Our Lady of Ljeviš

The best-known mediaeval building in Prizren must surely be the one-time cathedral church of Our Lady of Ljeviš, which in 1306-07 was restored by King Milutin on the remains of a 13th century church. The triple-nave church was made into one with five naves, five domes, a narthex and an exonarthex, above which a steeple housing two chapels was built.

In actual fact, chief builder Nikola created an original design, combining the triple-nave basilica floor layout with the cross-in-square concept for the upper part of the structure. During Turkish rule it was converted to a mosque and its frescoes defaced and painted over.

Two layers of frescoes comprise the artistic heritage of this church. The first layer is from the early 13th century and is comprised of three frescoes (Wedding at Cana, Healing of the Blind Man and the Mother of God with Christ the Provider). The second layer of frescoes came about between 1307 and 1313, created by a group of talented artists headed by someone called Astrap. Particularly interesting are the portraits of the benefactor and the procession of the Nemanjić ancestors of King Milutin, painted in greater than life-size.  The primary innovation in these frescoes is the permeation of new themes from the Passion and Miracles cycles, the increased size of the figures participating in the scenes and the development of a symbolic language of allegory, metaphor and personification, indicating the adoption of the new Byzantine artistic style.

As of 2006, the monasteries of Pećka Patrijaršija and Gračanica and the Church of Our Lady of Ljeviš have been included in the UNESCO World Heritage list, together with the Dečani monastery which was already on the list, under the common name “Mediaeval Monuments in Kosovo (Serbia)”. As of 2006 it has also been entered into the UNESCO List of World Heritage in Danger because of the unstable security situation currently prevailing in Autonomous Province of Kosovo and Metohija, which is currently under the administration of UNMIK (the UN Interim Administration Mission) The monastery can only be visited under military escort by KFOR troops.