STUDENICA


STUDENICA MONASTERY – XII century

The earliest written record of Studenica monastery dates back to the era of St. Sava, and it reads:
„This holy monastery of ours, as you know, was like a deserted hunting ground. When our master and ruler Stefan Nemanja, who ruled all the Serbian lands, came to hunt here, he expressed fervent wish to have this monastery built here to the repose and growth of monastic order.“
In 1986, Studenica monastery was enlisted as the UNESCO world heritage site.

Studenica monastery is widely regarded as one of the most beautiful Serbian monasteries not only for its sofisticated blend of Byzantine and Raška school architecture but also for its picturesque scenery. It was built over the long period (from 1183 to 1196) by the Serbian zhupan Stefan Nemanya, who abdicated to the throne in favour of his second son Stefan (1196) and took monastic vows receiving the name of Simeon. Under the guardianship of his son St. Sava, Studenica monastery became cultural, spiritual and medical centre of mediaeval Serbia. Among his other endeavours, St. Sava composed the Studenica Typikon, the first book of literature
’Hence, I command thee, by the will of Almighty God, that this holy monastery be free of those who rule it, and maintain it under no other rule but that of the most Holy Lady Theotokos and under the prayer of our reverend father and the ktetor, the one who reigns over it’
(Saint Sava, the Studenica Typicon, chapter 12)

HISTORY
‘This holy monastery of ours, as you know, was like a deserted hunting ground when our master and ruler Stefan Nemanya, who ruled all the Serbian lands, came to hunt here, he expressed the fervent wish to have this monastery built to the repose and growth of monastic order.’
Studenica monastery is widely regarded as one of the most beautiful Serbian monasteries not only for its sofisticated blend of Byzantine and Raška school architecture but also for its picturesque scenery. It was built over the long period (from 1183 to 1196) by the Serbian zhupan Stefan Nemanya, who abdicated to the throne in favour of his second son Stefan (1196) and took monastic vows receiving the name of Simeon. Two years after he left for Mount Athos where he remained until his repose in 1199. In the year of 1207, on request of his brothers Stefan and Vukan, St. Sava brought to Serbia the remains of their father, monk Simeon. His body was buried in the Church of the Virgin. From 1207 and all through to the mid-XIII century, St. Sava remained in Studenica monastery. Under his guardianship, the monastery became a cultural, spiritual and medical centre of the mediaeval Serbia. He also composed the Studenica Typicon where he described the life of his father Saint Simeon, leaving evidence of the spiritual and monastic life of his time. Additionally, the Studenica Typicon is the first book of literature among Serbs. Studenica enjoyed continual care by the members of the Nemanyic dynasty and successive Serbian rulers. In 1235, King Radoslav, the grandchild to Stefan Nemanya, added a splendid narthex to the church. The Serbian King Milutin built a small church dedicated to saints Joachim and Anna. In the old time the monastery complex encompassed 14 churches out of which only 3 have been preserved to date and have remained in service. The construction of the Church of the Virgin was completed in 1209, which is evidenced by the ktetor inscription on the ring of the drum, reading:
‘This holy temple of our Most Pure Lady the Theotokos was raised by the glorious Grand Prince of Serbia, friend of the Greek emperor kyros Alexei, Stefan Nemanya, who received angelic feature as monk Simeon,…by Grand Prince Vukan, in the year of 1208/9, the 9th indiction, and pray mention also me, Sava the sinful, who served here’.
Hence, the inscription suggests that the Church of the Virgin was fresco painted under the reign of Prince Vukan who was presumably supported by his brother Stefan the First-Crowned.
The period under the Turkish rule was very hard for both the Serbian people and Studenica monastery. At the very beginning of their reign, the Turks melted down the leaden roof of the church into the ammunition, it was plundered after the retreat of the Austrian army in the Austria-Hungarian War (1683–1699). However, the monastery suffered by far the greatest hardships during the First Serbian Uprising. Monks of Studenica were giving great support to the rebels, which was why the Turks set fire to the monastery. Bringing along the relics of monk Simon (Stefan the First-Crowned), a number of monks took shelter in Vraćevšnica monastery. The relics were subsequently transferred to Kalenić monastery whence they were eventually returned to Studenica in 1839. It was Joakim Vujić who wrote about the monastery being twice set to fire. Besides these most unfortunate events, the principal monastery church also suffered from incompetently performed restoration in 1846 when frescoes were plastered and covered with new ones. It was only a century after the event (1951) that this coat of plaster was removed during the restoration work. The principal monastery church was built as a crypt. In the naos, to the right lie the remains of Saint Simeon, the ktetor and founder of the Nemanyic family. In front of the altar space stand two shrines – to the right is the one enclosing the relics of St. Simon (Stefan the First-Crowned) and to the left, the reliquary housing the relics of St. Anastasia.
Since 1986, Studenica monastery has been under the protection of UNESCO.

