Rulers from the Nemanjić, dynasty which ruled over Serbia for two centuries, left behind more than 200 endowments. The founding father of the Nemanjić line, the Grand Prince Stefan, also founded the monastery near Kraljevo on the right bank of the Studenica river. This monument to the past of Serbia, which was included on the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites in 1986, is rightfully said to be our window into the world.

The Church of the Virgin, the main church in the Studenica Monastery complex, was built in the Serbian-Byzantine style and painted with extremely valuable frescoes. The frescoes were overseen by the first Serbian Archbishop Sava, who was also the Hegumen of the Studenica Monastery. Everything preserved in the Studenica Monastery proves that Serbia, dating all the way back to Stefan Nemanja, was an environment open to the most significant artistic movements in Europe at the time.

“He hired Western architects to build his church, most likely from our coastal areas, and on the other hand he hired the greatest painters of the era from the East and Byzantium, probably from Constantinope to paint the frescoes at the church,” said Dr. Miodrag Marković, art historian.

In the Rugova gorge, the Patriarchate of Peć Monastery, an ancient Metohija lavra, impresses with its architectural structure consisting of four churches — Holy Apostles, St. Demetrius, Holy Mother of God and St. Nicholas, which are connecter by a narthex. A fresco titled “Loza Nemanjića” (The Nemanjić Dynasty) is painted at the very entrance into the sanctuary.

“It shows an entire yearly calendar, as well as the ‘Last Supper’, depicting a table set with a spoon, fork and knife, at a time when many did not know or use those utensils, but we have it depicted as early as the 13th century,” said Mother Haritina, Hegumenia of the Patriachate of Peć Monastery.

Visoki Dečani, the monumental endowment in the Prokletije foothills, was built during the rise of the medieval Serbian state. The founder’s inscription confirms whose legacy it is.

“Above this door there is an inscription by the Franciscan friar Vito, lead architect. The inscription says that Friar Vito erected the church to Christ the Pantocrator for two kings; Stefan Uroš III — styled Dečanski after this endowment of his — and his son Dušan, also mentioned in the inscription; and finished it over an eight-year period,” points out Hieromonik Petar, custodian of the Visoki Dečani Monastery.

The testimonies of the centuries-old sanctuaries bequeathed to the Serbian people by the Nemanjić rulers are irreplaceable in the culture and history not only of Europe, seeing as eight of the royal endowments were included on the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites, but also in the history and culture of humankind.