St Nicholas Church, Gotovuša
Lepenac river valley, Šara mountains

Sirinićka Župa

The district of Sirinićka župa is located in the valley of the Lepenac river, on the north slopes of the Šar Mountains. For the most part, it overlaps with the present-day territories of the Štrpce county, and it contains 15 villages: Sevce, Jažince, Gotovuša, Drajkovci, Firaja, Brod, Vrbeštica, Donja Bitinja, Gornja Bitinja, Sušići, Koštanjevo, Viča, Ižanci, and Štrpce as the administrative center. As one of the oldest medieval župas (administrative and territorial units), it is mentioned on the annotations at the end of a 13th-century manuscript gospel book now kept in the National Library of France in Paris (no. 25). Another, later mention is found in the charter of Stefan Dušan to the tower of the monastery of Chilandar from 1331.

There are no remnants of ecclesiastic architecture from the period of medieval Serbian state independence in this area, and the oldest churches are dated to the years following the restoration of the Patriarchate of Peć in 1557. Only a small portion of them preserved their original 16th and 17th-century appearance -the Church of Saint Nicholas and the Church of the Assumption of the Virgin in Gotovuša, and the Church of Saint Theodore Tyron in Donja Bitinja. The majority of them were reconstructed, such as the Church of Saint George in Gornja Bitinja, the Church of Saint Petka in Berevce, the Church of Saint Nicholas in Štrpce, the Church of Saint Nicholas in Donja Bitinja, and the Church of Saint Demetrius in Donja Bitinja, while some others were completely renovated or are in ruins. These are modest, single-aisled churches that were later given an addition of a narthex. Apses on the east side, mostly polygonal on the outside, are sometimes enlivened with colonettes, as on the Church of Saint Nicholas in Štrpce. Built mainly from crushed stone sunken in plaster, with the occasional use of brick and tufa, while facades were most often plastered.

All the churches were frescoed, although their painting is poorly preserved; many of them were rebuilt or re-painted, and some have only fragments of their original murals. Thus, any conclusions or assumptions about the program or iconographic peculiarities of their fresco decoration are difficult to make. What is noticeable is that their painters adhered to schemes present in other smaller churchs of the time found on the territories of the Patriarchate of Peć, although they sought to emulate older Byzantine art of the 14th century. Almost as a rule, in the conches of alter apses, the Virgin was painted with her arms outstretched, in some places in the type of the Virgin of the Sign, with a medallion on her chest showing Christ blessing, as in Saint Theodore Tyron in Donja Bitinja, Saint George in Gornja Bitinja, Saint Nicholas and Virgin’s church in Gotovuša. Small apses did not allow for a greater number of scenes, and the only other composition painted was the Service of the Archpriest in the zone below. In some of the churches, as in Saint Theodore, Donja Bitinja and Saint Nicholas, Gotovuša, scenes of the Annunciation and Ascension, thematically linked to the program of the nave and the cycle of Great Feasts, were painted in the altar area.

From some of the inscriptions, we learn that the means for the construction and painting of the churches were provided by the local inhabitants, who also donated icons to these churches, as well as mills, fields, and meadows, as certain Nicodemus and Prtušin did in 1592 to the church of Saint George in Gornja Bitinja, as we learn from the carved inscription on a stone near-by the church.

St Nicholas Church

In the center of Štrpce is the church of Saint Nicholas, built in 1576/7, and significantly expanded during a nineteenth-century renovation and in recent times fresco painted.

St Theodor Tyron

The Church of Saint Theodore Tyron in Donja Bitinja is located at the village cemetery; it was built and painted in the 1560s

St George Church

The Church was built at the village cemetery in Gornja Bitinja in the sixteenth century and restored in the second decade of the 20th century. Fragments of the wall painting have been preserved in the altar area, as well as stone decoration, transferred from the monastery of the Holy Archangels near Prizren, devastated at the time.

St Nicholas Church

The cemetery church in the village of Gotovuša, presently dedicated to the Holy Saviour, and originally to Saint Nicholas, was painted in the 1570s and preserves to this day parts of fresco painting made by skilled itinerant painters.

Assumption of the Mother of God Church

Another church in Gotovuša, the Church of the Virgin’s Assumption, is located at the village cemetery. Also made in the sixteenth century, but was devastated until 1886, when it was renovated.

St Petka Church

The Church of Saint Petka in Berevce, a little village on a hill above Štrpce, was built in the sixteenth century and renovated in the nineteenth. Following that, It was painted by Sterija from Kozan, who also painted the icons on the icon screen and the icon of Saint Nicholas. He left an inscription above the church entrance about his work completed in November 1858.

St Nicholas Church

The Church of Saint Nicholas in Sevce, a small and remote village close to the skiing resort of Brezovica, is of unknown date. Its newer frescoes were made by painter Joseph from Lazaropole near Debar.

St Demetrios Church

Church of St Demetrios in Viča, a small and remote village on mountain Brezovica, is from the 16th century.


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