History and Art

Part 2

Lord Jesus Christ
Lord Jesus Christ, Holy Apostles' church, 13th. century

The Narthex

To the south of the Virgin Hodegetria, Danilo added a chapel dedicated to St. Nicholas, and at the front of all three buildings he built an open narthex. The appearance of the whole viewed from the south is represented on a model which the donor, by the mediation of the prophet Daniel, offers to the patron, the Virgin Mary on a throne. The vividly modulated representation shows only the structures raised by Danilo II, and carefully registers their appearance. For this reason the model represents a precious source for reconstruction of those parts of the complex which disappeared at a later date or were rebuilt in another form. The portico on the southern side which protected the entrances to all three structures built by the Archbishop Danilo - the church of the Virgin, the narthex and St. Nicholas's chapel, belongs to them, as well.

Construction of religious buildings close to one another, particularly within the confines of a monastery, was a familiar feature of the architecture of the Byzantine Empire and Constantinople itself. The Pec donors had opportunities to see similar complexes, particularly at Mt. Athos. Both Nikodim and Danilo were priors of the Hilandar Monastery for several years and knew other monasteries well, the oldest of which, the Lavra of St. Athanasios, had similar spatial coordinates: three parallel churches with a common narthex. It is our belief that the monastery of Vatopedi, very close to the Serbian monks, may have been of special significance for Pec. Before founding their own monastery, St. Sava and Symeon Nemanja had lived there, lavished it with rich gifts and commissioned many buildings there; the fraternity of Vatopedi respected them as donors.

The cluster of katholika in Vatopedi is laid out in a similar fashion and dedicated to the same saints: the northern church to St. Demetrios, the southern one to St. Nicholas, and the oldest one, situated in the center, to the Virgin, the protectress of Mt. Athos. In Pec, at the Holy Apostles, all the shrines which by their position and ritual correspond to the Vatopedi complex were added in the course of a single decade. Both donors, who arrived from Mt. Athos to take high positions in the Serbian church wanted to transfer to Serbia prototypes from this great Orthodox monastic center.

This was reflected on the fa,cades with strong red hues like those on the churches of the most prominent Athonite monasteries. It is likely that the walls of the original Hilandar church, replaced later by King Milutin, had been painted in the same way. The earliest traces of red color were found in Pec on the Holy Apostles which were painted having Zica as a model, and that practice, within the framework of emulating Athonite customs, continued to be pursued in finishing the other churches in the complex.

The shepards of Betlehem
The sheperds of Betlehem

Archbishop Danilo's buildings with their dark red fa,cades had rich ornaments covering the entire surface below the roof cornices, archivolts, lunettes and window frames. Earlier, the rows of stones and bricks had been painted to imitate builders' facing, covering the coarse tissue of walls and mortar. Only some of the decorative elements were adopted in Pec, for example: the checker
board. However, ornaments typical of wall painting and book illumination were predominantly used in a rich repertoire ranging from antique motifs to geometric patterns, mazes and ornaments characteristic of the Middle Ages. All the decoration was carried out in fresco technique which enabled it to retain its basic forms and freshness of color after six and one half centuries of exposure to sun and precipitation.

Painted decoration of this kind later became the object of interest among experts because of the fact that several decades later bas-reliefs with similar decorative elements appeared on the fa,cades of the Morava style churches - mainly in the same places. As a matter of fact it was supposed that the painted ornamentation on the outsides of the Pec churches date from a later period, taking its place in a new form of expression. Careful examination, however, has proven that the painted ornamentation preceded the stonework, i.e. that the new style of sculptural art from the last decades of the 14th and the first half of the 15th century had already been developing among local builders in another medium: it did not appear out of the blue. completely formed.

Archbishop Danilo's large, open narthex was of exceptional beauty; a chronicler from the early 15th century included it in his selection of the most valuable works of ancient Serbian art. It has reached us, however, in a significantly altered appearance following damage and the subsequent reconstruction undertaken by Patriarch Makarije around 1560. The original view of the narthex is shown on the painted model in the hands of Archbishop Danilo. Precious data are also supplied by his biographer praising his work. After deciding to build "a bright narthex," he says that first "in his mind he measured everything ... what its height should be, what length, what width, so that it leans on" and is "in unision" with the churches of the Holy Apostles, Saint Demetrios and the Virgin.

