Peć Patriarchate – Patriarchate of Peć

Peć Patriarchate – The Patriarchate of Peć

The Pec Patriarchate – “Pecka Patrijarsija” is UNESCO heritage site of Serbia and among the most prominent and the most respected Medieval Monasteries in Serbia. The Monastery Complex of the Patriarchate of Pec is located at the very entrance to the Rugova Gorge at the outskirts of town of Pec along the Pecka Bistrica River in the western part of Kosovo and Metohija. The name of the town of Pec is probably connected with the word pester meaning cave due to numerous such places in this area used since the 12th century by Orthodox monks as hermit cells for their prayers and seclusion.

The Pec Patriarchate is the unique religious and cultural complex of four Medieval churches of the Serbian Orthodox Church completely surrounded with walls except on the west side where there are monastic quarters and a water mill. Since the 13th century the Pec Patriarchate is outstanding religious, cultural and historic center of the Serbian Orthodox Church and the seat of Serbian Archbishops and Patriarchs. In medieval times, this area was positioned on one of the main trading routes linking the interior of the Balkans with the Adriatic littoral when probably the defensive tower of the former fortress was constructed on the slope of the Ljevosa Mountain. The Pec Patriarchate complex of churches used to be the gathering place of highly educated and spiritual people and of fine artistically talented monks who for centuries preserved and decorated the Serbian Archbishops’ headquarters in Pec. Thanks to its remarkable historical significance, the Pec Patriarchate remained the Serbian spiritual seat and the Mausoleum of numerous Serbian Archbishops and Patriarchs.

The Church of the Holy Apostles of Pec Patriarchate was built by Archbishop Arsenije I /Saint Sava’s successor/ in the third decade of the 13th century, when the Bishopric seat was transferred from the Zica Monastery to Pec – the mountainous hermitage at the edge of the fertile Metohija plateau. The Church of the Holy Apostles is the oldest church within the Pec Patriarchate monastic complex, planned and built according to the orders and plans of Saint Sava and fresco-painted in 1250. The architecture of the Holy Apostles Church of the Pec Patriarchate is unique combination of the Rashka school and the Serbian-Byzantine style of architecture, constructed nearly exclusively of stone and afterwards plastered. When built, the Church of the Holy Apostles of the Pec Patriarchate was plastered and painted in dark red color /cherry-red/, likewise the Zica Monastery. Northward of the latter Patriarchate complex of Pec, the adjacent Church of St. Demetrius was built by Archbishop Nikodim in 1320, while Archbishop Danilo II built the churches of the Holy Archangels dedicated to Virgin Hodegetrios and the small Church of Saint Nichola’s on its southern side. Along the fronts of the three mutually adjacent churches of Pec Patriarchate, a monumental and wonderfully painted narthex with a tower in front of it was erected during observance of Archbishop Danilo II. During the time of Archbishop Joanikije in 1345, the Church of Saint Demetrius was painted. In the 14th century repairs were carried out in the Holy Apostles Church of the Pec Patriarchate, so those parts of the church were painted afterwards. The frescoes of the Holy Apostles Church of the Pec Patriarchate date from different periods, with entire history of the styles of medieval wall painting which can be seen on the walls of the Pec churches. The earliest frescoes of the Holy Apostles Church of the Pec Patriarchate are in the sanctuary and the area beneath the dome and date from the middle of the 13th century. Those frescoes of the Saint Apostles Church of Pec Patriarchate are characterized by monumental quality and predominantly dark colors and may be ranked among the most important achievements of the Serbian painting of the 13th century. The Deisis, the monumental representation of the enthroned Christ, to whom the Virgin and the John the Forerunner address prayers on behalf mankind is painted in the altar apse. Below it is the Adoration of the Lamb – the famous Fathers of the Church paying homage to the Lamb, which is now destroyed. The north and the south walls of the central section of the sanctuary depict the Communion of Apostles. In the upper zone of the nave is, just likewise in Zica Monastery large Ascension – Christ is at the top, while Virgin, two angels and the twelve Apostles are painted on the vertical circular wall below it. Beneath the dome are the scenes of the Descent of the Holy Spirit, Peter’s Denial of Jesus and the Last Supper and the Raising of Lazarus. The frescoes on the south and west walls, probably commissioned by King Milutin include the portraits of King Stefan Prvovencani – the First-crowned and King Uros I depicted as a monk, originally a part of a procession of the Nemanjic Dynasty. The most prominent among the figures in the first zone of frescoes are those of the handsome and elongated warrior saints, painted in colorful costumes and armed to the teeth, whose harmonious moments strikingly differ from the 13th century frescoes, with their emphasis on the monastic/ascetic ideals of beauty. The scene of the Death of Patriarch Joanikije is painted above the sarcophagus in the west bay of the Church of the Holy Apostles and depicts the whole assembly of clergy gathered during the funeral, with the recognizable Pec Patriarchate architecture depiction in the background. This scene of an anonymous skilled painter-author shows that he adopted a more realistic approach to the old iconographic pattern. The burial place of the Archbishop Sava II in the church of SS Apostles in the Patriarchate of Peć deserves special attention as it shows it had been in perpetual care as cult site, where from veneration of this cleric sprang. Frescoes of the Holy Apostles Church had been repainted in the 17th century by donation of Patriarch Pajsije, while the new iconostasis  has been completed in 1722. A considerable number of frescoes of the Holy Apostles Church of the Pec Patriarchate have been painted over in 1875 by the well-known Debar painter from Tresonče village and his son Dičo which were removed in restoration carried out in 1931.

