Exterior of the monastery
|Affiliation||Serbian Orthodox Church|
|Architectural style||Raška school|
Mileševa (Serbian Cyrillic: Милешева, pronounced [mîlɛʃɛʋa] or [milɛ̌ʃɛʋa]) is a Serbian Orthodox monastery located near Prijepolje, in southwest Serbia. It was founded by King Vladislav, in the years between 1234 and 1236. The church has frescoes by the most skillful artists of that time, including one of the most famous in Serbian culture, the "White Angel", which depicts an angel on Christ's grave.
The Mileševa monastery was founded between 1234 and 1236 by Serbian King Vladislav. The monastery is situated in a valley of the Mileševa river, near Prijepolje. Mileševa is one of the most important Serbian sanctuaries and spiritual centers. In 1236, Vladislav moved the relics of his uncle Saint Sava from Trnovo in Bulgaria, where he died, to Mileševa. Some historians believe that the coronation of King Tvrtko I of Bosnia took place in Mileševa. In the 15th century, the monastery was the seat of the Metropolitanate of Dabar-Bosnia. In 1459, the Ottomans set the monastery on fire, but it was soon restored. In the first half of the 16th century, the first service books were illuminated in Mileševa. One of the oldest schools also existed in the monastery. In the middle of the century, during the time of Patriarch Makarije (the Serbian Patriarchate was restored in 1557), the monastery was thoroughly renovated. Its external narthex was built and painted, and probably cut through the wall between the narthex and the nave. In later times, after several Turkish demolitions, a new restoration was undertaken in 1863, when the church considerably changed in appearance.
The Mileševa monastery has been visited by pilgrims and donated to by Russian Emperors (Ivan IV Vasilyevich) and Wallachian and Moldavian rulers. In 1594, the Ottomans removed the relics of St. Sava from the monastery and publicly burned them on Vračar hill in Belgrade, making him thus a posthumous martyr.
The Church, dedicated to the Ascension of Our Lord, architecturally belongs to the Raška school. Its ground plan is unique. Its single nave widens from the west eastward, so that the eastern bay is omitted completely, which results in the three altar apses leaning directly on the domed east wall. Inside, the dome is raised on several arches in a stairway-like arrangement. The narthex was added in 1236 upon which, during a 19th-century restoration, a dome was constructed on top.
The first group of frescoes were produced in the 1230s. The other groups include works from the Ottoman period, to be found in the exonarthex. These thirteenth-century frescoes may be considered to be the supreme achievement of all the painting in Europe of that time. The portraiture deals with bishops (altar space), warrior saints and martyrs (nave), as well as monks (narthex). The upper registers in the narthex represent Christ's earthly life. Below the resurrection composition on the south wall of the west bay, King Vladislav is depicted as being led to Christ by the Mother of God. The Nemanjić family is portrayed in the northeastern part of the narthex: Stefan Nemanja as the monk Simeon, Sava as the first archbishop, Stefan the First-Crowned as king, and his sons Radoslav and Vladislav. The frescoes in the narthex and the adjacent chapel were presumably painted in the 1230s and 1240s. They illustrate the last Judgment and the lives of some saints. In the second half of the sixteenth century, the church was repainted with a new layer of frescoes of which only fragments of the Last Supper under the dome and the Forty Martyrs in the north choir have survived. These frescoes were damaged in a fire, but they happened to save (acting as a protective layer) the earlier and more valuable paintings from the 13th century.
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