The spacious narthex was open and bright indeed. Three piers in the middle and one on the northern and southern ends divide the interior into two aisles, each with six bays. The upper sections were almost completely rebuilt after the restoration of the Patriarchate of Pec, but the standing remnants prove that, like today, the supporting pillars were connected by arches and the fields between them vaulted; on the eastern side they rested on pilasters added to the churches, and on the western side on corresponding piers of the facade. All the bays, of the same size, had and on the western side on corresponding piers of the facade. All the bays, of the same size, had groin vaults capable of carrying chambers on the upper floor.

The light construction of the edifice became apparent in the appearance of the fa,cade. Colonnettes with apertures terminating in arch-form openings are approximately of the same width as the supports in the interior. Their rhythm and outer elegance were particularly stressed by slender octagonal pillars with narrower, somewhat recessed, arches. These reduced the span between the piers and contributed to the static value of the whole. Such a structure was too fragile to withstand the test of time. Today only the features of its lower part can be well observed. Fortunately these lower original forms have been preserved, though the upper ones were quite interesting. Both information the Life of Archbishop Danilo, and the model he is holding as donor testify to that.

The southern front had two broad arches leaning on the marble pillar in the middle, beyond which was a deep and spacious interior. Above the aperture a gable corresponding to the height of the upper floor was pierced by a two-light window illuminating the space probably stretching across the vestibule. According to the words of Danilo's biographer and disciple there was a catechumenon here, but we know too little about the various forms of chambers - even comparing this one with those in other cathedral churches - to assume its appearance and guess its function.

The statement of Danilo's biographer that he (Danilo) "built a high pyrgos n front of the church" and a chapel in it devoted to his namesake St. Daniel, is particularly interesting. A belfry is depicted in this place on the donor's model; not very tall, with an open upper section in which the bells are visible. The bells were depicted with special attention; it was stressed in Danilo's biography that he had spent much gold in order to have "bells with a pleasant sound" made in the Coastal area, which he brought here and installed with great effort.

Holy Virgin
Holy Virgin Mary 13th c.

The painted decorations of the Pec narthex deeply impressed the medieval observer: there were frescos not only on its vaults and walls visible from the outside, but also on the outer sides of the piers, and the upper, broader surfaces, as there were on the churches behind them, covered with painted ornaments on a red ground.

In this form, with its elaborate spaces dedicated to various rituals, the Pec churches could respond to the requirements of the complex rites of a large spiritual center whose needs Danilo knew best and, experienced as he was in building, was able to meet thoroughly. The memory of his great merits was simply expressed by the addition to his name of the epithet "Peck)" ("of Pec"), just as the memory of the great donor from the ranks of rulers Stefan (Stephen) Uros III has been preserved by calling him "Decanski" ("of Decani").

Simultaneously with his care of the great royal churches, first of all of Decani which was built under his supervision, and then of other places of worship he erected, the Archbishop Danilo made an effort to furnish the interior of the Pec church with frescos and to provide the objects necessary for divine service. The wall decoration of the church took a course different from the builders' works: although the narthex with the belfry and the parekklesion on the upper floor were put up last, frescos were first painted there around 1330 rather than in the churches added on the south side. That is indicated, first of all, by the appearance of Danilo II above the entrance to the church of the Virgin, where he is significantly younger than on the donor's composition in its interior. This is a fact to be trusted. The portraits carefully transferred features of represented persons and recorded changes brought about by the passage of time. It is sufficient to consider the twenty-odd surviving portraits of King Milutin from his young days till the closing years of his life among which the last portraits registered his decline of strength and the approaching end. The reason for the aforementioned sequence of decoration in Pec could be explained by the wish of the spiritual dignitary to arrange the access to the main sanctuary first, the Church of the Holy Apostles which, together with the church in Zica, held the highest place in the hierarchy. Inspired by the old see of the Archbishopric, the Church of the Holy Apostles started to observe the feast of Ascension, and sources mention it as the Holy Savior and the Great Church, where the most important archbishop's divine services and rites were held, in addition to the ordination of the highest church dignitaries.

