Church of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, Ras

Coordinates: 43°09′40″N 20°31′37″E / 43.16111°N 20.52694°E / 43.16111; 20.52694
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Church of the Holy Apostles
Peter and Paul
Црква Светих апостола Петра и Павла
Crkva Svetih apostola Petra i Pavla
The Church and gravestones
AffiliationSerbian Orthodox
RiteByzantine Rite
LocationNovi Pazar, Serbia
StyleEarly Byzantine
Completed9th century
(4th century foundation)
Criteriai, iii
Designated1979 (3rd)
Parent listingStari Ras and Sopoćani
Reference no.96
RegionEurope and North America
Official name: Petrova crkva
TypeMonument of Culture of Exceptional Importance
Reference no.SK 182

The Church of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul (Serbian: Црква Светих апостола Петра и Павла / Crkva Svetih apostola Petra i Pavla), commonly known as Church of St Peter (Црква Светог Петра / Crkva Svetog Petra) or simply Peter's Church (Петрова црква / Petrova crkva) is a Serbian Orthodox church, the oldest intact church in Serbia and one of the oldest ones in the region, situated on a hill of Ras, the medieval capital of the Serbian Grand Principality (Rascia), in Novi Pazar, Serbia. It is part of the Stari Ras complex, an UNESCO World Heritage Site.[1]

It was founded in the 4th century during Roman rule,[citation needed] while additions were made in the 7th and 9th centuries, after which it served as the ecclesiastical seat of the Serbian church, and as the baptismal church and state council site of the Nemanjić dynasty, until the last years of the 12th century. It is dedicated to Saints Peter and Paul.



The exact date of founding is unknown; it is mentioned in the 9th century as the seat of the eparchy of Serbia (see Eparchy of Ras). Excavations on the site have unearthed Greek sculptures and Black-figure pottery dating to 7th and 6th century BC, as well as a 5th-century BC princely grave (with regalia, robes, gold-silver jewelry, masks, beads and Attic pottery), underneath the floor of the church in 1957–58.[2][3] The findings are presently at the National Museum of Serbia, in Belgrade. Roman, Byzantine and medieval Slavic tombs surround the church.[3]

The present church has been built on several earlier churches of which remains have been well preserved. The foundation of the church, the massive columns, ground-plan and the octagonal tower which conceals an inner cupola are examples of the circular mausoleal architectural type used after Emperor Constantine (306–312).[1]

Archaeological findings point that the church has been rebuilt several times in history, beginning in the 4th century, with notable additions made in the 7th century. The architectural style resembles that of early churches in Pomorje, Armenia, Georgia, and Italy, dated to between the 7th and 9th centuries.[citation needed]

Middle Ages[edit]

The Church and old graveyard.
The Church

The first Serbian bishopric (Eparchy of Ras) was founded at the political center at Ras, near modern Novi Pazar on the Ibar river.[4]

Ras itself originates from ancient Arsa,[5] The initial ecclesiastical affiliation is uncertain, it was subordinate to either Split or Durazzo, both then Byzantine (Patriarchate of Constantinople).[4]

The church served as the seat of the Serbian eparchy, as the rotunda plan is characteristic of first court chapels.[6] The bishopric was established shortly after 871, during the rule of Prince Mutimir (r. 850–891), and was part of the general plan of establishing bishoprics in the Slav lands of the Empire, confirmed by the Council of Constantinople in 879–880.[6][7] Similarly, the Eparchy of Braničevo was founded in 878 (as continuation of Viminacium and Horreum Margi).

Byzantine Emperor John I Tzimiskes (r. 969–976) recognized the Ras region as being the "focus of the Serbian lands", amid his annexation of the region (organizing it into a Catepanate).[8]

The Eparchy of Ras was organized into the newly established Archbishopric of Ohrid (1018), amid the renewed annexation of the region (organizing it into a Theme), as part of a wider Byzantine-Slavic Orthodox area. In the chrysobulls of Emperor Basil II, dated 1020, the Eparchy of Ras is mentioned as serving the whole of Serbia, confirming the church as ecclesiastical seat.[citation needed]

