Manasija Monastery – Resava Monastery

Manasija Monastery – Resava Monastery

Manasija Monastery is the Medieval Serbian Monastery of the Serbian Orthodox Church with the Holy Trinity Churhc located 1 km of Despotovac in East Serbia. Set in the valley of the Resava river that runs next to it, the Monastery of Manasija was after the foundation originally called by that name – the Resava Monastery.

Manasija Monastery is the last grand endowment of the Serbian Medieval rulers, constructed from 1407 and 1418 by the Serbian Despot Stefan Lazarevic. After death in 1427, the royal founder Stefan Lazarevic was buried in the Manasija Monastery. After victorious death of his father Prince Lazar in the Kosovo Battle, the minor Stefan Lazarević administered the fathers lands and in 1402 had received the title of despot by becoming the most powerful figure of the Medieval Serbia. Sister Olivera was taken by the Sultan I Bayazed, while the sister Jelena got married to the ruler of Zeta, Djuradj II Stratimirovic Balsic.

Stefan Lazarevic was highly educated and warrior by his duty who possessed commander skills and knights manners, diplomat and one of most dignified prominent personalities among twenty four knights /ritters/ of the Dragon order, highly respected among the European nobility. He possessed large library with books and texts in Slavonic language and philosophic works, historical books and poetry in Greek and Latin languages. Stefan Lazarevic was fruitful literate, translator and artist. His best known works are “Law on mining”, “Pohvalno slovo Knezu Lazaru” /The Grave Sobbing for prince Lazar – an epic text on Prince Lazar/ from 1403 and inscription on the marble column at the Gazimestan /place of the Kosovo Battle, 1389/, while his most significant work is poetic enlightenment of “Slovo ljubve” /A Homage to Love – a poetic epistle to his brother Vuk/ from 1409, which is regarded as one of the most beautiful texts of the Serbian Literature. After the establishment of Manasija Monastery many educated monks have gathered there. They fostered copying and literary work that by its excellence and production changed the history of the South Slavic literature and languages spreading its influence all over the Orthodox Balkans. The most famous scholar of the so called Resava copying school was Constantine the Philosopher “Konstantin Filozof” and influential writer and biographer of despot Stefan.

By its spiritual and symbolic importance and the position of the monastic community, the Church of the Holy Trinity represents its central achievement. The Monastery of Manasija stands protected by the massive walls with eleven towers and trenches. In spite of its strong defensive importance Manasija Monastery was severely attacked and damaged several times by Turks. The complex of Manasija Monastery was looted and burnt in 1456 so it served more as a fort than a place of worship. During the Austrian occupation gunpowder was kept in the church of Manasija Monastery and in 1718 its explosion blew up most of the narthex. At the beginning of the 19th century the enterprising monks started restoration and in 1845 the first state-donated conservation works in Serbia were concluded.

Although it shares the rest of its features, the Church of the Holy Trinity of Manasija Monastery stands aside from the predominant Morava School of ecclesiastic architecture in the field of decoration. The facades of Manasija Monastery are covered only by ashlars and thin mortar beds arranged in a tranquil order so different from the other churches of the period. Only colonette’s arcade cornice and the windows with typically pointed arches decorate the flat walls of Manasija Monastery. In this way the church unites the characteristics of the edifices built by Nemanjic Dynasty and those of the new dynasty started by Stefan’s father, Prince Lazar who was killed in the Kosovo Battle in 1389.

Although heavily damaged the fresco paintings of Manasija Monastery are considered the most beautiful works of art among the Medieval fresco decoration in Serbia. The portrait of the founder Stefan Lazarevic on the western wall is the most important among the preserved frescoes of Manasija Monastery : the tall, red-haired ruler dressed in elaborate vest adorned with two headed eagles holds the model of the church and the founding charter while the Christ crowns him and the angles present him with a sword and a scepter. The glorious portraits of the Holy warriors are located on the northern and the southern walls /beside the choirs/. In the upper parts of the choirs are scenes from the life of Jesus Christ and illustrations of the Stories from the Holy Gospel. In the main dome of Manasija Monastery are painted the Prophets of the Old Testament. In altar of Manasija Monastery there are Holy Apostles and the row of the Holy Fathers among whom is the first Serbian Archbishop Saint Sava /the last in the row towards the North/. Manasija Monastery is also famous for the busts of the saints in the medallions woven in rainbow-colored stripes. The master-painter who worked in Manasija Monastery skillfully handled the space, his figures are antique proportioned and of natural motions while the balance between the gold and blue surfaces creates unique luminosity.