The Monastery
The Patriarchate of Pec

Of the comprehensive thematic sequences from the time of the Archbishop Danilo in the narthex, representations have survived devoted to the Virgin on the surfaces of the southern bays and the space in front of the church. Most of the themes represented relate to her. Above the entrance there is a large figure of the Mother of God with outstretched arms, expressing, with the child at her breasts, the idea of the Incarnation on a wide, decorated vessel. The mercy of the young Christ blessing with both hands is directed to the Archbishop Danilo and St. Nicholas, whom, as a bishop, the Serbian spiritual leader held in high regard, dedicating a separate church to him on the southern side. On the nearby arches the Old Testament fathers celebrate the Mother of God, thus illustrating the verses of the song "The prophets announced you from the heaven ...," and on the southern wall stands a rare figure of the Virgin nursing the Christ child in her guise of Galaktotrophousa on a wide decorated seat, in front of a ciborium, and angels, freely positioned in space, exalt her.

The Tree of the Serbian royal family occupies the whole height of the eastern wall by the entrance. Below a large portrait of Christ are depicted descendants of St. Symeon Nemanja, five in each of four regularly arranged rows. The stylized vine tendrils encircling their whole figures is not as rich here as it is in other versions; only in places are its curves replaced by portraits of the younger members of the dynasty in small cups, without disturbing the strict general order. In the highest zone of figures below the angels - two on each side - lowering crowns for the king and queen, Milutin is depicted in the middle, to the right of him are Stefan Decanski and his brother Konstantin, and to the left, sons Symeon and Dusan. The noticeable respect paid to King Milutin and the choice of the persons around him indicate that the Tree was painted while Stefan Decanski was alive, before 1331.

The rest of the painting in the narthex - predominantly dating to 1565 - may well repeat the earlier scenes it covers, so that, chances are, in the time of Archbishop Danilo most of the wall surfaces were covered by the Calendar, versions of which are also to be seen in somewhat earlier Gracanica and later Decani.


Mediaval sarcophagus of the Archbishop of Serbia - Daniel II, 14th c. Pec Patriarchate

The Virgin Mary Hodegetria (painting)


The Church of the Virgin articulates simple, legible and harmoniously arranged religious themes. The words from the psalm extolling Christ as the Lord of the universe are inscribed around his portrait in the dome, the Divine Liturgy is in the lower parts of the dome, a row of prophets with six-winged seraphims above their heads is between the windows, while the evangelists are on the pendentives on the developed spaces or "interiors" represented with painted architecture, engaged in writing or turned toward the personifications of the wisdom inspiring them.

On the highest parts of the vaults over the arms of the cross are arranged the Great Feasts, while on the lower surfaces of the northern side - Christ's appearances after the Resurrection; on the southern side are scenes from the life of the Virgin. In the northwestern part of the nave a rare representation of the Virgin as protectress of the humble and poor on the wall above the sarcophagus of Archbishop Danilo belongs to the series of paintings dedicated to the patron.

The lowest zone of frescos contains the figures of saints, mainly of the great martyrs in the northern, and the monks in the southern part, while by the entrance the portraits of St. Zossimos and Mary of Egypt remind one of the story of a great sinner who, halted by an invisible force at the door of the Jerusalem church converted into a Christian and finished her life by expiation in the desert.

Contrary to the strict order for arranging saints on the walls of the lowest zone, the donors' composition is freely developed in the southwestern part of the nave. Here the prophet Daniel commends the Archbishop with a sweeping gesture. He has stepped freely into the space towards the Mother of God with her Child on a sumptuous throne, turning his head towards the donor with whom he holds the model of the building. Danilo, bowed a little, wearing the robes of a monk but wrapped in a bishop's gown covered with ornaments and cries-crossed with "the rivers," is following him humbly, addressing himself to the Mother of God in a prayer by the gesture of his left hand. The beard with its occasional gray hairs discloses Danilo II's age, but his solid features still show evidence of vigour and indicate that the portrait was not made in his last years. He does not look like a person whose life was filled with many hardships under the reigns of three kings - Milutin, Stefan Decanski and Stefan Dusan. Prior to becoming the head of the archbishopric, he demonstrated his capabilities as the hegoumenos of the Serbian monastery on Mount Athos whose monastic community and treasury he successfully protected from Catalonian mercenaries. He was the bishop of Banjska in times of unrest, a versatile diplomat in negotiations abroad and mediator in internal conflicts. In addition, he also was a writer and connoisseur of construction techniques, on whom the rulers themselves relied when commissioning their pious endowments. The portrait of this many-faceted, gifted person holds a dignified place on the wide surface of the western wall, in a composition which, in terms of unrestricted movements and their rhythm, is one of the most beautiful works of old Serbian painting.

