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Visoki Decani Monastery (Visoki Dečani)

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

WorldBlue  In short

It is possible that the greatest collection of medieval Serbian art is located in Visoki Decani Monastery – a 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.

4.5 out of 10 stars 45.3%

GPS coordinates
42.5471 N 20.2658 E
Location, 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
Architectural style
Byzantine (Raška school) with some influence of the Romanesque style
Year of construction
1327 – 1335
Order, branch of Christianity
Serbian Orthodox
UNESCO World Heritage status
Part of "Medieval Monuments in Kosovo", 2004, No. 724

Map of the site

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WorldYellow In detail


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

Stefan Uroš III Dečanski - mural in Visoki Dečani Monastery, Kosovo
Stefan Uroš III Dečanski – mural in Visoki Dečani 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 Dečani Monastery, Kosovo
Frescoes in Visoki Dečani 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 Dečani Monastery, Kosovo
Inside the church in Visoki Dečani 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.

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Wonders of Kosovo

The 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, and waterfalls.

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

Christian monasteries

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.

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Religious architecture

Since ancient times human talents and skills have been expressed in religious architecture and arts, and traditions and rituals have evolved around pilgrimage sites. Religious buildings represent a major part of the highest achievements in architecture and crafts.

WorldYellow 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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