Restoration Uncovers More Frescoes in Pec Patriarchate
The Patriarchate of Peć, a complex of medieval sacral edifices near the Kosovo town of Peć, next to the Bistrica River at the mouth of the Rugovska Klisura canyon, is one of the most significant monuments of Serbian history.
The monasterial complex includes four churches and a series of other edifices built in the 13th and 14th centuries. The founders of some of the churches were the notable Archbishops Arsenije I, Nikodim I and Danilo II.
The oldest structure in this complex, the Church of the Holy Apostles, was built in the early decades of the 13th century by Abbot Arsenije, later to become Serbian Archbishop. Between 1321 and 1324, Arsenije's successor, Archbishop Nikodim, built the Church of St. Demetrius along the northern wall of this church. Their successor, Archbishop Danilo II, later built the Church of the Holy Mother of God Hodegetria ('one who shows the way') along the southern wall of the Church of the Holy Apostles, which includes a parecclesion devoted to Arsenije of Serbia and St. John the Forerunner. In the 1330s, this Church dignitary also built a narthex with a tower as well as the small Church of St. Nicholas along the southern wall of the Church of the Holy Mother of God Hodegetria.
For many centuries, the Patriarchate of Peć was the seat of Serbian archbishops and patriarchs. Since its founding in the 13th century, the Patriarchate has attracted learned theologians, reputable writers and chosen artists. This is why the Patriarchate is today not only the former seat of the Serbian Church, but also a repository of a substantial artistic legacy.
The 30th UNESCO World Heritage Committee session, meeting in the Lithuanian city of Vilnius in July of this year, unanimously decided to include the monasterial complexes of the Patriarchate of Peć, Gračanica and the Holy Mother of God of Ljeviša on the UNESCO List of World Cultural and Natural Heritage. This followed the inclusion of the Dečani Monastery, which was entered on UNESCO's list in 2004.
There are now four cultural monuments from Kosovo and Metohija included on the list of the most elite monuments of the world.
Work on restoration of the Patriarchate of Peć complex began in 2006 and was carried out as the first part of a project called "Protection and Presentation of the Churches of the Patriarchate of Peć". The aim of the work was to effect static overhaul and to protect the churches from humidity.
The work was backed by the Republic of Serbia Ministry of Culture and the Serbian Orthodox Church, and was funded by the Serbian Government.
The project, in keeping with the conditions of the Republican Institute for the Protection of Monuments of Belgrade, was devised by the ALBO Inženjering enterprise of Belgrade. It was authored by architect Marija Jovin, who also carried out planning supervision. Architect Siniša Temerinski was in charge of the work, while painter Radomir Petrović was in charge of the conservation work on the façades. Conservation work on the murals of the Church of the Holy Mother of God was done by painter Slobodan Stojilović.
The Church of St. Demetrius has only two windows, one at the altar on the eastern side and the other on the northern wall. The detected biforium was located above the sarcophagus of Patriarch Jefrem.
As sections of the outer wall were being removed from the biforium, two frescoes emerged depicting two female figures:
"The window on the northern side of the façade of the Church of St. Demetrius, carved in the 14th century as a very fine onyx biforium, was walled up in the 17th century.
"This was done so that a portrait of the deceased Patriarch Jefrem - buried in the stone tomb in the church - could be painted on the inside. The walling on the outside was done rather crudely, with chunks of chipped stone.
During conservation work on the facades of the churches, part of the wall closing the window was removed and two unknown frescoes were revealed. On the sides of the window appeared two elongated female figures, which Marija Jovin quickly named 'the Princesses' due to their elegance and good condition.
By carefully disassembling the window and transferring the painting of Patriarch Jefrem to the other church wall, the window was completely bared and the newly-discovered frescoes showed themselves in their full beauty," said architect Siniša Temerinski in charge of the work.
Regarding the author of these painted female figures, Mr. Temerinski sets out: "On the eastern side of the window is a female figure called the 'Princess with the Crown' because of the beautiful crown she wears and her attire. Such dress could have only been worn by someone of noble birth, perhaps even someone from the ruling family. On the western side of the window is the figure 'Princess with the Veil', also in beautiful dress but wearing a crown covered by a white veil. Both figures maintain an identical position with their hands; the right hand is painted as if expecting to receive the cross, while the left's palm is turned outward. There are no white-painted crosses, pearls on the dress, crowns or earrings, and no name to identify the figures. This implies that the paintings were left unfinished. It was customary to depict women martyrs and saints in the widows, as on the southern window of the Church of the Holy Mother of God in the Patriarchate of Peć. However, it is possible that in this case the figures represent historical persons from the time of Emperor Dušan."