St. John the Baptist
St. John the Baptist, 13th c.

In keeping with his predecessors, and nourishing their cult, Danilo expressed special respect for Archbishop Arsenije. It was not by chance that he devoted the prothesis of the Virgin's church to this eminent prelate, the heir to St. Sava. The space stood next-door to the Church of the Holy Apostles whose famous frescoes were linked with Arsenije's name and where, under a sarcophagus, his body rested, separated from the prothesis only by a wall. This provided a chance to represent the life of this archbishop on the walls of the parekklesion. Like the other sanctified figures from local history, Arsenije has his Service and Life abundant with data about him, but the frescoes were restricted only to his ordination as deacon, priest and archbishop, as well as to his death with representation of the last prayer over his body in the presence of the king, the nobility and the clergy.

In the southern part of the church, in the diaconicon, is illustration of the life of St. John the Forerunner. Several years later, after his death (the end of 1337), Danilo was depicted once more, this time by his grave, wearing archbishop's dress decorated with a big cross. As in the narthex above the entrance, St. Nicholas, the bishop who was his model and protector, is next to him.

The church of St. Demetrios (painting)


And finally, only the church of St. Demetrios remained undecorated. The care of its painting was entrusted to Danilo's heir to the spiritual throne, Joanikije, the king's former chancellor (from 1338 the Archbishop, and from 1346 to 1354 the Patriarch). In this simpler space, most likely at the wish of the educated donor and religious dignitary who enjoyed the personal confidence of the ruler, the painter displayed some theological and ecclesiastico-political ideas.

In the dome, as in the Holy Apostles, the Ascension is presented with the apostles among the windows. The prophets, thus, are placed on the arches, at the height of the evangelists on the pendentives and the Great Feasts on the vaults.

Like other Pec churches, St. Demetrios was a mausoleum for ecclesiastical leaders; its donor, the Archbishop Nikodim, was buried here. His sarcophagus with sculpted decoration is in the northwestern corner. This might have been the reason for painting the scenes of Christ's Burial and the Two Marys at the sepulcher in that part of the church, while at the opposite end, on the eastern wall, are the Annunciation, the Nativity of the Virgin and the Presentation of the Virgin at the Temple.

The two Ecumenical Councils in which the dogma of the Christian church was founded form a fascinating ecclesiastical and historical subject; there were also two Serbian Councils which are represented here in frescoes. The First of the Councils was held in the same spirit by Saint Sava - probably the council in 2;ica, when the head of the new autocephalous (autonomous) church delivered his famous speech on the righteous faith. The Descent of the Holy Spirit to the apostles, a fresco in the same section of the Church, describes the apostolic mission facing the Serbian bishops and clergy: tongues of flame convey to them the ability to preach among nations whose language they do not know; that is why the image of the young Christ, painted here above the participants of the synods, bestows a similar divine benefit on account of his blessing.

Patriarchate
The remains of the ancient Patriarchal palace

The other Serbian Council joined two persons whose reigns were an entire century apart St. Symeon Nemanja and King Milutin - in an interesting manner. The gesture by which the holy founder of the dynasty points to his great grandson, imparting majesty to his rule on the throne, represents symbolic investiture to this ruler whose merits in building and restoring churches were immense. The representation of the local council has not only ideological and poltical significance, but also extolls the support given by the ruler to the church and profession of faith.

