Stefan Nemanja, the founder of the medieval Serb state, founded the monastery in 1190. The monastery's fortified walls encompass two churches: the Church of the Virgin, and the Church of the King, both of which were built using white marble. The monastery is best known for its collection of 13th- and 14th century Byzantine-style fresco paintings.
In 1986 UNESCO included Studenica monastery on the list of World Heritage Sites.
The monastery Studenica, dedicated to the Presentation of the Holy Virgin, is the mother-church of all Serbian temples. It was constructed over quite long period of time. The first stage works were completed by the spring of 1196, when Stefan Nemanja abandoned his throne and settled in the monastery's foundation. When he later left for Hilandar, his son and successor Stefan took over the care of Studenica. Nemanja died in Hilandar in 1199. Nemanja's third son Sava, after reconciling his brothers Stefan and Vukan, moved Nemanja's relics to Studenica. Under guardianship of Sava, Studenica became the political, cultural and spiritual center of medieval Serbia. Among his other endeavors, Sava composed a "Studenica Typikon", the rule-book where he described St. Simeon's (Nemanja's) life, leaving evidence of the spiritual and monastic life of his time.
Studenica enjoyed continual care by the members of the Nemanjić dynasty. King Radoslav added to the church a splendid narthex in 1235. King Milutin built a small but lovely church dedicated to saints Joachim and Anna.
Since the fall of the last of the medieval Serbian states in 1459, the Turks often assaulted the monastery. The first of the significant restorations of the damage took place in 1569, when the frescoes in the Church of the Virgin were repainted. In the early 17th century, an earthquake and a fire befell the monastery, and historical documents and a significant part of the artistic heritage were destroyed and lost forever. (from wikipedia)
Map of the monastery
The King's Church houses the most beautiful murals painted by Michael and Eutychios. Not long after 1314 they painted a cycle of the Life of the Virgin Mary which is among the leading works of Byzantine art. After having worked at the Peribleptos of Ohrid and having painted a series of Serbian churches (those of the Virgin of Ljevis, of Zica, of Staro Nagoricino, of Gracanica, etc.) for King Milutin, these painters found the most perfect expression of their style in Studenica : density of forms and volumetric rendering of faces combined with astounding execution which, in terms of perfection, is very close to that of icons, with highlighting in bright colours, shadows and light executed a secco.
The Virgin's Church was painted in the first decade of the 13th century. The original frescoes have been partly preserved in the altar area, under the dome, on the west wall, and in the lower registers of the nave. The most splendid representation is that of the Crucifixion, painted on blue background in 1209, one of the paramount
achievements in Serbian art. On the south wall there is the "founders' composition" which shows the Virgin taking Nemanja with the church model to Jesus Christ as the Magistrate Impartial. The narthex was painted in 1569. Those frescoes include an exquisite representation of the Last Judgment in the upper registers, and the portrait of Nemanja's wife Ana as the nun Anastasija.
The earliest fresco painting in King's church marks the supreme achievement of Byzantine art in the region. The frescoes in Radoslav's narthex and the pareclesions originate from the 1230s and display a close relation to the painting style of the main church. The north chapel, dedicated to St. Nicholas, contains a composition of the Hetimasia and a cycle dealing with the life of St. Nicholas. In the south chapel one finds the portraits of Nemanja, Stefan the First Crowned and King Radoslav with his wife Ana. On the north wall of the narthex, three dignitaries of the Serbian Church are portrayed - the archbishops Sava, Arsenije and Sava II (Radoslav's brother).