Visoki Decani Monastery (Visoki Dečani)
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.
Name in Serbian
Name in Albanian
Year of construction
Order, branch of Christianity
UNESCO World Heritage status
Map of the site
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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