The large, solemnly arranged cycle of St. Demetrios on well visible zones on the lateral walls formerly comprised eight scenes which flowed, interestingly, from the right to the left. On the northern side is St. Demetrios in front of Emperor Maximian Galerius, St. Demetrios in prison blessing Nestor for his combat against the gladiator Lyaios, the Victory of Nestor over Lyaios and the Execution of St. Demetrios, and on the southern side the Ascension (Burial) of St. Demetrios and St. Demetrios defending Thessalonica from enemies. The last two representations on the northern wall date from the 17th century, when that part of the church had to be rebuilt and the frescoes repainted. The representations on the southern side were also partly repainted at that time. Legend vividly describes the destiny of the great martyr who as the protector of the second largest town of the Empire defended its inhabitants from barbarian sieges and helped in fighting agamst the enemies a history closely connected to the arrival and subsequent life of the South Slavs on the northern borders of the country. At the same time, the great esteem for Saint Demetrios in Thessalonica, his large basilica sumptuously decorated with mosaics and reliefs, and his feast day in autumn with a great fair which attracted people from all walks of life to Thessalonica spread the cult of this saint, particularly through Serbia and Bulgaria. Detailed
representations of St. Demetrios' life, however, are very rare in monumental painting. The wellpreserved cycles in Decani and Pec belong to the most comprehensive and the most beautiful in all of Byzantine art.

The Monastery in Pec
The Patriarchate in Pec - The Mother of the Serbian Orthodox Church

The southern wall of the western part of the nave displays four historical portraits. The first is of a spiritual leader in a sakkos (tunic-like vestment) with a broad golden hem, decorated with tendrils bearing the images of the saints, wearing on his head headgear of an unusual shape resembling an emperor's crown. The king and his young son are beside him - the visitor can read the names of Dusan and Uros - they are in ankle-length attire strewn with golden ornaments, unusual for the tradition of rulers' dress in Serbia and the Byzantine Empire. They wear open crowns on their heads and hold crosses. The ruler is wearing a long loros (band of cloth) arranged in an X over his upper body, with peribrachions and epimanikia (cuffs) on his arms. The faces on all three figures have been erased, perhaps because they were painted on a dried surface on which the pigment could not survive as it did on the other surfaces. We surmise that the masters were not familiar with the appearance of the men to be portrayed; while waiting for the men to come and pose in person they delayed finishing the fresco, preferring to portray them as precisely as possible. For this reason only the figure of St. Sava with an inscription on the western side of the wall is in good condition. The artists knew his figure well and were able to paint it immediately in its entirety. There is no doubt that the first in the row was Archbishop Joanikije II. This is proved by the text of the prayer inscribed below the Virgin in a niche of the walled window on the western wall, quoted from his namesake St. Ioannikios: + O the most holy Mother of God, do receive the prayer of your slave Archbishop Joanikije. The frescoes, apparently, had come into being prior to his elevation to the rank of patriarch. The large figure of young king Uros, born in 1337, helps to date the fresco: it can be assumed with a high degree of probability that the last building in Pec was painted in 1345. In the smallest in the complex, the church of St. Nicholas, only the fragments of paintings have been preserved which do not allow any judgment of their character and the date of their origin.

Compared with scenes in the Virgin Hodegetria which were painted, in colorful landscape, by anonymous artists of unequal skill, the frescoes of St. Demetrios stylistically represent a much more homogeneous entity. One of the painters, most likely the leading among them, left in the altar apse - in accordance with the notion that a master is nothing more than a mediator between Providence and a work of art - a humble note of his work: Theou doron ek heiros Ioannou (Divine gift from the hand of John). The Apostles' Communion, the painting on which the painter - no doubt a Greek - left his name, makes it possible to identify his "handwriting" and recognize it on other representations. It is therefore obvious that when dividing the surfaces prepared for painting, master Jovan gave the left side of the composition to his associate. He himself executed most of the frescoes on the southern wall and some of them on the northern side, and the scenes of the church councils on the groin-vault of the western bay. Differences in the manner of work are noticeable in the specific drawing and composition, in the sculptural qualities and relations of the colors used. Master Jovan, strongly modulating in bright and dark tones, created robust, male figures with elongated heads and bodies which can easily be distinguished from the other, more finely proportioned, even gracious, figures in the lowest zone. Neither of them, however, made an effort to interpret the space in a more complex and vivid way: the scene always has two grounds all participants are in the foreground, and the painted architecture and landscape in the other. Without diagonal elements which would define its depth and create a complex sense of space, the action proceeds steadily under master Jovan's brush with an emphasized tranquillity created by a vertical order of figures, high rocks and painted scenery. Contrary to this, the landscape is covered with various plants the exuberance of which gives serenity to the representations.