The Church of St Demetrius of the Pec Patriarchate was founded by Archbishop Nikodim /1317-1324/. Not big in size, this church features form of a shortened cross with a spacious dome above. Church of Saint Demetrius was built in alternate layers-courses of brick and stone with the dominating large dome. The entrance is framed with a harmonious stone portal designed in the Neoclassical style which was characteristic of the epoch of the Paleologue Dynasty. Joanikije is to be credited for the frescoes painted towards the middle of the 14th century. The were renovated and refreshed in the early 17th century. The first zone of frescoes depicts the valuable portraits of Saint Sava of Serbia, Emperor Dusan, his son Uros the 5th and the Archbishop Joanikije, and also a worthy composition of two Serbian Councils on a vault in the western part. The second zone of frescoes shows the passion and miracles of Saint Demetrius of Thessaloniki. The Great Feasts are shown in the uppermost parts of the nave and the sanctuary – Dormition of the Mother of God and Pentecost, Laying of Christ into Tomb, Myrrh-bearing Women at Christ Grave. The first and the lowest zone in the sanctuary shows as usual The Adoration of the Lamb painted in the 17th century, above which is the Communion of Apostles dating from the 14th century and the Virgin with two angels are depicted in the top part of the apse – 14th century. On the lateral walls there are scenes from the life of the Holy Virgin – Mother of God – The Birth of the Virgin /14th century/ and Presentation of the Holy Virgin in the Temple /17th century/. The large representation of the Ascension of Christ is painted in the dome, whole four Evangelists, Mark and Luke /14th century/ and John and Matthew /17th century/ are shown on the pendantives. The Saint Demetrius Church houses the relics of patriarchs Jefrem and Sava IV in two marble, nicely carved sarcophagi. The frescoes from the 14th century were painted by two unknown skilled well-educated Greek painters, while Georgije Mitrovanović, the most eminent Serbian painter from the 17th century and the monk from Chilandar commissioned frescoes of the 17th century.

