Monasteries of Moravian Serbia

In the late 14th and early 15th Centuries, numerous monasteries sprung up all over the principality of Prince Lazar and his son Despot Stefan, during a period which saw the country’s culture thrive.It was the time of Turkish invasion from the south, which forced Serbian rulers to move the centre of Serbian spirituality up north, to the valley of the river Morava.This region was thus dotted with numerous monasteries, which provided refuge to rulers and common people, as well as to learned individuals fleeing the countries conquered by the Ottoman Empire.


Built by the side of a small river called Resava, Manasija monastery is one of the last monuments of Serbian mediaeval culture. It was built by Serbian Despot Stefan Lazarević in the 15th Century. To protect Manasija from Turks, he erected a majestic fortification around the monastery, with eleven towers and a moat – the most advanced defence architecture of the time.The monastery also operated the famous Resava School of Orthography, which transcribed church books. The frescoes of Manasija are among the most beautiful examples of the Moravian style; the depictions of the monastery’s patron and the monumental paintings of the holy warriors stand out in particular.


Ravanica monastery, the 14th-Century endowment of Prince Lazar, used to be fortified by massive walls, of which only ruins remain.
The building, with its five prominent domes and a base which fuses the trefoil floor base and the cross-in-shape plan, is lavishly decorated with relief patterns, featuring geometric and floral ornaments. Some of the monastery’s frescoes were painted after the patron’s death. Among the harmoniously hued and grandiose frescoes, those depicting Christ’s passion and resurrection are particularly eye-catching.


Sisojevac, a smaller 14th-Century monastery, lies not far from Ravanica. It owes its unusual name to its founder, monk Sisoje, who is buried inside this church.Although the exterior of the church used to be decorated with paintings, today the façade features vertical strips (lesenes) linked by harmonious arches.


Gornjak, the northernmost of the Moravian-style monasteries, is situated in the Mlava river valley. This endowment of Prince Lazar was founded in the late 14th Century and records show it has been continually occupied since then. Only the main church and the cave chapel still remain of the original monastery, while the bell tower and the portico are subsequent additions.


Not far from the city of Kruševac lies the village of Naupara, with its eponymous monastery and church dedicated to the Holy Mother of God. Originally built in the eighth decade of the 14th Century, Naupara took its present shape in the 19th Century, when it was reconstructed at the order of Serbian Prince Miloš Obrenović.
Windows of the church are decorated with rosettes, with the large rosette linked to the symbolic depictions of the 12 months as the greatest attraction for visitors.


Kalenić monastery, built in the 15th Century, is the endowment of an official of Despot Stefan Lazarević’s court. The church’s exterior is richly patterned, with its rhythmic succession of white slabs of stone and red bricks, while the central dome resembles a chess board with its chequered pattern.


The famous Serbian architect Rade Neimar, who has been immortalised in epic folk poems, built Ljubostinja as an endowment of Princess Milica. Sharing the fate of many other Moravian monuments, Ljubostinja was destroyed and reconstructed several times, gaining its final shape in the mid-19th Century.