Cultural Corridors of South East Europe

Heritage by Type / Christian religious centre

Stari Ras and Sopocani

Stari Ras and Sopocani

About the site

Corridor: Diagonal Road
Country: Serbia, Novi Pazar
Type: Christian religious centre, Cultural Landscape
Epoch: Middle Ages
Theme: Christian Monasteries
World Heritage: Cultural Heritage
Middle AgesChristian MonasteriesChristian religious centreCultural LandscapeCultural Heritage

On the outskirts of Stari Ras, the first capital of Serbia, there is an impressive group of medieval monuments - fortresses, churches and monasteries. The monastery at Sopocani stands out as a testimony of the contacts between Western civilization and the Byzantine world.
Sopocani Monastery
In the beautiful slopes on the mountain Zlatar, near the old capital of Serbia, Old Ras, lies one of the most respected monuments of the Middle Ages in Serbia. King Uros I build the monastery to be the burial place of this close family and himself. The Church of the Holy Trinity was built in the style of the Raska School, but the most valued is the fresco paintings that decorate the walls inside. After the invasion of the Crusaders in Constantinople the painters from the Emperors palace field to the near by countries. King Uros I hired them to decorate his Church in the latest Byzantine fashion. The Sopocani frescoes are among the greatest artistic achievements of both medieval Serbia and the 13th century Europe. One part of the monastery was painted after the repairs in the time of czar Dusan. Looking at it from the outside it reminds us of a Basilica (type of church that was common in the west of Europe) that tells us that the builders came probably from the coast of the Adriatic Sea where the influence from Italy was strong.
St. Peter's Church
There is a legend that tells the story that St. Paul, on his way to Rome, build a church on this very place to be used for christening these lands. Archeology confirms the egistence of a baptistery from the 6th century. Later on, in the 10th or 11th on these ruins a Church was founded which became in the 13th century the seat of the Raska bishopric. What is also interesting for this church is that Stefan Nemanja, the first ruler of the Serbian lands, was baptized there and there he also gave the throne to his son Stefan the First-Crowned.
Below the church was an underground vault where priceless Greek vases, gold jewels, silver vessels, objects made out of glass and amber and other artifacts from the 5th – 6th century.
Djurdjevi Stupovi Monastery (St. George’s Pillars Monastery)
The first mention of this monastery was made by Stefan the First-crowned who said that Stefan Nemanja, his father built a church, on a hill overlooking the capital city, Ras, dedicated to St. George as a sign of gratitude for winning the battle at Pantin against the Byzantine empire. The Monastery was destroyed during the Ottoman occupation and the church is still today in ruins. It got it’s name after high bell towers similar to those from the Romanesque period in west Europe which decorated the main entrance of the church. The interior of Djurdjevi Stupovi church belongs to the world of 12th century Byzantine art, and the external appearance is similar to Romanesque architecture. Only fragments are left of richly painted frescoes in the church. A couple of years ago life has come back to this monastery. The dorms (konaci) were restored and the monks returned with a big desire revive the spiritual life of the monastery.
Read more about Stari Ras and Sopocani at the Unesco World Heritage List.