The Church of the Virgin Hodegetria of the Pec Patriarchate was built next to the southern side of the Holy Apostles church, c. 1300. It was commissioned by Danilo II, Archbishop of Pec and a distinguished writer to counterpart the church of St Demetrius. The ground plan of the Church of the Virgin Hodegetria has the form of a floral cross with an octagonal dome borne by four free standing pillars. The Virgin Hodegetria temple is divided into three longitudinal spaces. Its two-light windows on the east and south facades feature certain Gothic elements. The Church of the Virgin Hodegetria was painted in 1330s. The founder composition on the west wall testifies to the fact that Danilo II had commissioned those works as well. Among several images of Virgin Mary the greatest attention of the researchers was attracted by Holy Virgin the Milkprofferer (Nurturer). ‘Mother of God was painted on the southern wall of the narthex, depicted as sitting in the throne with the child Christ suckling in her lap. On the left and right side two angels are represented showing their respect. To the right, three young women or girls approach, greeting the Holy Virgin with their arms outstretched. The church of the Virgin Hodegetria has the ground plan of the developed inscribed cross and above the main aisle is an octagonal dome, which rests on four free pillars. Inside the church, on the north and on the south of the main altar area according to life of Daniel the Second, this Serbian Archbishop built two chapels “in order that parakleisis should be chanted there’. ON SOME UNIDENTIFIED FIGURES IN THE WALL PAINTINGS OF THE CHURCH OF THE VIRGIN HODEGETRIA IN PEĆ, Andjela Gavrilović

The monumental narthex of the Pec Patriarchate was erected by Archbishop Danilo II in early 1330s, as an ante-church to the three adjacent temples. As first, it was open to three sides, and inside, due to the large span, there used to be five buttresses to carry the whole mass. Since the narthex had gradually deteriorated and became insecure, the arched openings were walled up within the restoration in 1560s. Little has been preserved of the original frescoes that had adorned the whole narthex in the time of Danilo II. Noteworthy is the genealogy of the Nemanjic Dynasty beginning with Nemanja and ending with King Dusan. Among the individual fresco figures, the representation of the Breast-feeding Mother of God stands out. The facade of the narthex used to be painted, too. Before 1375, above his stone throne, Saint Sava was painted on a pilaster in the doorway of the Holy Apostles Church, but signed as a patriarch instead of an archbishop which was his actual rank. Other frescoes on the vaults were painted in 1565, after the renewal of the Pec Patriarchate, commissioned by the Patriarch Makarije Sokolovic, 365 figures illustrating each day of the Calendar. The painters employed included monk Longin, the most famous Serbian painter of the latter half of the 16th c.

The Church of St Nicholas of the Pec Patriarchate is a little church, also founded by Archbishop Danilo II. It is a single nave building with a tripartite apse, of brick and stone. The tunnel vault is strengthened by an arch resting on two pilasters. The original frescoes have not survived. The latter painting of the church, completed in 1673, had been commissioned by Patriarch Makarije – Patriarch Makarios. The frescoes were created by Radul, the most famous Serbian painter of the late 17th century. The founders composition on the south wall shows Saint Nicholas taking Patriarch Makarije to Jesus Christ. On the north wall there are the portraits of the Serbian saints Simon Nemanja and Sava, as well as archbishops Arsenije I and Danilo I.

During the early Turkish conquest and the war between the Turks and Austrians, the Pec Patriarchate complex was several times seriously damaged and have been renovated and repainted in order to regain its original premium spiritual and political role. The treasury was transported to Gracanica Monastery and hidden in one of its domes. In 1690 Patriarch Arsenije III Carnojevic was forced to leave his throne before the Turkish offensive campaign spearheaded by the Tatar and Albanian irregulars, and fled to safety in Belgrade. There is epic tradition that the Patriarch Arsenije Čarnojevic decided on the Great Serbian Migration to the northern areas of Serbia right beneath the unique mulberry tree of the Pec Patriarchate. This mulberry tree is known as the “šam dud” planted in the courtyard of the monastic complex by the Serbian arch-bishop Sava II, son of king Stefan the First-crowned, who brought here a tiny plant from a pilgrimage to Jerusalem and the Province of Sham in present Syria after which this mulberry tree was named. This mulberry tree is more than 700 years old and guards the Pec Patriarchate, being the oldest protected tree of Serbia. After the Turks took Belgrade in October 1690, Patriarch Arsenije Čarnojevic had to pass on the Hungarian side and withdraw to Budim, while leading some 30.000 Serbian refugees from Kosovo and Metohija who had settled in the small town of Saint Andrew near the Hungarian capital. After the Great Serb Migration in 1689 the Pec Patriarchate was guarded by the families of Žij Rugova of the Klimenti tribe. Their bey – duke received pension from the state of Serbia after the end of the First World War for accomplishments of this tribe.

