In the valley of the rivers Ibar and Raška, from Kraljevo southwards to below Novi Pazar, the mediaeval Serbian state was born. That is why some call it Dolina Kraljeva (‘Valley of the Kings’) while others call it Dolina Jorgovana (‘The Lilac Valley’). In any event, this valley is home to some of the most valuable Serbian mediaeval monasteries.
King Uroš I Nemanjić (1243-1276) as a gesture of welcome to his future bride, the French princess Helen of Anjou, ordered that all the known varieties of lilac be planted the length of the Ibar river, from Raška to Kraljevo. Thus the future Serbian queen and saint, was greeted by the Valley of Lilacs, the flower that heralds spring. To this day at the beginning of May there is a traditional, folk festival held known as the Days of Lilacs (Dani jorgovana).
The journey through the Valley of the Kings begins at Kraljevo, one of the major cities of central Serbia, which was given its current name in 1882 (Kraljevo means ‘belonging to the king’) when the renewed Serbia was pronounced a kingdom and King Milan Obrenović was crowned the first Serbian king of the new era. The Žiča monastery is considered the “mother of all churches”, with its characteristic red façade. It is the place where its benefactor, Stefan Prvovenčani (’the First-Crowned’) was crowned the first Serbian king of the Nemanjić dynasty. Legend has it that six more kings were to be crowned here and that for each a door would be opened and then bricked up, hence the poetic name, Žiča of the Seven Doors.