The comparison of the representations on the northern wall with contemporary frescoes in Decani leaves little doubt that the painters of this great shrine, near Pec, took part in the decoration of St. Demetrios. It may well be that Archbishop Joanikije, perhaps anticipating changes in political and church organization, undertook to complete the interior of the churches, by which his throne stood, for new divine services.

Gravure
The old gravure of the Monastery from the 17th century

 

Restoration of the Holy Apostles

Of more modest architecture than the great shrines of Banjska and Decani in which secular rulers were buried, the churches of the heads of church in Pec repeatedly raised buildings, adapted and modified them but did not provide conditions for the lasting survival of their frescoes. Each reconstruction, settling of the site or roof damage left traces on the wall paintings; repairs of itS individual parts were inevitable.

The presence of many painters in nearby Decani during the entire decade provided an opportunlty to replace or add frescoes to the nave of the Holy Apostles, on the pilasters and the arch between them by which the vault was divided into two zones. These works, most likely, were inspired by the elevation of the Serbian Church to the rank of Patriarchate, and carried out in the early spring of 1346. At that time, one of the fresco masters of the Decani narthex painted the prophets on the mner side of the arch, below Christ in the apex who is blessing, and the holy martyrs and hermits on its frontal surfaces. The figures of Christ the Saviour on the southern and the Virgin with Child on the northern pilaster are invested with a special meaning: here the Mother of God - in a conversation written down on a scroll - addresses the Son in a prayer for the salvation of mankind: Both representations, hence, remind of the funerary character of the space in which the sarcophagi of archbishops Arsenije and Sava II were resting. Joanikije's direct care of this wall painting, as in Saint Demetrios, is indicated by the figure of his namesake and protector, St. Ioannikios, who is painted next to Christ. The Archbishop had a special reason for that: he was also buried here in 1345 in the southwestern corner of the nave, and the funeral service over his body, in the presence of a great number of clergymen and laymen, is represented m the fresco on the arched surface above his sarcophagus.

Somewhat later, probably in connection with the rearrangement of the Great Church, new frescoes were painted in the choirs. Judging by all facts, these walls must have been damaged by humidity before the two other churches were built on either side, when the vaults over them were raised to a greater height. Higher up, previous scenes of the Great Feasts, probably dating to the 13th century, were replaced by more recent ones, while below them hermits were portrayed on the northern side, and warriors on the southern. In the right-hand choir there is an elevated spot fenced with red stone where stood the throne of the head of the Serbian Church Christ the Righteous Judge is portrayed above the throne, and next to him, as in many cathedral churches, is the figure of St. Peter, because he represented the heritage of pastoral duty, a reminder of the apostolic mission of bishops. In front of the throne before the eyes of the archbishops sittng on it and in accordance with local trnJition stnAc the fi7re nf Rt R th'ir predecessor. For this reason there is a customary expression in ancient sources: Serbian archbishops "hold St. Sava's throne." In a rich ambience whose wall decoration was then restored, the slender figures, dried n some spots, figures of vivid coloring and desliberate modulation, departed from the earlier, sculpturally richer, painting, announcing the style of the Morava school shrines.

Narthex
Vestibule of the Patriarchate Monastery

The Narthex

St. Sava's portrait above the stone throne in the narthex by the entrance to the Holy Apostles represents an isolated example of such articulation which has survived in these surroundings. The founder of the Serbian church is invested here with the title of patriarch, belying historical fact. That title here, however, expresses in an unusual way an event of special importance in the ecclesiastical and political life of the country. The coronation of Stefan Dusan as emperor and the elevation of Archbishop Joanikije to the rank of patriarch (1346) provoked the protest of the Byzantine court and the Constantinople church, and subsequently the pronouncement of an anathema in St. Sophia's Cathedral. The profound conviction and separation from the Orthodox comunity placed a burden on the conscience of the Serbian clergy and the entire society and they strove to have the anathema lifted. The first agreement on reconciliation was achieved with the same Constantinople patriarch who uttered the anathema, but it never materialized because a bout of plague killed him, and with him part of his escort in the court of Despot Jovan Ugljesa in Serres. About ten years later through the efforts of Prince Lazar an agreement was reached and the anathema lifted, probably with the stipulation that Serbian ecclesiastical leaders could keep the title of patriarch within the borders of their country, while the Ecumenical church continued to address them as archbishops. The portrait of St. Sava with the unusual rank of patriarch above the throne of the head of the Serbian church was painted after the Councils held in Pec in 1374 and 1375, and, undoubtedly, right in the large narthex of the great church. Archbishop Danilo, having in mind the space required by Ecclesiastical Councils, arranged its interior by installing stone seats along the walls, the same kind of which could be seen in the interior of the buildings accommodated to the needs of various spiritual congregations all around the Byzantine world.