ART:

THE CHURCH OF THE VIRGIN
The katholikon of Studenica monastery was built between 1183 and 1196. Its founder and ktetor was Stefan Nemanya, the Grand Prince of Serbia. It ranks among the most precious monuments of the architectural school of Raška. The form of the Church of the Virgin is that of a domed single-nave basilica, comprising the altar space and the narthex, whereas the exonarthex was later added by the King Radoslav.
Two architectural styles – the leading Western Romanesque and Eastern Byzantine – reconcile to harmoniously create the unique appearance of the Church of the Virgin. This pleasing combination of the two architectural conceptions produced a specific architectural style known as Raška School.
The artistic achievements of Studenica monastery culminate in four portals on the walls of the principal church, notably the western wall, set between the narthex and the exonarthex.
On the northern wall, under the dome, there is a window made of many square panes adorned with medallions carved on a leaden plaque, representing eight brilliant animals – the symbols of the Virgin’s virtues. There are also two rosettes denoting the Divine Eye. Along the ring of the drum of the Church of the Virgin, a partly preserved inscription reads:
‘This holy temple of our Most Pure Lady the Theotokos was raised by Stefan Nemanya, the glorious Grand Prince of Serbia, friend of the Greek emperor kyros Alexei, who received angelic feature as monk Simeon,…by Grand Prince Vukan, in the year of 1208/9, the 9th indiction, and prey mention also me, Sava the sinful, who served here’.
Hence, the inscription suggests that the Church of the Virgin was fresco painted under the reign of Prince Vukan who was presumably supported by his brother Stefan the First-Crowned.
The original frescoes have been well preserved in the altar space, as well as under the dome, on the western wall and in the lower registers of the nave. The composition of the Virgin with angels occupies the central place in the altar, with The Communion of the Apostles underneath. The paintings of The Annunciation and The Presentation in the Temple, occupying the western region of the altar stone, also belong to the early frescoes. The most monumental and the finest composition from the artistic standpoint is the one of Crucifixion, painted in the nave.
In 1569, a restoration of the frescoes of Studenica was undertaken, which is evidenced by a well preserved inscription beneath the composition of The Dormition of the Virgin on the western wall. On the southern wall is the founder’s composition where the Virgin leads the founder, Stefan Nemanya who holds the model of the church, to Christ, the Righteous Judge.
The exonarthex, fresco painted in 1569, involves a most important The Last Judgment cycle painted in the upper zones of the eastern and western walls. The earliest frescoes of the Church of the Virgin represent the most supreme accomplishment of the Byzantine art of the early XIII century. The frescoes restored in the XVI century were painted by a skillful and gifted artist, and represent a masterpiece of the early Serbian restoration work. Some artistic features suggest that the monk Longin, one of the most brilliant Serbian artists of that time, also took part in the restoration.
The frescoes in the outer narthex, known as Radoslav’s narthex, and in the lateral chapels date from the fourth decade of the XIII century, and stylistically resemble the fresco painting of the principal church. The northern chapel, dedicated to St. Nicholas, portrays the composition of The Adoration of the Lamb as well as the scenes from the St. Nicholas cycle. The southern chapel includes the frescoes of Nemanya, Stefan the First-Crowned and his son king Radoslav with his wife Ana, whereas the three Serbian archbishops, Sava, Arsenije, and king Radoslav’s younger brother Sava II, are portrayed on the northern wall.

