Gracanica Monastery

Gracanica Monastery

Gracanica Monastery one of King Milutin's last monumental endowments. It is situated in the village of Gracanica, 5 km. from Pristina, the administrative centre of Kosovo and Metohija region. The monastery is in the close vicinity of Lipljan, the ancient Roman town of Ulpiana, and the old residence of bishops. Gracanica was constructed on the ruins of an older 13th-century church of the Theotokos, which was built on the ruins of a 6th-century early Christian three-naved basilica.

In the charter inscribed on the south wall of the chapel, King Milutin says: "I saw the devastation and fall of the church of the Holy Theotokos of Gracanica, Bishopric of Lipljan, I had it built from the foundation stone, I had it inscribed and decorated from the inside and from the outside." All this happened in the year 6830, that is, in 1321 since the birth of Christ. Only the church remains from the original monastery complex. The vestibule with the dome was additionally built several decades later. This vestibule was ruined during Turkish assaults in 1379-1383, when the dome was lost in fire, as well as a rich collection of manuscripts. The vestibule is believed to have been restored in 1383 by Bishop Simeon of Gracanica.

Old Gracanica
A postcard with the earliest preserved photo of Gracanica
middle of the 19th century

The monastery was damaged during the battle of Kosovo 1389, and when Novo Brdo was conquered in 1455, Metropolitan Benedict Crepovic left Gracanica and was granted use of the monastery Vracevsnica by Despot Djuradj Brankovic. Better times for the monastery started during the incumbency of Metropolitan Nikanor (1528-1555), when a printing house, supervised by master-printer Dimitrije, was operating in Gracanica for a while. At that time, several icons were painted on the iconostasis, and Metropolitan Nikanor had the external vestibule painted and provided some liturgical books and other liturgical objects for the monastery. The royal door was ordered in 1564 by Metropolitan Dionisius, whose death is pictured on a fresco painting in the vestibule. Thanks to Patriarch Macarius Sokolovic. Gracanica monastery was considerably reconstructed: all the openings in the external vestibule were filled, and a new layer of frescoes was completed on September 3, 1570. Patriarch Paisius had the church covered with lead, and a cross with the crucifixion of Christ was manufactured in the 17th century, during the Great Migration of the Serbs under the patriarch Arsenije III Carnojevic. Devastation of the monastery was repeated in the middle of the 18th century. Somewhat later, Jegen-pasha had the lead roof and the floor tiles removed and taken to Pristina. In 1800, this tyrant, having repented for his crime, returned the lead roof and presented the monastery with a plot of land. Later, due to great pressure from the Turkish occupators, the monastery was deserted by monks and the church served as a parish church.

The architectural composition of Gracanica represents the peak of Serbian architecture in the spirit of Byzantine tradition. Unfortunately the rich Gracanica treasury was lost in fires between 1379 and 1383. The present treasury stores a number of valuable icons from the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries, as well as several significant manuscripts and liturgical objects.

After the Second World War it was renewed by nuns and has been serving as a convent since. Today there are 24 sisters in the monastery who are active in icon painting, agriculture, sewing and other monastic obediences.

After the war in Kosovo 1999 Bishop of Raska and Prizren Kyr Artemije transferred his official seat to this Monastery from Prizren and since then the monastery has become not only the most important spiritual but also the national and political center of the Serbian people in the Province. Bishop Artemije and the Serb National Council make everyday efforts to preserve the Serbian people in Kosovo. 

Gracanica Monastery
Gracanica Monastery - photo Strugar

nun Theodora
Nun Theodora working with bees

Nuns chanting
Nuns chanting - a night service at Gracanica Monastery

Gracanica Frescoes

NEW NUNS - 15/28 August 2001

The Art and History of Gracanica Monastery

Impressions from Gracanica by nun Natalia

Rebecca West
Old Serbia and Grachanitsa -
from the book: Black Lamb and Grey Falcon - "Even from this distance it could be seen that Grachanitsa was as religious a building as Chartres Cathedral; though it made a simpler and smaller statement, the thought and feeling behind it were as complex, and the sublime subject matter was the same. But it was as if Chartres Cathedral should stand alone on a Land that has been shorn of all that was France when it was built and has been France since then."

Edith Durham
Around Kosovo
- Mary Edith Durham (1909) a chapter in which the author describes her visit to Prizren, Gracanica Monastery and Mitrovica.

A Gracanica nun in prayer
Gracanica Monastery - a nun in prayer

From the entrance gate
Gracanica Monastery church from the entrance gate

Gracanica Monastery
Gracanica Monastery - the queen of Kosovo churches

Gracanica Monastery Church has the shape of five-dome building with the foundation in the shape of the developed cross and, thus, belongs to the group of the first-class architectural achievements of the epoch. The outside priprata was built in 14th century and painted in mid-16th century. Mihailo and Evtihije, famous painters from Salonica, completed the paintings by 1321. Nebeska liturgija (Heaven’s Liturgy), prophets and evangelists are painted in the central dome below the painting of Christ Pantectrator. The cycles of Great Holidays, Christ’s suffering, Miracles, Parable, Christ’s Comings after Ressurection, scenes from Virgin’s life, St. Nikola and Kalendar are painted in naos. Eucharist and Old Testament subjects are represented on the altar. Milutin and his wife Simonida, Byzantine princess, are painted as rulers by the God’s will since the angels bring them crowns from the heaven. The Nemanjics’ genealogical tree and the Last Judgment are painted in priprata, while the fragments of frescoes painted in the 14th century and around 1570 are preserved in the outside priprata. In addition to the compositions of the cycles of Ecumenical Synods, Virgin’s Akatist (poem in glory of the Virgin) and the Baptism, there are also the portraits of Serbian archbishops and patriarchs and the painting of the funeral of the Gracanica Metropolit Dionisije. The Gracanica treasury was destroyed in the fires between 1379 and 1383. Today, the monastery keeps a significant collection of icons, the oldest one being the icon of Hrist Milostivi (Christ the Merciful) from the 14th century, unique by its dimensions (269 cm x 139 cm). Continuous conservation works on the architecture and paintings are carried out.  

Gracanica Monastery
Gracanica Monastery in winter 2000

Bishop Artemije in Gracanica Monastery, March 2002

full frameset

/ Decani / Gracanica / Sopocani / Pecka Patrijarsija /
/ Crna Reka / Devic / Sv. Vraci / Sv. Arhangeli /
/ Sv. Trojica / Sokolica / Gorioc / Binac /
/Draganac / Djurdjevi StupoviDuboki Potok / Koncul

Banjska / Dolac / Budisavci / St. Mark / Korisa
Hvostanska / Ubozac
/ Kmetovci / St. Uros