Saint Nicholas Monastery Kuršumlija

Saint Nicholas Monastery Kuršumlija

Monastery of Saint Nicholas in Kuršumlija is the first endowment of famous Stefan Nemanja, the founder of mighty Nemanjic Dynasty and of the Medieval Serbia. The Saint Nicholas Monastery was built between 1159 – 1165 on the Toplica river in the northern part of town of Kursumlija as the work of Constantinopolitan masters. After encounter with the Byzantine emperor Michael I Comnenus in Nis, Stefan Nemanja received ruler’s dignitary status with license to erect churches.

Saint Nicholas Monastery Kursumlija is one-nave structure, remarkable for its brick walls executed in Byzantine style with a low eight-sided dome. The main church was built along the demands of Orthodox rituals in a way which was common for the Byzantine architecture. The facade of the Saint Nicholas Church and the Saint Panteleimon Church in Nerezi has been executed in the same techniques. The single nave Kursumlija church with its cupola, in the rhythmic plan of its parts, with vestibules on the sides which were a novelty in Raska, and in its internal structure – the cupola, the arches, the highly developed substructure – has everything which is characteristic of Byzantine architecture, including inner walls of mixed materials /crystalline calcium carbonate and bricks/. Externally Saint Nicholas church Kursumlija is done in the Romanesque style. In 1219 it became the seat of the Serbian Bishopric when the nartex with two towers were added /under influence of St. Tryphon Catherdal in Kotor completed in 1167 and like pillars-towers added on St. George’s Church in Ras only few years later/. In the 14th century the small chapel was built on the southern side of the Saint Nicholas church, probably to be the final place of rest for the founder. Unfortunately the fresco decoration of the Saint Nicholas Church was lost over the course of the centuries.

The Church of the Holy Virgin – the Mother of God in Kursumlija was established by Ana Dondolo, the wife of Stefan Nemanya in 1159 as the nunnery in the close – direct proximity of the Saint Nicholas Monastery, at the confluence of Kosanica and Toplica Rivers. It has been built on the ruins of the early-Byzantine church from the 6th century. Between 1158 and 1162 the wall with three semicircular vaulted corridors of the altar space has been built, when upper parts of the main nave have been added. The oldest part of the Holy Virgin church was built of bricks, while the reconstructed parts were built of rows of slab stone and sporadic layers of bricks. The history of this important cultural monument is not well known. It is assumed that Mara, the daughter of despot Djuradj Brankovic stayed in this monastery, after she returned to Serbia. In Ottoman invasion of the Serbian territories in 1454 the Toplica area has struggled, when probably the Holy Virgin Church has been partially destroyed, when dormitories were burnt. By the end of the 17th century the Holy Virgin church in Kursumija was active, which means that the church itself was not destroyed. It was abandoned at the end of the 17th century and up till the present it lay in ruins. The archaeological and conservation-restoration works have been carried out at the Holy Virgin Church in Kursumlija, and yet it is only a picturesque ruin bearing witness of good passed times.

 

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