Serbian history can best be met through her churches, monasteries and temples. Serbian temples carry the story of Serbian endowment. The most beautiful and the oldest temples were built by the powerful Serbian rulers, and some of them spent their last years of life as monks. Endowments are left by nobles, monks, and ordinary citizens too.
On the walls of Serbian churches are beautiful specimens of preserved medieval world of art. Locations where the sacral building were built are various; some of them were built outside the settlements, some alone and hidden in dense forests, some are situated at inaccessible rocks. Next to the temple there is a refectory, living quarters and the treasury, that are surrounded by stone walls. However, the Serbian monasteries have not been historically isolated from the world. They have always been places where people gathered, today the monastery’s gates are open for all visitors of goodwill. On some locations there are plenty of them in a small area (Ovčar-Kablarska Gorge, Valley through Ibar, Fruška Gora Mountain)… In Serbia, there are 212 monasteries, of which 54 were declared monuments and have been included on the World Heritage List of UNESCO: Stari Ras with Sopoćani, Studenica and monasteries on Kosovo and Metohija – Dečani, Gračanica, Pećka Patrijaršija and Bogorodica Ljeviška.
The architecture of medieval Serbian monasteries is particularly diverse. During the 13th and into the 14th century some of the most striking churches were built, whose proportions and decorative facade and sculptural work suggest Romanesque influence (Studenica, Banjska, Dečani, Gradac, Arilje, Mileševa, Sopoćani and others). These are referred to as belonging to the Raška School. The first half of the 14th century during the reign of King Milutin saw the construction of works of exceptional architecture and artwork, such as Gračanica. The period after 1371 saw the rise of a characteristic architectural style called the Morava School in the Morava river valley, with its multicolored facades and decorative relief work, (e.g. Ravanica, Lazarica, Ljubostinja and Kalenić). The frescoes and icons in Serbia’s churches are a significant part of Serbia’s cultural, historical and national wealth.
Here we recommend several monasteries that are closest to Belgrade, as well as several of the most significant and most beautiful once in Serbia. For more information about others, visit one of the following sites:
https://serbia-touroperator.com/monasteries (including Monastery Tours)
http://manastiriusrbiji.com/ - in Serbian
A Guide to the Monasteries of Fruška gora
The Medieval Monasteries of Kosovo
List of Serbian Orthodox monasteries
Krušedol is one of the 16 monasteries in Fruška Gora (so are the three next ones we suggest). It is believed that the constructions were begun by the despot Đorđe Branković (who later became a monk and took up the name of Maxim) at the beginning of the 16th century, and that they lasted 50 years. Due to its wealthy historical treasury, famous iconostasis, and many other relics, Krušedol Monastery is considered one of Serbia's most significant monasteries. Nowadays, it is also well known as a mausoleum - beside the relics of the Branković family, it contains the relics of patriarch Arsenije III Čarnojević, duchess Ljubica Obrenović, king Milan Obrenović and many others. Unlike most monasteries of Fruška Gora, Krušedol Monastery suffered no damage during the WWII, but the monastery treasury had been robbed. Situated just a couple of kilometers away from Krušedol Monastery are the monasteries Grgeteg and Velika Remeta.
Not far from the town of Irig, on the very edge of the forest, lies Novo Hopovo Monastery. It is believed to be the first monastery founded by Đurađ Branković at the beginning of the 16th century, and to have included a church dedicated to Saint Nikola at the time. A sign above the entrance of the church led to confusion about the church's origins, stating that it was built in 1576, but it was later established that this was the date the current church was built in place of the old one. The Monastery was a scholastic center for many centuries, and literacy was taught to Serbs coming from as far as Belgrade.
Two kilometers down the road, in the forest, lies Staro Hopovo. According to tradition, the monastery was founded by Despot Đorđe Branković. The first reliable mention of the monastery dates back to 1545/1546. It is on the basis of some data from 1751 that an earlier church with timber walls dedicated to St. Nicholas existed. The old church which had collapsed in an earthquake was substituted in 1752 with the extant single-nave building dedicated to St. Panteleimon.