The relatively fragile construction of the narthex did not stand the test of time, and there were no conditions for its maintenance. In the course of the first century of Turkish rule, which permanently spread over Metohija in 1455, the monastery was no more the see of the spiritual heads, nor did it own its former large estates. The village of Pec, which owing to the proximity of the Patriarchate had developed into a settlement with a market-place, became a Turkish town. The fraternity of the monastery - it is seen from the registers of the new authorities - at times numbered only few monks, the life in it was dying out, and the buildings falling into ruin.

The decline and suffering of the large spiritual centre was halted by the restoration of the Patriarchate of Pec in 1557. The need to control more easily the life of the Orthodox populace in the Empire, which by the middle of the 16th century had been considerably expanded by the conquest of vast areas to the north of the Danube and the Sava, induced the Sublime Porte (Turkish Government) to separate Serbian bishoprics from the existing administrative division and to return autonomy to them within the borders of the Serbian church in the second half of the 14th century. Such a decision was influenced by the fact that during these decades a number of highest dignitaries close to Suleyman the Magnificent were of Serbian origin. They reached the sultan's court by the selection from the ranks of gifted boys who were brought to Constantinople within the so called "tribute in blood."

Of the colourful facades of Danilo's narthex, only the southern one was preserved in its entirety
- on the occasion of restoration, around 1560 - and, apart from it, a part of the western front. It is obvious that the whole edifice was badly damaged, so that all the groin vaults on the ground-floor had to be rebuilt, and on that occasion they became barrel-vaults. The upper floor with the catechumenon and the bell tower was not restored at all. The space which spread before the believers was not shrunk by that. However, the general impression changed, because the interior was not open any more. It is assumed that at that time it was difficult to bring skillful stonemasons and builders who would repeat the light shapes of the pillars and arches, but the main reason must have been the fact that the space of such a shape, in the conditions in which the idea of an open narthex had been achieved, was not suitable for the long prayers of the monks who, from autumn to the spring, were exposed to the cold and humid air blowing along the canyon of the Bistrica river toward the Metohian plain. Because of that the apertures between the piers and pillars - reclining and unsafe - were closed by thick screening walls, while the northern part of the edifice underwent considerable reconstruction.

Simultaneously with the restoration of the ruined and dilapidated edifices inhabited by the dignitaries and officials of the restored church center, the interior of the churches was rearranged, especially of the narthexes. At the beginning of September 1565, as seen from the inscription above the northern door, fresco-painting, entrusted to a group of local artists, was completed. They gathered around the new spiritual administration and in the course of the ensuing years repaired and added decorations in several big monasteries, among which - as already mentioned was Gracanica, whose outer narthex had also been rebuilt and closed.

In the Pec narthex the artists mostly repeated wall painting scenes from the time of Archbishop Danilo. But they also expanded on these, taking advantage of the possibility of painting the walls closing the interior. The largest parts of the upper surfaces, primarily the vaults, were covered with scenes of the Menology in the eastern bays and the scenes of the Christ's Miracles and Parables in the western, disposed in the order in which the Gospel was read on Sundays before and after Easter. There were special reasons for repeating as many as eight scenes of the Ecumenical Councils here: by returning church administration to Pec, the narthex regained its role in the hall where the prelates of the Serbian church convened and made their decisions. In this space, the fresco of the Council of St. Symeon Nemanja and the twelve apostles who appear on the piers in the middle, to whom the church in before them was dedicated were invested with the same meaning: the figures of Christ's disciples were reminders of the missionary role of the bishops entrusted with the care of the body of believers. The councils, as at the time of independence, were presided over by Patriarch Makarije, the first head of the restored Church (1557), without doubt sitting on a throne with the figure of St. Sava behind him. On the same wall he is surrounded by the twelve spiritual heads of Serbia - the archbishops on the southern, and the patriarchs on the northern, side. Among them, on the pilaster, stands the figure of Makarije as the donor holding a model of the restored narthex, different in appearance from the one held by Danilo II.