The Turks and Albanians plundered and heavily desecrated the Pec Patriarchate monastic complex and also many other Serbian sanctuaries and holy sites in Kosovo and Metoihija. The Pec Patriarchate was abandoned after another war with the Turks waged 1737-1739, when Patriarch Arsenije IV Jovanovic was persecuted and left for the Province of Srem in Vojvodina – at that time in Hungary, taking along the monks and the valuables. In 1766 the Pec Patriarchate was abolished by the ferman /order/ of Sultan Mustafa III and succumbed to the authority of the Tsarigrad Patriarchate. The Pec Patriarchate monastery complex suffered another attack and demolition in 1831 by the Aslan Pasha of Bosnia.

After the Bishoprics of the Serbian Orthodox Church united in 1920, the metropolitan Dimitrije was enthroned in Pec as the first Patriarch after 1766 of the renewed Serbian Patriarchate. Ever since, all the elected patriarchs of Serbia have been enthroned ceremonially in this monastery. The Patriarchate of Pec is under the administration of the Patriarch himself as the stavropegic Monastery and exempted from the jurisdiction of the regional bishopric.

The whole Patriarchate of Pec used to be girdled with a wall strengthened with five towers, one of the donjon additionally fortified. Of some monastic facilities of the Pec Patriarchate only foundations have survived until the present day. The residence at the back of the churchyard were set on fire by Albanian terrorists in 1981; the restoration begun in 1983 when the new residential quarters were erected and the reconstruction works in the northeastern part of the yard were completed in 1991. The Treasury of the Patriarchate of Pec was one of the richest treasuries of the Serbian medieval state. In spite of the unfortunate loss of most of the precious pieces, there is the oldest Cyrillic book of whole Balkans – the “Octoich Petoglasnika”, completed in Cetinje at the beginning of 1494 as the superb example of Medieval hand-written books.

The first publicly committed crime of the Albanian separatists against the Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija was setting fire in the Dormitory of the Pec Patriarchate complex before the dawn of March 16 1981 – in the night of the Orthodox Week. 30 nuns slept peacefully in the Pec Patriarchate Dormitory where there were a few guests staying, and 3 priest monks. The fire was set in three places in the attic space at a distance of ten meters each. Luckily it was noticed by an older Serb from Kosovo who was a guest in the monastery that night. The nuns barely managed to save the old hieromonk Dionysius and old manuscripts and some icons, and the other spaces and monastic possessions kept in the dormitory. The chapel, the Patriarch’s chambers, nuns’ rooms, workshops and warehouses were burned completely, because Peć fire brigade almost sabotaged the extinguishing fire – empty tanks were coming.

Today, the the Pec Patriarchate is still one of the most important Serbian Orthodox centers in the region with the sisterhood. Most recent NATO bombing of Kosovo in 1999 shook severely the structures of the complex, but luckily the churches took no direct hits. After the war 1998-1999 the Pec Patriarchate became an important supportive and spiritual center for the remaining Serbs in the area. At the moment in Pec town only these nuns remain. They live in everyday struggle to preserve this prominent holy site of the Serbian culture and legacy and provide necessary humanitarian assistance to the neighboring Serb enclaves of Gorazdevac and Osojane. The The Pec Patriarchate also owns the metochion of Budisavci, near Klina where two nuns remain under the constant KFOR protection. Since 2006 the Pec Patriarchate was accorded protected status as the part of UNESCO cultural Heritage of exceptional importance in danger.