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Visoki Dečani Monastery

Main characteristics

Coordinates: 42.5471 N 20.2658 E
No:552        (list of all attractions)
Categories:Christian monasteries
Values:Art, Architecture, History
Address:Europe, Kosovo, Gjakova District, some 2 km to the west from Dečani (Deçan), at Dečanska Bistrica river
Name in Serbian:Високи Дечани
Name in Albanian:Manastiri i Deçanit
UNESCO World Heritage status:Part of "Medieval Monuments in Kosovo", 2004, No.724
Architectural style:Byzantine (Raška school) with some influence of Romanesque style
Year of construction:1327 - 1335
Order, branch of Christianity:Serbian Orthodox
Frescoes in Visoki Dečani Monastery, Kosovo
Frescoes in Visoki Dečani Monastery / Philippe Le Moine, Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0

Possibly the greatest collection of medieval Serbian art is located in Visoki Dečani Monastery - large medieval monastery. Political controversies have accompanied the history of this splendid monastery up to this day but the art in it shows the best side of humanity.


Stefan Uroš III Dečanski - mural in Visoki Dečani Monastery, Kosovo
Stefan Uroš III Dečanski - mural in Visoki Dečani Monastery / Orjen, / CC BY-SA 3.0

Medieval times often were... so medieval in Serbia. Serbian King Stefan Uroš III Dečanski came to power in 1322 after fierce and deadly clashes with his relatives. This king was badly treated by his father - King Stefan Uroš II Milutin - and, it seems, was hated and feared in his family.

According to a legend king saw the beautiful place in the site of contemporary monastery and decided that a huge shrine needs to be built in this place. Construction works started in 1327 and were led by Franciscan monk from Kotor - Fra Vita. During the construction works there were attracted numerous outstanding craftsmen.

King Stefan saw this deed as one of the most important in his life and took the title "Dečanski" to commemorate it.

In 1331 king was strangled upon the orders of his son Stefan Dušan, the next king.

Visoki Dečani Monastery, Kosovo
Visoki Dečani Monastery / AgronBeqiriPh, / CC BY-SA 4.0

Nevertheless the construction works in Dečani, at the foot of Prokletije mountains (The Cursed Mountains) continued and in 1335 here was built the greatest Serbian medieval monastery. Remains of king Stefan Dečanski were placed here.

Frescoes were painted here over the next decades, mostly in 1347 - 1348.

During the following centuries the influential monastery attracted both artists and plunderers - first created outstanding works of art (especially in the late 16th - 17th century), the second ones - destroyed quite a few of them.

Buildings of the monastery were renovated in the 19th century.

During the Kosovo War (1998 - 1999) monastery did what good Christians (or any human beings) need to do: tried their best to hide civilians of any nationality and belief. Nevertheless the monastery unwittingly has been involved in the hatred between local Albanians and Serbs, Albanians have attacked it repeatedly.

Church in Visoki Dečani Monastery, Kosovo
Inside the church in Visoki Dečani Monastery / AgronBeqiriPh, / CC BY-SA 4.0


Up to this day the monastery is active. It is owned and managed by the Serbian Orthodox Monastery.

By far the most interesting structure in this large monastery is the church.

Monastery church is 26 m tall. This was unusually tall building for its time in this region, thus the monastery got name "tall Dečani" - Visoki Dečani.

The interior of the church is very ornate and is adorned with 20 major cycles of frescoes - the largest gallery of Serbian medieval art. In total here are depicted more than 1000 compositions, several thousands of portraits.


See Visoki Dečani Monastery on the map of Kosovo!


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