The UNESCO World Heritage List includes cultural assets whose uniqueness, beauty and significance for people’s lives transcends national and regional boundaries and which constitute heritage of all humanity. They are places which we inherited from our ancestors and which we carefully preserve for future generations.
Four sites in Serbia have earned the distinction of being declared UNESCO World Heritage sites due to their artistic, cultural, social and historic importance. From the imperial Roman palace of Felix Romuliana in Gamzigrad to mediaeval Serbian Monasteries – Studenica, Stari Ras and Sopoćani and a group of mediaeval monuments in Kosovo to unique mediaeval tombstones known as stećci. Visit some of the sites that have become part of this elite group of world cultural and natural heritage owing to their uniqueness and beauty.
Felix Romuliana in Gamzigrad is the only site of classical antiquity in Serbia to be declared a UNESCO World Heritage site. The imperial palace built by the Roman Emperor Galerius in the 3rd and 4th Centuries to honour his mother Romula is flanked by massive walls, which used to protect the city from barbarians in ancient times.
Visitors find the northern part of the palace with a small temple particularly attractive because of its well-reserved ancient altar and the strong pillars around it. In the southern part of the palace, you can see the ruins of a large temple with two crypts, a horreum and a Roman thermae – a luxury bath for Roman emperors.
Owing to its well-preserved buildings, which are among the finest examples of tetrarchic imperial architecture in these parts, as well as its beautiful frescoes and floor mosaics with geometric and figurative patterns, Felix Romuliana is a classical antiquity site of immense international importance.
Several monasteries and churches built between the 13th and the 17th Century have been declared a UNESCO World Heritage site under the common name “Mediaeval Monuments in Kosovo”.
Dečani and Gračanica monasteries, the Patriarchal Monastery of Peć and the Church of Our Lady of Ljeviš in Prizren are a magnificent group of mediaeval shrines that elicit strong emotions. If you compare these four monuments, you will observe the evolution of religious construction and art of mediaeval Serbia, a unique fusion of a predominantly Byzantine style and elements of Western art and architecture.
These mediaeval Serbian monuments are situated in the Autonomous Province of Kosovo and Metohija, which is currently administered by the United Nations Interim Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK).
A group of mediaeval Serbian monuments near the city of Novi Pazar comprises fortresses, monasteries and a church have been declared a UNESCO World Heritage site under the common name “Stari Ras and Sopoćani".Stari Ras fortress was once a key fortification in mediaeval Serbia’s defence against Ottoman Turks. Today, the ruins of the oldest military building in this region are visited by those who want to discover more about the turbulent history of these parts of the world. Đurđevi Stupovi monastery was built in the unique blend of Byzantine spatial planning and Romanesque construction which is so typical of this area.
This 12th-Century monastery complex was built by Grand Prince Stefan Nemanja to thank Saint George for saving him from the dungeon where his brothers had thrown him. The Church of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, also known as the Church of Saint Peter, is one of the oldest mediaeval sacral monuments in Serbia, with the first mention of it dating back to the 10th Century. Many centuries ago, Serbian Grand Prince Stefan Nemanja was baptised here. It was here that the aging Grand Prince passed the throne to his son Stefan the First-Crowned. The Council against Bogomilism was also held ere.
At the nearby Sopoćani monastery, lovers of mediaeval art can see some of the most beautiful mediaeval Serbian frescoes. Painted in a style reminiscent of masters of classical antiquity, the ceremonial and bright frescoes at Sopoćani celebrate the classical ideals of human beauty and exude an air of dignity. The most striking among them is the fresco Dormition of the Mother of God.
The fresco art of Sopoćani is often described as the Sistine Chapel of the Serbian Middle Ages.
Studenica, one of the most beautiful 12th-Century Serbian Monasteries, was built by Grand Prince Stefan Nemanja, the founder of the Nemanjić dynasty, which would rule Serbia for two whole centuries. He is also buried under the vaults of this magnificent endowment.
This monument built in the Raška style is characterised by walls reinforced with shining-white marble and finely-crafted and exquisite relief decorations on its windows. Here you can see frescoes which are considered masterpieces of 13th-Century art. The walls of King’s Church within the monastery’s complex were painted by Mihailo and Evtihije, renowned painters of the period. Their artwork depicts scenes from the life of the Mother of God, masterfully painted and harmoniously combined into a single whole.
Studenica is also known for priceless works of applied art, which are kept at the monastery’s vault, including the ring of Stefan Nemanja, shrouds and many other valuable items.
Stećci, mediaeval tombstone graveyards, offer a unique testimony to the cultural tradition of the Balkan peoples. These lavishly adorned tombstones of various shapes were carved between the second half of the 12th Century and the 16th Century.
Stećci are scattered on the sites of former necropolises, on more than 200 sites in southwestern Serbia. Apart from Serbia, stećci are also found on sites across Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Croatia.