Banja Monastery

Banja Monastery

Banja Monastery or, as it was called earlier in the history, Saint Nicholas Monastery of Dabar is situated in the very vicinity of Priboj in southwest Serbia, on a highland plateau of the Banja Brdo at the right bank of the Lim River. Banja Monastery got its name after curative springs /banja – spa/ right on the monastery property that were used for healing of varius illnesses from the ancient times. Priboj Spa is located just beside the Saint Nicholas monastery fence. Banja Monastery existed since the 12th century and was dedicated to Saint Nicholas. Banja Monastery is endowment of Nemanjic Family and considered as one of the oldest and most important among Serbian Medieval Monasteries.

Banja Monastery was first mentioned in the 12th century in the Typichon of Studenica Monastery when its Prior took part in election of Prior of Studenica Monastery. Banja Monastery was in 1219, during the Church Assembly in Studenica Monastery regarded as the fourth Bishopric seat of the Serbian Orthodox Churh and the center of Dabar Bishopric headed by the Bishop Hristofor from Chillandari Monastery. Throughout the 14th century St. Nicholas Monastery has enjoyed a great respect and it obviously belonged to a renowned family of regional property owners. From the end of the 14th century until the fourth decade of the 15th century Banja Monastery was a travelers’ station upon the return of merchants with their goods from Dubrovnik on their way to the inner areas of Serbia and Bosnia and Constantinople. The Monastery of Banja experienced difficult times during the Turkish occupation and was destroyed several times. Substantial reconstruction works were carried out in 1570 when Banja Monastery was reconstructed by the First Patriarch of the renovated Patriarchate Makary Sokolovic. Many graves of significant Serbian landowners during the reign of Emperor Dusan and King Uros I testify of the important role of Banja Monastery until the break of the Serbian Medieval State. For some period Banja Monastery was the Mausoleum of mighty Vojnović Family landowners.

Nowadays appearance of Banja Monastery was finished in 1329 either by King Stefan of Decani or King Uros I on the ruins of the former Church of St. Elijah. Dedication of the Monastery to St. Nicholas performs strong faith of the Saint. The monastic complex consists of the Church of St. Nicholas, the smaller Church of the Ascension built by the southern wall of St. Nicolas Church and foundations of St. Elijah’s Church. Foundation of St. Nicholas Church is in the shape of inscribed cross with semi-circle apse and two semi-circled bays on the eastern side and narthex with the vast open western end. Two domes resting above the middle part of naos and narthex finalize the construction complex of the shrine. Some remains of fresco decoration as chess fields and floral ornaments are to be still found on the exterior walls of the Church of St. Nicholas from which one can conclude that the church was originally decorated even on the outside facade. In the altar and naos there are two layers of frescoes preserved dating from the 14th and the 16th centuries. In the narthex there are frescoes from the 16th century that appear in its full splendor. The older fresco paintings are considered from the period after the classical Renaissance paintings of Paleolog’s Byzantine style. The later frescoes are works of unknown painters from Peć Painting Workshop imitating by style and iconography the older fresco-decoration. Last time The Monastery of St. Nicholas was rebuilt in 1905. Since 1974 comprehensive archaeological excavations are carried out when the very monastery complex has been significantly enlarged. Remarkably rich treasury of Banja Monastery was discovered comprising 40 objects of precious metal ornamented by precious and semi-precious stones and various liturgical and ecclesiastic vessels, gold-plated, silver-plated chalices and peculiar crystal objects and group of wonderfully decorated crosses. The Treasury of Banja Monastery is regarded as the best preserved and the richest among the Medieval Treasuries in the Balkans. Banja Monastery is characterized as the monument of exceptional importance belonging to the category of the most significant cultural-historical monument in Serbia.

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