Interesting facts about the Sopoćani monastery

Sopoćani monastery

The Sopoćani monastery is an Orthodox monastery dedicated to the Holy Trinity.

It is located in central Serbia, next to Novi Pazar which is 290 kilometers (180 miles) from Belgrade.

The Sopoćani monastery is an endowment of Serbian king Stefan Uroš I (1243-1276). He was one of the most important rulers in Serbian history.

It was built from 1259 to 1270 by King Uroš I Nemanjić as a church which would serve as his burial place, and was extended and renovated in the mid-14th century by his great-grandson Dušan.

The Sopoćani monastery was expanded and renovated by his great grandson Dusan in the mid 14th century.

The Sopoćani monastery is a reminder of the contacts between Western civilization and the Byzantine world.

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It was named after the Old Slavic word “sopot” which means “spring.”

Today this is one of the most important cultural monuments that was included in the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1979.

Shortly after the clash with the Turks in Kosovo Polje (1389) Sopocani Monastery suffered serious damage and had to be restored by the Serbian Despotate when certain changes were done and special attention was paid to strengthening of its fortifications.

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At the beginning of the 16th century Sopocani Monastery was without the lead roof and the narthex was partially destroyed. In the 16th century Turkish violence forced the monks of Sopocani Monastery to flee to the secluded Crna Reka Monastery, when they took the coffin with the body of King Stefan the First-Crowned. Brought back to life in the late 16th century, when it was thoroughly renovated and numbered over 100 monks, the Sopocani Monastery was finally deserted in 1689.

At that tragic case Sopocani Monastery was ruined and set aflame by the advancing Turks who chased the rebellious Serbs northwards. Sopocani Monastery was left in a pitiful state for the next two and a half centuries until it was finally renovated in 1929. Renovation of Sopocani Monastery continued after the Second World War and great attention was given to conservation of the frescoes.

The frescoes in the Sopoćani Monastery, dating from about 1270-1276, are among the finest in Byzantine and Serbian medieval art.

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These exceptional paintings represent the work of the best artists of that period who were unable to work in the territory of the Byzantine Empire and found refuge at the court of the Serbian king.

The most famous fresco is the Dormition of the Virgin that covers over 30 square meters (323 square feet) and it is located in the central nave of the church. The Virgin, surrounded by Christ, angels, apostles, bishops and many of the heroes with their heads down, occupies the central part of the composition.

The facade was covered with fresco-plaster, and then decorated with ornaments in white, ocher and rouge color. The facade got destroyed during centuries.

A demand was created for portable icons due to Byzantine influence and the introduction of iconostasis in churches.

Sopoćani, two episodes of the documentary series “Witnesses of Times” produced by the broadcasting service RTB in 1999-2000.

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