The Studenica Monastery was established in the late 12th century by Stevan Nemanja, founder of the medieval Serb state, ... More
The Studenica Monastery was established in the late 12th century by Stevan Nemanja, founder of the medieval Serb state, shortly after his abdication. It is the largest and richest of Serbia's Orthodox monasteries. Its two principal monuments, the Church of the Virgin and the Church of the King, both built of white marble, enshrine priceless collections of 13th- and 14th-century Byzantine painting.
The monastery Studenica, dedicated to the Presentation of the Holy Virgin, is the mother-church of all Serbian temples. It was constructed over a quite long period. The first stage works were completed by the spring of 1196, when Stefan Nemanja abandoned his throne and settled in the monastery's foundation. When he later left for Hilandar, his son and successor Stefan took over the care of Studenica. Nemanja died in Hilandar in 1299. Nemanja's third son Sava, after reconciling his brothers Stefan and Vukan, moved Stefan's relics to Studenica. Under guardianship of Sava, Studenica became the political, cultural and spiritual center of medieval Serbia. Among his other endeavors, Sava composed a Typik, the rule-book where he described St. Simon's life, leaving evidence of the spiritual and monastic life of his time.
Studenica enjoyed continual care by the members of the Nemanjic dynasty. King Radoslav added to the church a splendid narthex in 1235. King Milutin built a small but lovely church dedicated to saints Joachim and Anna.
Since the fall of the last of the medieval Serbian states in 1459, the Turks often assaulted the monastery. The first of the significant restorations of the damage took place in 1569, when the frescoes in the Church of the Presentation were repainted. In the early seventeenth century, an earthquake and a fire befell the monastery, and historical documents and a significant part of the artistic heritage were destroyed and lost forever.
The Virgin's Church is a domed single-nave basilica. At its eastern end there is a three-sided apse, while an extended narthex faces west; there are also vestibules on the north and the south. In the 1230s, a large exonarthex was added. The facades were built with slabs of white marble; inside, the church is revetted with tufa blocks. Externally, the Church harmoniously reconciles two architectural styles, the Romanesque and the Byzantine. The blending of these two styles eventually produced a particular style of architecture known as the Raska School.
The artistic achievements of the sculpture of Studentica culminate in four portals, primarily the west one, inside between the narthex and the exonarthex. On the north wall under the dome, there is a window made of many square panes with medallions carved on a leaden plaque which represent eight fantastic animals - the symbols of the Virgin's virtues. There are also two rosettes denoting the Divine Eye. The masons came to Studenica most probably from the Adriatic region, perhaps from Kotor, where Nemanja used to have a palace. They left an insciption in Serbian lettering on the tympanum of the west portal.
The church was painted in the first decade of the thirteenth century. The original frescoes have been partly preserved in the altar area, under the dome, on the west wall, and in the lower registers of the nave. The most splendid representation is that of the Crucifixion, painted on blue background in 1209, one of the paramount achievements in Serbian art. On the south wall there is the "founders' composition" which shows the Virgin taking Nemanja-Simon with the church model to Jesus Christ as the Magistrate Impartial.
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