Patriarchate of Peć

The Patriarchate of Pec is one of the most important Serbian medieval monasteries in the Serbian province of Kosovo and Metohija. The church complex consists of four churches dating back to the 13th and 14th centuries:

  • The Church of the Holy Apostles was built by the Serbian Archbishop Arsenije in the 13th century and was painted in 1250. At the same time, the seat of the Serbian Church was also transferred to Pec.
  • The Church of St Demetrios was built around 1320 by Archbishop Nikodim.
  • The Church of the Virgin Hodegetria was built Archbishop Danilo II sometime after 1320.
  • The Church of St Nicholas was attached to the complex of churches at the same time as the Church of the Virgin Hodegetria was constructed.
The complex experienced difficult times during the early Turkish occupation. However, with the restoration of the Serbian Patriarchate of Pec in 1557, the place regained its focal spiritual and political role. In 1565 the narthex was painted and the iconostasis renovated, and frescoes were refreshed in 1620-21. During the time of Patriarch Pajsije, the church of the Holy Apostles was restored, and in 1633-34 the western part was repainted as the old frescoes have been seriously damaged. In the time of Patriarch Maksim, in 1673-74 the church of St. Nicholas was painted.

During the war between the Turks and Austrians the Serbs fought on the Christian side and the patriarchate was badly damaged. The monastery's treasury was transported to the Monastery of Gracanica and hidden in one of its domes; however, the Turkish rebel Jeghen Pasa discovered this location and removed the treasure in 1688. In 1690, ahead of the Turkish offensive spearheaded by Tatar and Albanian irregulars, Patriarch Arsenije III Carnojevic was forced to flee to safety in Belgrade. After the Turks took Belgrade in October of 1690, he withdrew to the Hungarian side with about 30,000 Serbian refugees. The Turks and Albanians plundered and desecrated the monastery, as well as many other Serbian sanctuaries. The Patriarchate was abandoned in another war with the Turks, 1737-1739, when Patriarch Arsenije IV Jovanovic and the monks left for Srem, taking with them the remaining valuables. Yet another demolition the monastery suffered by the Aslan Pasa of Bosnia in 1831.

The Church of the Holy Apostles is the oldest church within the complex. It had been elaborately planned by St Sava and built accordingly. The oldest parts are its altar and sub-domical spaces, as well as the choirs. Due to the later construction of the adjacent temples, the western end has not retained its original look. The church was built in stone, plastered and painted throughout. The earliest frescoes, those in the altar and under the dome, date back to the mid-13th century. Their topical complexity indicates that Sava and Arsenije I had an impact on their theological contents. The frescoes on the South and west walls, probably commissioned by King Milutin, include the portraits of Stefan the First-Crowned and Uros I. Two pilasters and the arc connecting the between the west and north bays were presumably painted between 1350 and 1354. Shortly afterwards, because some frescoes had decayed, the choir space was also repainted. In those years, the composition of patriarch Joanikije's Dormition was created above his sarcophagus. C. 1620. Georgije Mitrofanovic portrayed Patriarch Jovan in the niche of the west wall. Patriarch Pajsije partially financed the renovation of the deteriorated frescoes in 1636. The Church houses the relics and graves of three archbishops, Arsenije I, Joanikije II and Sava II.

The Church of St Demetrios was founded by Archbishop Nikodim (1317-1324). It has the form of a shortened cross with a spacious dome and was built in alternate courses of brick and stone. The entrance is framed with a harmonious stone portal. Joanikije is to be credited for the frescoes painted towards the middle of the 11th century, which were renovated in the early 17th century. The frescoes consist of valuable portraits of Emperor Dusan, his son Uros V and Patriarch Joanikije, and also a worthy composition of two Serbian Councils on a vault in the western part. The church houses the relics of patriarchs Jefrem and Sava IV.

The Church of the Virgin Hodegetria was built next to the southern side of the Holy Apostles, c. 1300. It was commissioned by Danilo II, to counterpart the church of St Demetrios. The ground plan has the form of a floral cross with an octagonal dome borne by four free-standing pillars. The temple is divided into three longitudinal spaces, and its two-light windows on the east and south facades have certain Gothic elements. The church was painted in 1330s. The founder composition on the west wall testifies to the fact that Danilo II had commissioned those works as well.

The narthex was erected by Archbishop Danilo II in early 1330s, as an ante-church to the three adjacent temples. As first, it was open to three sides and five buttresses were used to carry the whole mass. Since the narthex had gradually deteriorated and became insecure, the arched openings were walled up within the restoration in 1560s. Little has been preserved of the original frescoes that had adorned the whole narthex in the time of Danilo II. Noteworthy is the genealogy of the Nemanjic Dynasty beginning with Nemanja and ending with King Dusan. Among the individual figures, the representation of the breastfeeding Mother of God stands out. The facade of the narthex was painted at one time as well. Before 1375, above his stone throne, St. Sava was painted on a pilaster in the doorway of the Holy Apostles, but signed as a patriarch instead of an archbishop, his actual rank. Other frescoes on the vaults were painted in 1565, after the renewal of the Patriarchate, commissioned by the Patriarch Makarije Sokolovic, 365 figures illustrating each day of the Calendar. The painters employed included the monk Longin, the most famous Serbian painter of the latter half of the 16th century.

The Church of St Nicholas is a small church, also founded by Archbishop Danilo II. It consists of a single nave building with a tripartite apse of brick and stone. The tunnel vault is strengthened by an arch resting on two pilasters. The original frescoes have not survived. The latter painting of the church, in 1673, had been commissioned by patriarch Makarije. The frescoes were created by Radul, the most famous Serbian painter of the late 17th century. The founders composition on the south wall shows St Nicholas taking Patriarch Makarije to Jesus Christ. On the north wall, there are the portraits of the Serbian saints Simon Nemanja and Sava, as well as archbishops Arsenije I and Danilo I.

The entire Patriarchate of Pec was once encircled by a wall strengthened with five towers, with one of the donjon additionally fortified. Of some monastic facilities, only the foundations have survived. The residence at the back of the churchyard was set on fire by Albanian terrorists in 1981; it was restored in 1983. The new residence in the northeastern part of the yard was completed in 1991.

After the Bishoprics of the Serbian Orthodox Church united in 1920, Metropolitan Dimitrije was enthroned in Pec as the first Patriarch, after 1766, of the renewed Serbian Patriarchate. Ever since, all the elected patriarchs have been enthroned ceremonially in this monastery. The Patriarchate of Pec is a monastery under the administration of the Patriarch himself and it is exempted from the jurisdiction of the regional bishopric.


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Blago Fund


Pecka Patrijarsija is located near the town of Pec, south-west of Kosovo & Metohija.