Possibly the greatest collection of medieval Serbian art is located in Visoki Decani 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.


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.

Stefan Uroš III Dečanski - mural in Visoki Decani Monastery, Kosovo
Stefan Uroš III Dečanski – mural in Visoki Decani Monastery / Orjen, Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

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.

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.

Frescoes in Visoki Decani Monastery, Kosovo
Frescoes in Visoki Decani Monastery / Philippe Le Moine, Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

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.


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

Inside the church in Visoki Decani Monastery, Kosovo
Inside the church in Visoki Decani Monastery / AgronBeqiriPh, Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

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 Decani.

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.

Visoki Decani Monastery on the map
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Location, GPS coordinates: 42.5471 N 20.2658 E
Categories: Christian monasteries
Values: Art, Architecture, History
Rating: 4 out of 10 stars
Where is located? 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
Founded: 1327
Year of construction: 1327 – 1335
Order, branch of Christianity: Serbian Orthodox

Landmarks of Kosovo

Rugova Canyon, Kosovo
Rugova Canyon / Arba Hatashi, Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

Most interesting landmarks in this small Balkan country are the Serbian Orthodox monasteries and churches as well as Ottoman heritage, especially several interesting bridges.

Country has impressive natural heritage – breathtaking mountain scenery hides numerous caves, gorges and canyons, waterfalls.

Christian monasteries

Rousanou Monastery, Meteora (Greece) - one of most impressive Christian monasteries
Rousanou Monastery, Meteora – one of most impressive Christian monasteries / Takeaway, Wikimedia Commons CC-BY-SA-3.0

Christian monasteries have proven to be a very significant element in history, influencing politics, science, architecture and art. Often monasteries themselves serve as collectories of written works, art and crafts.

Recommended books

Kosovo: A Short History

“Malcolm’s narrative is gripping, even brilliant at times. . . . He takes to his task with the vigor of a detective driven by true passion. At times his claims are, in terms of Balkan history,quite revolutionary.”

Kosovo (Bradt Travel Guide)

This new fully updated 3rd edition of Bradt’s Kosovo is the only full-length English guidebook to this land rich in cultural heritage, generous hospitality and stunning scenery which is celebrating its 10th anniversary of unilateral independence from Serbia. Updated by two resident tourism experts, this new edition is an ideal companion, offering maps, contacts and detailed information not easily accessible online, insider knowledge of one of Europe’s last unspoiled destinations, and comprehensive detail on sites, attractions and practical information.

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