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  • Jerome Kocher

51. Monasteries of Kosovo

The Orthodox monasteries of Kosovo go back centuries. Unlike villages and cities that were destroyed in the recent war, these sites were not targeted by Serbia because these iconic buildings are considered Serbian Orthodox. Today they are UNESCO sites, protected by the United Nations since they are a legacy to humanity. Although less populated, they are still functional monasteries, two for nuns and one for monks.

Although the outside exterior appears simple, maybe Romanesque, the interior is a visual panorama from corner to corner, from domed top to marble floor. Every inch is enlivened with frescoes of Christian history. Add to that the golden iconography of Orthodox tradition, the light, the shadows and you have a visual feast. To some it’s an over stimulation.

Each monastery is a walled off park setting, green and peaceful, a sanctuary from the outside world, whether medieval, Ottoman, or modern commerce. Each church would have a main sanctuary with adjoining chapels. One multi-domed structure was actually considered several churches connected to gather.

It was very common that one chapel was dedicated to Saint Nicholas. He was a 4th century bishop in Asia Minor and revered in the Eastern Orthodox Church. The mixing of ethnicities and religions in Europe, then early America also mixed legends and traditions. One story about Bishop Nicholas is that of a family in his district who fell on hard times and was forced to consider selling one of their daughters into slavery. Allegedly, Bishop Nicholas threw a gift of some gold coins down their chimney so they could survive. Add to that the German nickname “Claus” as a shortened form of Nicholas and you eventually arrive at Father Christmas.

But this post is about the Orthodox Church. Just as in Western Christianity, in the Eastern Church there are Greek, Russian, Albanian, Serbian Orthodox denominations and more. I don’t intend this to be a history lesson, so I will just include some images of these religious sites as Art History in order to appreciate the architecture and flowering of artistic expression from an Eastern Byzantine tradition.

Deçan Monastery. The simplest, maybe the most beautiful.

Gracanica Monastery

The Serbian Patriarchate in Peja

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