Unique in their architecture, sculpture and ornamentation, frescoes, icons, manuscripts and numerous works of applied art, the monasteries of Serbia have long been a focus of attention for tourists and mediaeval art experts alike.
The architecture of mediaeval Serbian monasteries is particularly varied. During the 13thand into the 14thcentury some of the most striking churches were built, whose proportions and decorative façade and sculptural work suggest Romanesque influence (Studenica, Banjska, Dečani, Gradac, Arilje, Mileševa, Sopoćani and others). These are referred to as belonging to the Raška School. The first half of the 14thcentury during the reign of King Milutin saw the construction of works of exceptional architecture and artwork, such as Gračanica.
The period after 1371 saw the rise of a characteristic architectural style called the Morava School in the Morava river valley, with its multicoloured façades and decorative relief work, (e.g. Ravanica, Lazarica, Ljubostinja and Kalenić).
Mediaeval monasteries and churches are not just features on the landscape of Serbia, they are features of the soul of Serbia, as well as being art galleries in a very real sense. The frescoes and icons in Serbia’s churches are a significant part of Serbia’s cultural, historical and national wealth.
One of the greatest Serbian Orthodox holy places is Hilandar, a Serbian monastery located on the northern part of the ‘Holy Mountain’ of Mount Athos –a‘monastic republic’ formed of 20 major monasteries, situated on the third leg of the Halkidiki peninsula in northern Greece. The monastery of Hilandar was built by Stefan Nemanja and his sons, the monk Sava and Stefan Prvovenčani (‘the First-Crowned’) in 1198.