Vrdnik is known for it's spa centre at the southern slopes of Fruška Gora. Coincidentally, that also happens to be where the Vrdnik monastery is. This is the only monastery on Fruška Gora that's at a populated area. It's believed that it has been raised during the sixteenth century. Little was known about it until the monks from the Ravanica monastery settled in, because they were running away from the Turks during the Great Serb Migration. They built a church and dedicated it to the Ascension of Christ, but they've also been calling it Mala Ravanica. they brought with them relics of Prince Lazar, which remained there until 1942, when they were transferred to the Cathedral in Belgrade. They were returned in 1989. The monastery today is being kept up by female monks, and the dormitories are considered one of the most beautiful at Frušta Gora. A couple of kilometers away are the monasteries Jazak and Mala Remeta.
Šišatovac Monastery is located in the Šišatovac area, on the southern slopes of the western Fruška Gora. A source of clean drinking water can be found in its vicinity, Remeta spring named after the church discovered by monks of Žiča Monastery, as they were fleeing the Turks in 1520. The creation of Šišatovac Monastery can be linked to this event, because the monks demolished this little church dedicated to Saint Nikola and built a new church dedicated to the Holy Virgin. It has been demolished and renovated several times since then, until it got its final edition in the second half of the 18th century. Only a kilometer away is the monastery Petkovica, and behind the next hill the Kuveždin monastery.
The magnificent Medieval Studenica Monastery is the mother church of all Serbian shrines. Studenica Monastery is situated in the beautiful Studenica River Valley in central Serbia. It lies close to the confluence of Studenica and Ibar Rivers along the most prominent Ibar River Valley, so called Kings’ Valley, named after numerous monasteries, sanctuaries and sacral structures built by the Serbian medieval Kings along its course. Studenica Monastery was founded around 1190 as the principal endowment and mausoleum church of Stefan Nemanja, the minded founder and most powerful and prominent ruler of the Serbian Medieval State, to become and remain the most important of all Serbian Orthodox Monasteries of the rich cultural heritage of Serbia.
Žiča Monastery is the joined endowment of King Stefan the First-Crowned and his son Radoslav and younger brother Rastko Nemanjić (later Saint Sava, the first Serbian Arch-bishop) from the early 13th century (1206-1220). In 1218 Žiča Monastery was transformed into the seat of the first Serbian autonomous Archbishopric. King Stefan Nemanjić the First-crowned was crowned in Žiča Monastery in 1217 as the first King of the Nemanjić Dynasty which made Serbia a sovereign country in the Christian world. King Stefan Nemanjić the First-crowned died as monk Simon. His relics are resting in Studenica Monastery.
Sopoćani Monastery, the foundation of St. King Uroš I was built in the second half of the 13th century. It is situated in the valley of the Raška river, in the ancient region of Ras - the centre of the medieval Serbian state. The monastery church is dedicated to the Holy Trinity. In the Middle Ages it was a thriving monastery with more than a hundred monks. The monastic compound is still encircled by a thick wall. The church also served as a royal mausoleum.
Ravanica Monastery is the principal and the largest endowment of Prince Lazar who intended it for his burial church and was buried here after the tragic Battle on the Kosovo Field held on St. Vitus Day, 28 June 1389 between the Serbian and the Ottoman armies. The Church of Ascension of the Lord of Ravanica Monastery was constructed between 1375 and 1381. Ravanica Monastery has been built at the head of the works of the final style of the Serbian medieval architecture.
Manasija Monastery is the Medieval Serbian Monastery with the church dedicated to the Holy Trinity located 1 km from Despotovac in East Serbia. Set in the valley of the Resava river that runs next to it, the Monastery of Manasija was after foundation originally called by that name – the Resava Monastery.
Gračanica Monastery one of King Milutin's last monumental endowments is situated in the village of Gračanica, 5 km from Priština, the administrative centre of Kosovo and Metohija region. The monastery is in the close vicinity of Lipljan, the ancient Roman town of Ulpiana, and the old residence of bishops. Gračanica was constructed on the ruins of an older 13th-century church of the Theotokos, which was built on the ruins of a 6th century early Christian three-naved basilica.
Visoki Dečani Monastery is situated in the western part of the Serbian province of Kosovo and Metohia. It was built between 1327 and 1335 by the Serbian medieval king St. Stefan of Dečani and was dedicated to the Ascension of the Lord. Although the monastery buildings suffered damage from the Turkish occupation, the church has been completely preserved with beautiful 14th century fresco paintings. Today a young brotherhood of 30 brethren lives in the monastery continuing the centuries old tradition of the past. The brotherhood has developed various activities: wood carving, icon painting, book publishing and is also active in the missionary work. The beautiful monastic services are served according to the typicon of Mount Athos.