Art and Influence of Sopoćani Monastery, Serbia

The Art and Influence of Sopoćani Monastery, Serbia was implemented through the years following the Monastery’s completion in 1265. The frescoes in the Monastery are among the finest in Byzantine and Serbian Medieval Art. These paintings represent the work of Byzantine’s best artists who found refuge at the court of the Serbian King. Known as the Raška School, this style of art soon dominated architecture for over a century.

The Assumption of Virgin Mary

The Assumption of Virgin Mary

Sopoćani Monastery is renowned for the exceptional quality of its frescoes. Its frescoes, being one of the most impressive creations of Byzantine art, represent persons and events of Christianity. The Sopoćani frescoes are the pinnacle of a classical style whose basic features are harmony and beauty. The most precious fresco is The Assumption of Virgin Mary, painted on the west wall of the church. It is a composition whose main feature is the symphony of yellow, blue, green and violet colors.

Residing at the source of the Raška River, about 15 kilometers west of Novi Pazar, Sopoćani Monastery was an endowment of King Stefan Uroš I of Serbia and was built from 1259 to 1265. This Monastery would serve as his burial place, and was extended and renovated in the mid-14th century by his great-grandson Dušan. Of the former larger monastery complex, which comprised numerous structures (dining rooms, residential buildings and others), only the Church of the Holy Trinity remains.

During the late 1680’s various factors led to widespread damage throughout the church. The monks had to temporarily leave on several occasions due to Ottoman threat. During one of the raids in 1689 the Ottoman Turks set fire to the monastery and carried off the lead from the church roof. The brotherhood escaped with some important relics to Kosovo – but did not return to Sopoćani; it remained deserted for over two hundred years. The church slowly decayed: its vaults caved in, its dome fell down, and the remains of the surrounding buildings were covered with rubble and earth.  During the 20th century, reconstruction took place throughout the church restoring color and clarity to the paintings. In 1979 Sopoćani was declared Monument of Culture of Exceptional Importance and is today protected by the Republic of Serbia.

The beauty presented in this archival monastery has survived more than two centuries of extreme, damaging circumstances. Despite the damage, it has conserved all of its glory. The whole interior is covered with frescoes, which express the themes from the Bible and the life of Christ, depicting saints, prophets, apostles and inevitable fresco painting of the monastery – King Stefan Uros I, holding a model of a church in his hands.


Editor’s note: Join Original World for a fantastic journey to the Balkans. Experience mosques and monasteries, Roman ruins and Ottoman fortresses, all the while connecting with friendly locals in charming, bustling villages.  Sopoćani Monastery, one of the finest monasteries in Serbia, is one of many historical landmarks visited during the Balkan’s Small Group tours.

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