The figures of the celebrated Balkan anchorites, as well as of the saints meritorious for the expansion and preservation of the Christian faith, are associated with the row of the highest church dignitaries. The last among them, young gold-smith Georgije from Kratovo who refused to accept Islam, was burnt at the stake by the Turkish authorities in 1515. The emphasis on the local spiritual tradition was aimed at proving the right of the Serbs to their autocephalous church and fostering self-reliance: under foreign and infidel lords in a land bereft of its own bearers of political power, the Church assumed the responsibility of caring for and preserving the national character of the Serbian people.

The master painters of the Pec narthex were artistically mature at the time of its painting, probably educated in local workshops. They revived the tradition of painting and outstanding examples of their work are icons from Gracanica dating from the second quarter of the 16th
century. It is obvious that they were inspired by the "classical" works from the middle of the 14th century, especially by the wall decoration in Decani, although the new frescoes of the Pec narthex were of drier and more rigid forms, without the imaginative elements of the painted interior and the richness of color. On the shield of St. Demetrios, still today, is the signature of "the most sinful Andreja, the painter." The most prominent painter who worked on these frescoes, however, is one whose hand suggests the young Longin. This educated, versatile and gifted artist who in many monasteries left not only frescoes but also icons, engaged in literature and on some occasions - as with the large icon of Stefan Decanski in his endowment - wrote verses beside the scenes which illustrated his life. At the same time, the icons were equipped with excellent wood-carving whose masters, most probably, had a workshop right at the Patriarchate. Several works of that kind, though unsigned, can be attributed to Longin and anonymous masters who continued to nurture their brilliant skills in the decades to follow.

Medieval knights
Medieval knights, 14th century fresco

All the frescoes in St. Demetrios do not come down to us from the time of Archbishop Joanikije. During the restoration of the northern Pec Church undertaken in 1619/20 following an earthquake, Patriarch Pajsije entrusted the most famous master of that time, the Hilandar monk Georgije Mitrofanovic, with fresco painting. In the course of the previous three years he had worked in Serbia, Montenegro and Bosnia where he acquired significant experience.

Like most artists of that time, Mitrofanovic strictly followed the scenes of the earlier wall painting and endeavored to stay as close to it as possible in style and subject matter. He completely replaced several scenes but on a significant number of those which were not entirely destroyed he carefully restored individual parts. Nevertheless, his distinctive use of color and sculptural modelling in the spirit of Cretan painting which dominated Mount Athos shows a difference in comparison with the frescoes of earlier master Jovan and his associates. Ordinary believers primarily interested in "listening to" stories and understanding the messages conveyed by the compositions probably did not notice. The gaze moved across the walls following the sense of the whole, lingering longer on less familiar scenes and rare details.

In the Holy Apostles, Georgije Mitrofanovic finished an unusual posthumous portrait of the Patriarch Jovan II (1592 - 1614) commissioned by his successor Pajsije. With his refined facial features, which the painter could not have known, the dignitary is addressing the Virgin with a prayer beautifully written on a wide scroll, saying that he is offering a "small" gift. Separately, on a dark ground, is Pajsije himself, saying in a restrained manner with few words that the Patriarch's grave was in Constantinople rather than in the church. Behind these words, however, is the dramatic story of the captivity and murder of this Serbian Church leader in the Constantinople jail of Yeni Tower because of negotiations he had conducted with the West, particularly with the Vatican and various Italian courts. In those evil times, fully cognizant of the dangers he was facing but determined in his intention to overthrow Turkish rule, Patriarch Jovan kept dispatching envoys to distinguished figures whom the Serbian people would recognize as ruler and crown in one of ancient centers, proposing them as liberators of his country. His sufferings, nevertheless, did not put a halt to spiritual life or artistic creativity at the Patriarchate of Pec. In its very center the new leader Pajsije, in the course of his long and more cautious rule, restored parts of the early paintings in the "mother of all Serbian churches," and enriched the treasuries and libraries of many monasteries with works of art and manuscripts.

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