Writing about Visoki Decani monastery is a big thing. It's one of the most meaningful buildings in the Kosovo and Metohija province, it's in the UNESCO world heritage list (of endangered sites) and it's a very spiritual place. So where to start?
On one side there is the basic information adapted from wikipedia:
Visoki Dečani Monastery is a major Serbian Orthodox monastery, situated in Metohija, 12 km south from the town of Pec. Its cathedral is the biggest medieval church in the Balkans which contains the largest preserved monument of Byzantine fresco-painting.
The monastery was established in a chestnut grove by king Stefan Dečanski in 1327. Its original founding charter is dated to 1330, however. Next year the king died and was buried at the monastery, which henceforth became his popular shrine. The construction activities were continued by his son Stefan Dusan until 1335, but the wall-painting was not completed until 1350.
The cathedral, dedicated to Christ Pantocrator and built from blocks of red-purple, light-yellow and onyx marble, was constructed by master-builders under the Franciscan monk Vitus of Kotor. It is distinguished from other contemporary Serbian churches by its imposing dimensions and obvious Romanesque features. Its celebrated frescoes comprise some 1000 portraits and cover all major themes of the New Testament. The cathedral contains original 14th-century wooden iconostasis, hegumen's throne and carved sarcophagus of king Stefan.
In 2004, UNESCO listed the monastery on the World Heritage List, citing its frescoes as "one of the most valued examples of the so-called Palaeologan renaissance in Byzantine painting" and "a valuable record of the life in the 14th century".
On the other side, there is a lot to say about the actual situation of this outstanding monastery. Taking into consideration that since 1999 more than 160 cultural monuments and religious buildings in Kosovo and Metohija were collapsed, damaged or burnt down, it ask us to pay a special attention to this delicate situation!
The monastery needs renovation and preservation works. But there are real and dangerous risks for the realisation of the project:
Due to the political, ethnic and religious intolerance there is a real danger of the vandalism and destruction from 1999, 2004 and 2007 being repeated. UNMIK and KFOR have not protected the monastery complex and didn’t prevent following "guerilla" attacks and rocket attacks. Protection of the monastery fraternity and monastery complex must be guaranteed!
Unsafe and difficult access to the church complex for Serbian experts make it impossible to realise the reconstruction project. Physical security has to be provided.
Documentation archived in temporary Kosovo institutions – The Institute for Cultural Heritage Protection Kosovo and The Institute for Cultural Heritage Protection Prizren is not available. It has to be made available to the Serbian experts.
Post-War Life of Decani Monastery
Despite its humanitarian role during the war in which the brotherhood saved lives of many Kosovo Albanians, today's Albanian community in general still remains hostile to the monastery as well as to the Orthodox Christian Church in general. Decani monastery is exposed to various kinds of pressures, threats, hate speech and most preposterous infamation. (read here how life is in the monastery)
Among the enormous quantity of freskos, there is one that is truly famous: it's the one that represent the Nemanjic dynasty (here the link to wikipedia, where you can see the fresko)
1327 - Erection of the church
1348 – Completed fresco painting
1947 – Proclaimed to be a cultural monument
1990 – Listed as a cultural monument of special importance
2004 - Registered on the World Heritage List
The Decani Monastery has multiple values: monumental, cultural, historical, religious and national andpresents one of the most essential symbols of national identity of the Serbian people and other ethnic groups in Kosovo and Metohija and wider. People from this area, from Kosovo and Metohija, Serbian Republic and all around the world respect The Monastery Decani as a religious, cultural, historical and monumental site.
The monastery is the spiritual, cultural and educational centre in this area and wider. Due to the current political situation, lack of care and maintenance and lack of finance the monastery complex is continuously deteriorating.
By the reconstruction, conversion, rehabilitation and revitalisation of the monastery complex the monastery will again become a historical, religious, cult and cultural site. Also needed are works that will improve the monastery fraternity’s living conditions and protect the monastery complex and its surroundings.
All these picturs were taken by my friend Johanna who took part in the Spasovdan liturgies held in the church of the monastery.