Studenica Monastery – Mother of all Monasteries

Stefan Nemanja, the Father of Serbia and the founder of the Nemanjic dynasty, founded Studenica Monastery in 1190 and dedicated it to the Assumption of Virgin Mary.

Stefan Nemanja, the Father of Serbia and the founder of the Nemanjic dynasty, founded Studenica Monastery in 1190 and dedicated it to the Assumption of Virgin Mary. The legend says that, while he was hunting along the Studenica River close to the place where it empties into the Ibar River, the grand county ruler Stefan Nemanja and his escort stopped to rest. Delighted by the nature and guided by the Providence, he decided to build a church dedicated to Virgin Mary.

The original combination of Byzantine space, structure and the exterior shapes and their realization in white marble, which had originated from Romanesque architecture, makes Studenica Monastery a master-piece of medieval architecture. The frescoes were painted mostly thanks to Saint Sava, but the name of the Greek painter, author of 12 monumental compositions, was not recorded. The unknown Greek invented a completely new technique: he used fresco painting to imitate mosaic style by painting little mosaic squares on pasted golden leaves. These frescoes, master-pieces of Byzantine fresco painting, have marked the development of Serbian medieval art.

The famous Crucifix and the portraits of the saints at the altar make Studenica a unique monastery. The majority of the frescoes, painted in the 16th century, are the representative works of the period. It is less known that the first Serbian hospital was established in the monastery. Eight kilometers away is Saint Sava’s ascetic cell, built in a rock.

The remains of Stefan Nemanja (Saint Simon), his wife, Anastasia, the nun, and his sons Vukan and Stefan I, were buried in the Church of Virgin Mary in Studenica. Many generations of believers have been coming to their graves as well as many good people from around the world. They have been coming to admire all what this Serbian royal laura presents in the history of Europe’s and world’s civilization. With its churches, dining rooms and towers Studenica has kept its original function. Being proclaimed a first class legally protected monument, it was registered as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1986.

What to See?

Close to Studenica, going upstream the Ibar River towards Raska, there is Gradac monastery, situated at the foot of Golija Mountain. Gradac was a memorial built by French princess and Serbian queen Helen of Anjou. She entered a monastic order and died there. In her honor, as the legend says, king Milutin had lilacs planted along the whole Ibar Valley. Maglic Fortress, the best preserved medieval fortress, is situated on a hill above the valley.

Close to Gradac Monastery there is Zica Monastery and its Church of Holy Assumption which was built by Stefan I, the first Serbian king.