THE KING'S CHURCH
The Church of St. Joachim and Anne, also called the King’s Church after its founder King Milutin, lies to the north-west of the Church of the Virgin. On its façade, under the roof cornice, an inscription carved in the stone reads:
“… … In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost, I, God’s servant Stefan Uroš, great grandson of lord Simeon and grandson of King Stefan the First-Crowned, son of great King Uroš and king of all Serbian and maritime lands, have built this church in the name of the holy and righteous ancestors of Christ Joachim and Anne, in the year 1314, the 12th indiction, and have issued a charter confirming this to the church. And cursed be by God and by me he who changes this, Amen. The Church was built thanks to the labours of the archimandrite and hegumen Jovan…”.
The church is the work of experienced builders. The construction is seemingly simple however it is a highly elaborate model of complex composition. The church base is in the form of a compressed cross inscribed in the square. Similar to the Church of the Virgin, the form of the church base follows the cross of the Crucifixion painted in the church itself, proportionally enlarged though. The conception of cruciformity is highlighted by skillfully pronounced arched roofs. This church, as well as the Church of the Virgin, is a symbolic image of the universe. The dome, which symbolises heaven, houses the Heavenly King. The painters and apparently highly educated commissioners endeavoured to underline the unity of the earthly and heavenly Liturgy in the service of salvation of the world and give praise to the almighty God.
The Church of St. Joachim and Anne is most remarkable for its exceptional frescoes. Considerably preserved to date and uniform in both style and esthetics, the frescoes of the King’s Church cover the entire walls from the floor to the dome. The paintings of this church, dating from the second decade of the XIV century, are the greatest accomplishment of Milutin’s artists who painted the majority of his foundations. The finest fresco painting of this church has made this temple of modest size one of the most precious monuments of XIV century Serbian art. Highly uniformed artistic quality of the entire series of frescoes ranks this fresco painting style, in terms of its aspirations and pursuits, among the most supreme achievements of the classical early Paleologue style in the entire Byzantine world.
In the second decade of the XIV century, when the King’s Church was painted, the entire Eastern Christian world was dominated by a uniform painting conception. King Milutin chose to dedicate his foundation to the Virgin’s parents. By giving praise to St. Joachim and Anne he gave praise to the Virgin Herself.

THE CHURCH OF ST. NICHOLAS
The Church of St. Nicholas (Nikoljača) is the smallest and the most simple of the three churches preserved in the monastery complex. It is a single-nave, barrel vaulted church with a semi-circular altar apse on the east. The emphasized tripartite form of the liturgical area was achieved by means typically and consistently applied in the architecture of the XI and XII centuries along the southern Adriatic coast. Nikoljača was built from tufa and dressed stone bound in lime mortar. There is no clear evidence as to the time of its construction, although some argue that it might have been used for services during the time of building the Church of the Virgin, while others believe that it was built during the fresco painting period.
Until recently, the church appeared to be a small, low building, almost a chapel. Investigations carried out in 1968 revealed a one meter-thick earth deposit around Nikoljača. When it was removed, the building assumed more harmonious proportions. Besides, traces of a porch, remains of frescoes on the socle and a number of mediaeval graves were also discovered on that occasion.
Originally, the entire church was painted however, only fragments of frescoes are extant. The figure of the Virgin with two angels taking bows and three holy fathers, fragments of the composition The Adoration of the Lamb below it have been preserved to date. The most impressive of the standing figures is John the Forerunner. The Entry into Jerusalem and The Three Marys at Christ’s Sepulchre on the western wall are the only remains of the Great Feast cycle. The restoration work carried out in Nikoljača revealed fresco painting displaying a most interesting decoration work comprising interlinked circles, rosettes, medallions and gryphons combined with tendrils. This rich and almost completely preserved decoration complements the rather modest fresco decoration extant in this church.

TREASURY
Unfortunatelly, over the past time, the treasures of the formerly rich treasury of Studenica monastery have either disappered or have been destroyed.
Among the preserved liturgical and other ecclesial and artistic objects are: the Eileton of Anthonius Heraklean, embroidered in gold and silver, dating from the XIV century, the veil for the shrine of St. Stefan the First-Crowned, the gift of sultana Olivera Despina, daughter of Prince Lazar of Serbia and wife of Bayezid I.
Among the items made of precious metals, the most valuable is the ring of King Stefan, found no sooner than 1955 in the shrine of the Holy King, on a chain wrapped in cloth. It was brought to light on this occassion and has been displayed in the treasury to date. The ring is gold in filigree, and is the work of Byzantine art from the XI–XII centuries.
A number of items made of gilded silver, such as ripida (a ceremonial fan), a sacred host tray and two glasses showing hunting scenes date back from the XVII century, whereas a finely made gothic censer originates from XVI century. Only few manuscripts have prevailed from once rich library of Studenica monastery, primarily a XV century Four Gospels, decorated with large headers and interwoven, richly coloured initials. A number of items in the exhibition are in the Serbian, Turkish, Russian, Romanian and German languages, among which stand out some extravagantly adorned Russian and Romanian charters that stand as evidence of extensive monastery connections. As for the painting, a pectoral triptych dating from 1750, adorned with pearl inlay and gold filigree chains is a work of exceptional importance.

GUEST HOUSE
The monastery complex encompasses two guest houses intended for the visitors.
The first guest house lies in the close vicinity of the monastery, with the balcony overlooking the monastery.
The second guest house is situated to the west of the monastery, with the balcony overlooking the Studenica river.