Saint George Pillars – Djurdjevi Stupovi Monastery

Saint George Pillars – Djurdjevi Stupovi Monastery

Djurdjevi Stupovi Monastery near Novi Pazar is shrine dedicated to Saint George at the site of Ras also known as the “Saint George’s Pillars Monastery” which is unique represent of the Serbian culture, heritage, art and history. Manastir Djurdjevi Stupovi – Saint George Church near Novi Pazar /1170-1171/ was built as a symbol of Nemanja’s victory over Byzantines and to his brother Tihomir. The monastic church of Djurdjevi Stupovi Monastery in Ras is connected with two partially ruined monumental bell-towers that in the past were standing at its entrance. Djurdjevi Stupovi Monastery is dominating from the tranquil woody hill over Novi Pazar and makes the prominent ecclesiastical complex where the heart of the Serbian Medieval state was maintained between the 11th and the 14th century.

The choice of location was more than carefully planned. The entire complex of the Djurdjevi Stupovi Monastery rises atop the highest peak of a hill dominating the wider surrounding space, that is, as sources have it, “at the center of the Serbian land”.

Djurdjevi Stupovi Monastery is one of the oldest and the most monumental and remarkable religious sites in Serbia. Djurdjevi Stupovi Monastery is the joint endowment of the Great Zhupan (Duke-ruler) Stefan Nemanya which was built from 1167 until 1171 and his grand-grand son King Dragutin who has rebuilt it in the 13th century. In the systematic archaeological research of the Djurdjevi Stupovi Monastery complex a part of the founder’s inscription was discovered with the engraved year of the end of the construction: 1170-1171. Stefan Nemanja erected the Monastery to commemorate his gratitude to Saint George for saving him from the nearby cave where he was imprisoned by his brothers during the fights for the throne. King Dragutin was the last ruler from the Nemanjic Dynasty who held the court in Ras and during his rule the tower and the new entrance were opened on the southern side of the defense walls. Djurdjevi Stupovi Monastery thus comprises the Church of Saint George, the Chapel of King Dragutin, the historical refectory and dining room of Stefan Nemanya, dormitories, the water tanks and walls around the entry tower. The external appearance of the single-nave temple of Djurdjevi Stupovi features a tripartite sanctuary, the nave with lateral vestibules and a narthex, flanked by two towers “stupovi”, and emanates the spirit of western Romanesque building.

Tiny road with staircase leads to the western entrance of Djurdjevi Stupovi Monastery Church carefully following the terrain of the prominent and premium position of the Saint Goerge church on the top of the hill. The Church of Djurdjevi Stupovi – Saint George Pillars is single nave structure with three basic parts. The naos and narthex are rectangular in shape and the altar consists of three apses. The narthex of the Djurdjevi Stupovi Monastery has barrel vaulting. On the northern and southern sides of the narthex of Djurdjevi Stupovi Monastery are two large towers /pillars – stupovi/ after which the monastery got its name. Above the arches in the upper parts sits dome on pandatives and a tall drum that has the inner elliptical shape and is octagonal outside. Craftsmen from the coast-lands have brought along their Romanesque skills. Characteristic of the Romanesque style are two domes included in the plan of the church, situated in the west, to the left and right from the narthex. The plan and spatial layout of the church, portals and stylistic finishing were done in the Romanesque spirit.

The frescoes of Djurdjevi Stupovi Monastery are rendered in the best tradition of the Comnenus /Byzantine/ style and skillfully adapted to the architecture of the temple, which is especially pronounced in the all-embracing cupola with an elliptic basis. The Djurdjevi Stupovi Monastery is unique of its style in Serbia for it is fresco-painted by the order of its founder – founder – endower and constructor Stefan Nemanja who directly ordered himself frescoes to be painted only in this shrine. With the addition of the apse on the eastern side in 1282/83, the entry tower was transformed in 1316 into the chapel and became the tomb of King Dragutin. In 1589 the Monastery Church of Djurdjevi Stupovi – Saint George in Ras received the lead roof. With the withdraw of the Austrian army in 1689 monks left the monastery as well. The Monastery of Saint George’s Pillars was heavily destroyed in 1690 when Serbian people were persecuted and expelled by the Turks and had to leave their origins to the very north of the country and to settle down in areas of Austria-Hungary Empire. In 1722 Turks destroyed the Saint George monastery and intended to take the stones from the church to Novi Pazar in order to build a fortress. The tomb of King Dragutin was looted in the 18th century when the Monastery was damaged again. In addition to painting the frescoes depicting historical scenes in the interior of the chapel of King Dragutin, the works carried out in the monastery at the end of the 18th century also included the building of a new refectory, dormitories and paintings in the narthex of the catholicon. Djurdjevi Stupovi Monastery was demolished several times during its long history, the most severe destruction happened during the First World War when it was almost ruined to the ground.

Substantial archaeological and restoration and reconstruction works on the Saint George monastery complex in Ras are still in process. The Djurdjevi Stupovi Monastery started the huge reconstruction campaign inviting Serbs, artists and all other people of spiritual sense and good will to help restoration in the co-called renown appealRestore/rise Saint George’s Pillars – restore ourselves.

The important element of the entire experience of the monastery is surely greeting with blessing and hospitality of its residents – monks. Great attention is paid to the cordial reception and hospitality in areas where the Christianity is prevailing religion, so during time those activities became not only the religious obedience, but also part of everyday routine. In every monastery, by the blessing of the hegumene – the Abbott, one of monks is entitled to receive visitors, tell them facts about the monastery, frescoes and historical events. The monk invites visitors into the dining room for refreshment and the spiritual discussion, which is often one of the main reasons for visitation of the holy place.
Since 2010 the Saint George Monastery in Ras grows grapes on 14 hectares likewise their ancestors Nemanjic did in the past. The Saint George Monastery produces several sorts of high quality wines that are predominantly used for liturgical purposes, but also for tasting and selling. Among the wine sorts and etiquette produced in the Monastery of Đurđevi stupovi are the White Sauvignon and Tamjanika, Grasac, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot that win highlighted awards in the last years at the prestigious wine competitions and exhibitions in Serbia and abroad. Visitors of Saint George Monastery in Ras are especially fond of tasting of the monastic wines….
As part of the Stari Ras /Old Ras town/ which was the most important stronghold on the eastern border of Serbian lands in the early Middle ages and the royal family residence, together with the Sopocani monastic complex and the Church of Saint Peter, it has been on the UNESCO World Heritage List since 1979 as the World Art Heritage.