Friday 3 October 2014

Studenica Monastery, one of four UNESCO Heritage Sites in Serbia

It is staggering to see how many Orthodox monasteries there are in Serbia.  Except for one or two modern structures, these monasteries all originated from the Middle Ages, built roughly from 12th century to 16th century. 

It is said that Christianity was spread to Serbia around the 4th century.  The most important monastery standing now is the Studenica (pronounced as Stu-den-ni-tcha), some 200km south of Belgrade, the capital.  Only part of the route is covered by the highway network; most of it winds about small towns and villages, and mountain gorges.  My advice is to
break up this distance and stay a night (or two) at a nearby city Kraljevo.  From Kraljevo, the journey only takes a little over one hour.

The Studenica Monastery was built in the 12th century by Stefan Nemanja, who was the Grand Prince of Serbia at that time (equivalence to a Lord) and was one of the most important figures of Serbian history and culture.  He is remembered as the founder of the Nemanjić Dynasty, the most important ruling house in southeastern Europe; his contributions in science and education still resonates today.

Studenica is listed as an UNESCO Heritage Site, one of four in Serbia.  The most important feature, besides the grand architecture and stunning use of white-and-grey marble, is the fresco painting inside the church, many of which originated since the foundation of the church in 12th century.  By the 16th century, restoration was being done by painting over the existing drawing, all of which had since fallen off. 

The dome also fell down during the Turkish invasion (Serbia was under Turkish Ottoman rule for four hundred years).  As this region is prone to incessant rain and humidity, the paintings were severely affected.  It is interesting to note that the Byzantium blue was a more expensive colour in the Middle Ages than the gold.

As the inside of the church is quite dark (Orthodox churches favour small windows) photography was quite impossible; it was also not allowed.  I managed to take a few shots, with the permission of the residing monk, who imposed strict behavior of respect while visiting the inner church (e.g., no slouching with hands inside pocket).  Follow this link to see close-ups of the fresco.

A handful of monks still serves in this monastery, with a few more in training.  There is a country inn and restaurant nearby.  Reserve a good half-day to enjoy and take in this breath-taking monument.

Official website (in English):


斯圖代尼察修道院 (Studenica Monastery) 就是其中一間最著名的修導院,距離首都貝爾格萊德南面大概200公里。從首都到斯圖代尼察修道院的路程只有部份設有公路,其餘的都是經過小鎮、小村莊的路。我建議用兩天去完成這段路,中間可以在鄰近城市Kraljevo 過夜,之後從Kraljevo 到修道院只需一個多小時。

斯圖代尼察修道院於12世紀由塞爾維亞的大王公Stefan Nemanja 興建的,他是塞爾維亞文化及歴史上其中一位最重要的人物,他亦建立了歐洲東南部最重要的皇朝Nemanjić Dynasty,他當時對科學及教育的貢獻至今仍然被人民歌頌。

斯圖代尼察修道院已被列入聯合國教科文組織遺產,成為塞爾維亞四個遺產中的其中一個。除了主建築物內灰白相間的雲石是參觀的重點外,教堂內的壁畫亦是一個不能錯過的重點,這裏很多的壁畫 (fresco painting是由12世紀修導院建立的時候一直保存到現在。修導院在16世紀進行過一次翻新工程,由於其中一些壁畫的顏料已經剝落,翻新的時候就在原有的畫作中補上新的顏料。

塞爾維亞曾被土耳其奧斯曼帝國 (Ottoman) 統治了四百年,而在土耳其人入侵的時候這座修導院的圓拱屋頂就曾經倒塌下來。由於這個地區時常下雨並十分潮濕,建築物上很多顏料都不能保存。而更有趣的是在中古時期,這種拜占庭藍色原來是比黃金更昂貴的!




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