Old Ras – Stari Ras – Old Serbia

Old Ras – Stari Ras – Old Serbia Novi Pazar

Stari Ras is Medieval complex of remains of the citadel and the Royal court of the Old Serbia located on the Gradina Hill, 11 km west of Novi Pazar, on the place where in the Middle Ages roads from west and south converged, leading further to the east. The Stari Ras archaeological complex consists of several monuments, finds and remains, among the most significant are localities of the Gradina on Pazarište locality with Podgrađe, Trgovište, Gradina in Postenje, Reljina gradina, Cave with the Saint archangels Monastery, Naprelj Church and the Latin Church in Postenje. It is assumed that this fortified locality was erected during the reign of the Byzantine emperor John II Comnenus – Komnenos, 1118-1143.

Comprehensive multidisciplinary researches are still under way after which researches will determine exact location of the Old Ras site, among several places and localities. However, one of the locality of the Stari Ras is situated 298 km south from Belgrade and 8 km away from Novi Pazar, on the road leading to Sopoćani Monastery, at the Pazariste/Trgovishte site, there are ruins of Gradina Fortification. Another locality, the Ras-Postenje near Novi Pazar is only partly and poorly researched and explored, but gives researches interesting results that prove it significant and the largest heritage in the Ras area. Its favorable position in the historical area known as Old Serbia along the Raška River gorge, on the crossroads between the Adriatic Sea and state of Zeta, Bosnia in the west and Kosovo in the east, added to its importance as the first capital of the Serbian Medieval state. The name of Ras was first time mentioned in the Medieval sources of the Byzantine Tzar Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus.

One of Stari Ras remains, the Gradina fort on Pazarište, with the lower town of Trgovište is located 11 km west of modern Novi Pazar, close to the Sopoćani Monastery. This fort was former monumental Stari Ras fortification on the confluence of Raska and Ibar rivers, featuring particular forms of monumental construction and interventions on the landscape and water as especially crucial component. Stari Ras is the most significant Serbian cultural landmark built on the eastern border of Serbian early-middle age state. Stari Ras was founded between the 8th and the 10th centuries and got deserted sometime in the 13th century. Ras /the antique Arsa/ and the Postenje fortification make the largest and the only Roman forts among twenty that existed in the Ras area, that have been rebuilt and used in the Middle ages. In Ras fort archaeologists have excavated coins minted during the reign of King Radoslav, which are the first coins minted in Serbia, weapons, Romanesque dish from the north Germany, stone mold for manufacture of medallion of the Holy Virgin with Christ….By the Latin name Rascia it was later in history used as the recognition for the Serbian state /and Serbs as Rascians/, whose greatest extent in 12th century towards the east and in the 14th century stretched from the Danube River to the Corinthian Gulf and from Thrace to the Adriatic coast.

The fortification of Stari Ras Gradina is situated on the top of mountain range and has the shape of irregular rectangle. Stari Ras fort is 180 meters long and its width vary between 20 and 60 meters. One side of the Stari Ras fortification goes along the peak of the range from where terrain strongly descend so access to the fort is almost impossible. The other side of Stari Ras spreads parallel with the first one along tender slope. Stari Ras  site is strengthen with four smaller and one large tower, probably with Donjon tower. This tower has semi-circular 8 meters wide  base. The walls of 1,5 to 2,2 meters were built of crashed stone and karst mortar with the securing path with giant iron needles. In the inner part of the Stari Ras fortification there was the court that leaned on the biggest tower. The Stari Ras fort was entered through two gates, from the western and the southern sides. The main gate on the western side was protected with two semi-circular tower of unequal dimensions. This form of Stari Ras fortress date probably from around 1149. The remains of the late-antiquity walls were excavated from the earlier period in the area of the Northern part. This wall was strengthen with the tower of rectangular basis.

Stari Ras remained the center of prosperity and cultural identity being one of the first capitals of the Medieval Serbian state. In 1230 during the reign of King Radoslav Nemanjic there was the first Serbian mint in Stari Ras fort. Stari Ras was destroyed in big fire in 1233 when Serbian novelty moved King Radoslav from the throne and brought his brother Vladislav for the King. Stari Ras was later completely devastated by the Turks and present day only ruins of unusual shaped fortification stand with five donjon towers reminding of its great past times. Today the city of Stari Ras lies in mostly unenclosed and unprotected ruins close to the city of Novi Pazar, which /probably/ began its own life as the trading enclave for Ras.

Together with the Church of SS Apostles Peter and Paul and St. George’s Pillars – Djurdjevi Stupovi Monastery and Sopocani Monastery, the Stari Ras historical complex represents the unique cultural evidence and monumental complex of architecture listed in 1979 among UNESCO heritage. Medieval walled cities are definitely one of the most romantic places to see. Until today they maintain their medieval atmosphere and you can easily imagine soldiers guarding the gates, armies trying to conquer the fortified city, medieval markets… So let’s go for a trip through Serbia to discover its exciting Middle Ages!

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