantine Cathedral and Romanesque exterior details, entirely representing the so-called “Raska school” of architecture. The facades and sculptural decorations of the Virgin Mary Studenica Church were completed with white polished marble from neighboring Radocelo Mountain. The architecture is like no other Serbian Monastery being crafted by the superb craftsmen-masters from the maritime part of the Serbian Medieval State at that time. The exterior of the Virgin Mary Studenica Church is in the Romanesque style, while its fresco paintings bear the Byzantine characteristics. The Romanesque elements of the Holy Virgin Studenica Church offer decorative facade finishes with the highest levels of the facade being done in characteristic arcade shaped friezes on consoles cut in stone. Monumental Studenica portals are characteristic as they are windows richly decorated by sculpture decorations, magnificent wet portal and particularly triforium on the altar apses, which dominates the eastern part of the Virgin Mary Studenica Church. Attention to detail has painstakingly been applied to its exquisitely carved plant motif decorum and phantasmagoric creatures including a winged dragon and basiliscus, with a long snake tale. In 1245 King Radoslav added the large narthex with semi-circular chapels at the western side of the Church of the Virgin Mary.
Studenica Monastery enjoyed continual care by the members of the Nemanjic dynasty in the Medieval era, and served as a model for the churches of Raska which became the royal funeral church. The oldest monumental frescoes of Studenica complex, done by an anonymous artist from Constantinople date back to 1208 and represent the corner-stone of the fresco-painting of the entire Byzantine Empire. The most significant amongst all Studenica Monastery frescoes is the most celebrated and monumental Crucifixion painted on the western wall of the Holy Virgin Church with the exquisite portrait of the Christ featuring the calm facial expression representing his overcoming of the 5 senses by way of his 5 piercings at Golgotha, which means place of the skull. On the south wall of the Holy Virgin Church of Studenica Monastery there is the “founders’ composition” which shows the Blessed Virgin, representing the restored soul, taking Stefan Nemanja – Monk Simeon the Myrovlyte, St. Symeon the Myrrhbearer of the church model to Jesus Christ.
The Church of St. Nicholas was erected in the early 13th century. The church is known for its various fresco-painted walls. The uniqueness that this church offers is that the frescoes have been painted by Serbian painters. The King’s Church, the Church of Saint Joachim and Anne, with its octagonal bright red cupola over the graceful architectural structure of the basis of reduced cross was built in 1313. By its artistic significance the Kings Church is the most important amongst shrines of the Studenica complex and was named after its endower, King Milutin. The brilliant frescoes of the King s Church perform density of forms and volumetric rendering of faces. Those frescoes were painted by Michael and Eutyches immediately after the construction of the church and especially those that depict King Milutin, his wife Simonida ,Simonis, St. Sava and St.Simeon the Myrovlyte are considered the finest portraits of the middle ages and the master-pieces of the Byzantine art of the beginning of the 14th century.
The exceptional Medieval monument inside Studenica Monastery Complex, the circular wall, has two fortified gates (churches, refectories, monks’ quarters from the 13th to the 18th centuries). Within the protected Studenica zone are a host of churches and hermitages as well as the marble quarries from which the blocks of the Church of the Virgin Mary were drawn and the remains of a medieval settlement of quarrymen and stonecutters. Since 1986, the Studenica Monastery has been inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage List.