RENOWNED PIOUS ENDOWMENT OF HOLY SERBIAN KING MILUTIN
Banjska Monastery is located near the present day village of Banjska in Zvecan municipality, north of Kosovska Mitrovica. Banjska is the pious endowment of the Holy Serbian King Milutin, who had it built during the period from 1312 to 1316. After his death the King's holy relics were preserved in the church of Banjska Monastery. Because it was a royal sepulcher, this church was far more richly decorated than the other 40 odd pious endowments built by Milutin.
The monastery church dedicated to the Holy Archdeacon Stefan was built in the same location where the seat of the Banjska diocese existed in the 13th century, during the rule of Milutin's father, King Uros I. During Milutin's reign the monastery was restored and became the fourth most important monastery in the Serbian Archdiocese. After receiving the blessing of Archbishop Sava III (1309-1316) and his mother, Queen Jelena, Milutin entrusted the building of the shrine to his spiritual father, Abbot Danilo (who was later appointed archbishop), who arrived from Chilander at this time. When the Holy King Milutin passed away in his summer palace in Nerodimlje (near Urosevac) in the year 1321, Archbishop Danilo II (1324-1337) transferred his body to Banjska where he was buried with full royal honors. Queen Theodora, the mother of the Emperor Dusan, was later buried in the northern chapel of the church. After the Battle of Kosovo in 1389 the monks transferred the relics of King Milutin to Trepca; later, in 1445, they were transferred to Sofia, Bulgaria, where they still rest today in the church of St. Alexander Nevsky.
During the 17th century the Turks transformed the church of the already dilapidated Banjska Monastery into a mosque. The monastery suffered great destruction in 1689 when the Turkish and Austrian armies alternately used it as a fortress during the course of the Austrian-Turkish War. At the end of the 17th century the Turks dug up the marble floor of the church in quest of the gold of Archbishop Danilo. The first more serious investigations began immediately after the liberation of Kosovo and Metohija in 1912. In 1915 two rings, one silver and one gold, were found in the grave of Queen Theodora. These rings are considered to be the most beautiful examples of Serbian medieval jewelry. In 1938 after the end of the investigation and the digging up of the foundations of the surrounding residence halls, the church was partially restored and placed under a temporary roof.
The church of Banjska Monastery is a part of the Raska church school. It was built using the plan of the church of the Theodokos in Studenica as a model.
The base of the church consists of a single nave building with an apse. Chapels are located to the right and the left sides of the main nave. On the west side there is a parvis. the facade is done in a combination of tricolored marble. The church was also richly decorated with stone sculpture. The most significant preserved sample, a relief sculpture of the Theodokos with Christ that decorated the main portal, is today located in the nearby Sokolica Monastery. Only fragments bearing the likenesses of the saints in arch medallions under the main cupola from rich frescoes done during the period from 1317 to 1321 have been preserved.
Phase I of the conceptual plan for the reconstruction of Banjska Monastery foresees the building of the monastery residence hall to house the brethren. Later phases foresee the restoration of other monastery buildings, as well as the church of the Holy Archdeacon Stefan.
The beginning of the spiritual and material restoration of Banjska Monastery is of great significance for all of northern Kosovo because this area, where almost half of all Serbs now remaining in Kosovo and Metohija now live, will gain one more powerful spiritual and monastic center.
BANJSKA MONASTERY BEGINS
At a time when our people are living through difficult moments of their history, when our shrines in Kosovo and Metohija are being extinguished, when 120 churches and monasteries have been destroyed in the past four years, God has willed that our shrines that have lain dormant for several hundred years are being resurrected at the same time. This is a sign, proof and encouragement that those shrines being destroyed today will once again see the light of day when they are restored, said Bishop Artemije after the consecration in Banjska.
Bishop Artemije emphasized that for the reanimation of Banjska as well as other monasteries it is necessary for "the Serb people to persevere in the holy land of Kosovo and Metohija."
"As long as we are physically present in Kosovo, it will remain ours. If, God forbid, we should disappear from this region, Kosovo would not be Serb even if it remains within the borders of Serbia. We don't need Kosovo without Serbs. Therefore, we must persist and persevere in hope and salvation and remain in our land. And those of us who were forced to leave from Kosovo and Metohija must return as soon as possible so that God can administer to our entire people," emphasized Bishop Artemije.
The consecration of the foundation of the new residence hall of Banjska Monastery was attended by Bishop Justin (Stefanovic) of Timocka, representatives of the Joint Coordinating Center for Kosovo and Metohija of Serbia-Montenegro and Serbia, which is financing the restoration of this medieval monastery, the Serbian Institute for the Protection of Cultural Monuments, whose experts prepared the plans for the new residence hall, and residents of the village of Banjska.
OF OUR DIOCESE
Decani / Gracanica / Sopocani / Pecka Patrijarsija /