Our First Medieval Monasteries
Manasija was first medieval monastery we visited. My photos can't do justice to the monastery. The aerial photo I snagged online (below) begins to express the beauty of the monastery and its wooded mountian setting. The monastery is surrounded by a massive wall punctuated with 11 towers. It has a 15th century church, a ruined refectory, and modern monastic cells for the nuns who live there now.
Manasija (in Serbian, the letter "J" is pronounced "Y") was built by the Despot St. Stefan Lazarevic (despot simply means ruler and doesn't carry negative connotations in Serbian). He was an imporant Serbian prince, the son of St. Lazar (discussed below), and his relics are enshrined this church.
The church was frescoed in 1407. St. Stefan spared no expense in the frescoes. He hired the best Serbian icon painters. The backgrounds feature rich and expensive lapis lazuli. The Serbs used more lapis in their frescoes than any other medieval civilization. The colors are vibrant and compositions are dramatic.
Photography was forbidden in the church, so I am sharing photos from Вера Заварицкая's Flikr.
The patron of the temple is the Holy Trinity, so the festal commemoration is Pentecost.
|Communion of the Apostles|
|Saint Niketa, a dynamic pose I had to study in a sketch.|
There was a fantastic fresco of the Hospitality of Abraham, which represents the Holy Trinity. I sketched it because of its graceful forms. These shapes are about all that is visible on the damaged wall.
The setting is almost as beautiful as Manasija. It is set in wooded mountains and surrounded by the ruins of a wall. The alternating rows of limestone and brick are more than decoration: the composition of the walls help absorb earthquakes and mitigate structural damage.
The Ravanica frescoes feature incredible workmanship, but unfortunately are in quite poor condition today. Only the fresco of Christ healing the blind man remains in good enough condition to fully show all the features of the figures. I sketched this fresco during my time there.
|Schools of trout swam in a stream below the huge windows of the church. Every single icon in the church contained relics of saints rescued from empty and abandoned Catholic Churches in Italy. |
|The monastery features countless onion domes of all colors, shapes, and sizes.|
|We had fish for dinner this evening, with a fresh local salad, potatoes, fresh rolls, and local beer.|
Tomorrow, we'll have an early start to visit Zica, Studenica, and Sopocani.