Ravanica Monastery

Ravanica Monastery

Ravanica Monastery is located in the foot of Kucaj Mountains, close to village of Senje, near town of Cuprija, in Central Serbia. Ravanica Monastery is the principal and the largest endowment of Prince Lazar who intended it for his burial church and was buried here after the tragic Battle on the Kosovo Field held on St. Vitus Day, 28 June 1389 between the Serbian and the Ottoman armies.

The Church of Ascension of the Lord of Ravanica Monastery was constructed between 1375 and 1381. Ravanica Monastery has been built at the head of the works of the final style of the Serbian medieval architecture. In the following years other buildings of the Ravanica Monastery complex were added: the refectory, the dormitory, hospital, farm buildings and strong wall-fortification with seven towers. After Prince Lazar’s tragic death at Kosovo Polje /Kosovo Field/ Battle in 1389, he was canonized in 1390 and his holy relics were brought here and added to the fame of the Ravanica Monastery. Frescoes of Ravanica Monastery were painted few years before the Battle on Kosovo Polje. The portraits of founder’s family were painted and repainted after the Kosovo Battle, when the tragic scene of Prince Lazar’s death and his wife Princess Milica and their sons Stefan and Vuk were added.

Being thus essentially connected with the most important figure of the Kosovo Battle cycle of folk epic songs, Ravanica Monastery become even more widely known. Destroyed several times during the Turkish conquest, Ravanica Monastery was reconstructed in the 16th century, but then at the time of the First Serbian Great Migration /end of the 17th century/ it experienced even greater misfortune as it was burnt down and looted remaining in ruins for next 30 years. During the Hapsburg occupation of Serbia /1717 – 1739/ Ravanica Monastery was rebuilt, a new low narthex was added and new frescoes were painted. The Serbian Patriarch Danilo the Third writes about the Prince Lazar’s decoration of the Ravanica Monastery : “The Godlike church has been adorned with beautiful marble, the divine icons have been filled with gold and silver, not only the icons, but walls of the church have been enlighten with gold. The Monastery has been encircled with high towers and strong walls, fortified with fence, that has not been seen before”.

By its architectural design Ravanica Monastery represents the beginning of the “Morava school” architectural style. The Ravanica Monastery church itself represents the authentic combination of the Holy Mountain tradition of trefoil base and the inscribed cross with five domes what was favorite for the time of King Milutin in the 14th century. The trefoil base of Ravanica Monastery was the example for future buildings of shrines in Serbia. The height of the slender cupola of the Ravanica Monastery, surrounded with four smaller ones at the corners is also a new feature. The facade of Ravanica Monastery is done on the usual Byzantine principle of combining layers of bricks and stones, but it is further enlivened by the beautiful large rosette above the western portal and by chessboard painted semi-circular fields underneath the cupolas. The frames of the Ravanica Monastery windows are richly carved in shallow relief.

The original Ravanica Monastery frescoes finished in 1385-87 also set examples for the subsequent painters both with their iconographic choice and the refined style. New motifs that are to be found in all the following Morava style of architecture churches are Holy Warriors, a large number of hermits, medallions surrounded by rainbow colored strips. The style of Ravanica Monastery frescoes is characterized by a new sense for movement, individual portraits and predominance of color over painting itself. The painting in the narthex date from the 18th and the 19th centuries. In 1392 the Holy incorruptible relics of Holy Prince Lazar were brought here and kept with special respect what made Ravanica Monastery one of the most venerated pilgrimage of Serbia.