Architecture of Serbia
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The architecture of Serbia (or Serbian architecture) has a long, rich and diverse history. Some of the major European style from Roman to Post Modern are demonstrated, including renowned examples of Raška, Serbo-Byzantine with its revival, Morava, Baroque, Classical and Modern architecture, with prime examples in Brutalism, Art Moderne.
Centuries of turbulent history of Serbia caused a great regional diversity and favored vernacular architecture. This made for a heterogeneous and diverse architectural style, with architecture differing from town to town. While this diversity may still be witnessed in small towns, the devastation of architectural heritage in the larger cities during World War II, and subsequent socialist influence on architecture resulted in specific mix of architectural styles.
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The northernmost Ancient Macedonian town was Kale-Krševica, which still today have the foundations of the Ancient Greek 5th century BC town. The Scordisci built the stone fortress of Singidunum, the Kalemegdan at Belgrade in the 3rd century BC, It has since been built on by Romans, Serbs, Turks, Austrians and show a beautiful example of continuing 2,300-year-old architecture, serving as one of the best landmarks in Belgrade.
The Romans left many traces of their six centuries of rule in the Serbian lands, including several fortifications and complexes such as the 3rd century AD Imperial palace of Galerius at Gamzigrad (Felix Romuliana) that was built at his birthplace after the victory against the Persians, the Mediana site in Niš (Naissus) from the 4th century, the ruins of the Moesia Superior capital Viminacium and Byzantine city Justiniana Prima built by Justinian I.
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The Church of Jug Bogdan in Prokuplje, known among the locals as "the Latin church" after Venetians lived in the city briefly, was built by Vratko Nemanjić in the 14th century on a hill on the previous location of a 5th-century church which in turn was at the location of a temple from the 2nd century dedicated to Hercules. Parts and Frescoes of the two previous churches have been found. During the Middle Ages, architecture in Serbia was strongly influenced by Byzantine culture.
- Petrova church, 800 AD, Stari Ras
- Sopoćani monastery, 1265, Stari Ras
- Mileševa monastery, 1236, Prijepolje
- Visoki Dečani, 1327, Dečani
- Patriarchate of Peć, 13th century, Peć
- Our Lady of Ljeviš, 12th century, Prizren
- Gračanica Monastery, 1321, Gračanica, Kosovo
- Đurđevi stupovi, 1166, Novi Pazar
- Studenica monastery, 1190, Kraljevo
- Saint Archangels Monastery, 1343, Prizren
Services are conducted in church buildings and involve both the clergy and faithful. The original style of Serbian Orthodox Church was the church built out of wood. These churches were typically found in poorer villages where it was too expensive to build a church out of stone.
Church architecture developed under the patronage of the Serbian state. However, the most distinctive piece of medieval Serbian architecture was the Studenica monastery founded by Stefan Nemanja, the founder of medieval Serbia in c1190. This monastery also featured significant works of art including its Byzantine style fresco paintings. Its church also features extensive sculptures based on Psalms and the Dormition of the Theotokos. UNESCO added this monastery to its list of World Cultural Heritage sites in 1986. It was the model for other monasteries at Mileševa, Sopoćani and the Visoki Dečani.
The influence of Byzantine art became more influential after the capture of Constantinople in 1204 in the Fourth Crusade when many Greek artists fled to Serbia. Their influence can be seen at the Church of the Ascension at Mileševa as well as in the wall paintings at the Church of the Holy Apostles at Peć and at the Sopoćani Monastery. Icons also formed a significant part of church art.
The influence of Byzantine architecture reached its peak after 1300 including the rebuilding of the Our Lady of Ljeviš (c1306-1307) and Church of St. George at Staro Nagoričane as well as the Gračanica monastery. Church decorative paintings also developed further in the period.
The Visoki Dečani monastery in Metohija was built between 1330 and 1350. Unlike other Serbian monasteries of the period, it was built with Romanesque features by master-builders under the monk Vitus of Kotor. Its frescoes feature 1000 portraits portraying all of the major themes of the New Testament. The cathedral features iconostasis, hegumen's throne and carved royal sarcophagus. In 2004, UNESCO listed the Dečani Monastery on the World Heritage List.
There was a further spate of church building as the Serbian state contracted to the Morava basin in the late 14th century. Prince Stefan Lazarević was a poet and patron of the arts who founded the church at Resava at Morava with the wall paintings having a theme of parables of Christ with the people portrayed wearing feudal Serbian costumes.
This is the typical style of churches built. This style of church architecture was developed in the late 13th century combining Byzantine and Raskan influences to form a new church style. By the end of 13th and in the first half of 14th century the Serbian state enlarged over Macedonia, Epirus and Thessaly up to the Aegean Sea. On these new territories Serbian art was even more influenced by the Byzantine art tradition.
Gračanica, which was entirely rebuilt by King Milutin in 1321, is the most beautiful monument of Serbian architecture from the 14th century. The church of this monastery is an example of a construction that achieved the highest degree of architecture not only in the Byzantine form but in the creation of an original and freestyle exceeding its models. The wall creation in steps is one of the basic characteristics of this temple. The Kings's Church in Studenica, characterized as an ideal church, was built in the first decades of the 14th century.
By the end of the third decade of the 14th century the Pec Patriarchate had finally been shaped. The exterior of the Patriarchate is a vision of shapes characteristic of contemporary Serbian architecture. On the major part of the outer walls paint decoration was used instead of stone relief and brick and stone decoration. A typical Serbo-Byzantine church has a rectangular foundation, with a major dome in the center with smaller domes around the center one. The inside of the church is covered with frescos that illustrate various biblical stories and portrays Serbian saints.
During the 17th century many of the Serbian Orthodox Churches that were built in Belgrade took all the characteristics of baroque churches built in the Austrian occupied regions where Serbs lived. The churches usually had a bell tower, and a single nave building with the iconostasis inside the church covered with Renaissance-style paintings.
These churches can be found in Belgrade and the northern half of Serbia, which were occupied by the Austrian Empire from 1717 to 1739, and on the border with Austrian (later Austro-Hungarian empire) across the Sava and Danube rivers from 1804 when Serbian statehood was re-established.
Schools of architecture
- Raška architectural school
- Morava architectural school
- Vardar architectural school
- Serbo-Byzantine architecture (modern)
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