The Church and gravestones

Sometime before 1163, Stefan Nemanja, then only a Prince, was baptized in the church. In 1166, Stefan Nemanja acquired the throne of Serbia with the title of Grand Prince. He was married in the church (to Ana); their two sons, Rastko (later known as Saint Sava; l. 1175–1235), and Stefan Nemanjić, were baptized in the church. Stefan Nemanja held the council that outlawed the Bogumils at the church.[1]

Rastko left Serbia in 1192 for Mount Athos, where he took monastic vows and was given the name Sava.[9][10] Stefan Nemanja abdicated in 1195, crowning Stefan Nemanjić (r. 1196–1228) at the Church of Peter, then joined his son Sava on Mount Athos. The father and son soon asked the Holy Community for the establishment of the Serbian religious base at the abandoned Hilandar, which they renovated, marking the beginning of cultural prospering (in arts; literature, and religion).[citation needed]

The ancient cell of Helandaris was donated by Emperor Alexios III Angelos (1195-1203) "to the Serbs as an eternal gift..." and Stefan Nemanja establishes and endows the monastery in 1198 (before 13 February 1199).[11]

Nemanja died at Hilandar in 1199, while Sava continued his work in establishing the Serbian church.[9] Henceforth, the Church of Peter ends its service as the seat of the Serbian church. Sava crowned his brother Stefan as "King of Serbia" in 1217. Upon returning to Mount Athos, Sava is consecrated as the first Archbishop of the Serbian church, given autocephaly by Patriarch Manuel I of Constantinople, in 1219, the same year he published the first constitution in Serbia – St. Sava's Nomocanon (Zakonopravilo in Serbian).[12][13] After the Nemanjić era, not much is mentioned about the church. The church frescoes date to the 10th, 12th and 13th centuries, while some frescoes were repainted in the mid-13th century.[3]

Panorama picture of the Church of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul.

Early modern[edit]

After the Ottoman conquest in 1455, the church was not abandoned and is referenced throughout the 16th and 17th centuries. In 1690, the Church is abandoned and the region is largely depopulated amid Ottoman atrocities in Kosovo, amid the Great Turkish War in which Serb rebels fought on the side of the Holy League. Patriarch Arsenije III Čarnojević leads tens of thousands of Serb families to the Christian north.[citation needed]

Metropolitan Arsenije IV Jovanović Šakabenta restored the church in 1728. During the 18th century, the church had the rank of Metropolitanate, and after 1784, the Eparchy of Raška is organized into the Eparchy of Prizren. In the 1830s, the church is built on and restored. Shortly thereafter, the Ottomans took over the church and use it as an ammunition magazine. Since the First Balkan War (1912), it has been a functioning church.[citation needed]


Conservatory work was done in the late 1950s and early 1960s. The Stari Ras-complex, including the church and Sopoćani, was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979, the church itself was included due to its uniqueness as one of the oldest churches in the region. It is designated a Cultural Heritage Site of Serbia (the national heritage list), of the Monument of Culture of Exceptional Importance type.[citation needed]

The church's walls were defaced with graffiti on 6 April 2008. The police have not officially concluded who perpetrated the act or why.[14]


See also[edit]

Other oldest churches


  1. ^ a b c Bradt, Serbia[page needed]
  2. ^ Trebenishte: the fortunes of an unusual excavation – M. Stibbe, Rastko Vasić[page needed]
  3. ^ a b c "Panacomp – the Church of St. Apostles Peter and Paul". Archived from the original on 11 May 2011. Retrieved 7 August 2017.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  4. ^ a b The entry of the Slavs into Christendom, p. 208
  5. ^ Mrkobrad[page needed]
  6. ^ a b The entry of the Slavs into Christendom, p. 209
  7. ^ Serbian Orthodox Diocese of Raska and Prizren
  8. ^ [1][page needed]
  9. ^ a b Đuro Šurmin, Povjest književnosti hrvatske i srpske, 1808, p. 229
  10. ^ The entry of the Slavs into Christendom, p. 218
  11. ^ Tibor Zivkovic – Charters of the Serbian rulers related to Kosovo and Metochia, p. 15
  12. ^ Petarzoric (PDF), Alan Watson, archived from the original (PDF) on 25 November 2011
  13. ^ p. 118
  14. ^ "Oldest Orthodox church in Balkans (Serbian Orthodox Church) defaced". Retrieved 8 August 2014.


External links[edit]

43°09′40″N 20°31′37″E / 43.16111°N 20.52694°E / 43.16111; 20.52694