History

Studenica monastery is known as one of the most beautiful Christian and Serbian monasteries, not just for its fine byzantine Raska school of architecture, but also for the amazing landscape where the monastery is situated. Stefan Nemanja erected the monastery in the period of 1183-1196 AD. In that period he abdicated in favor of his middle son Stefan. Stefan Nemanja was tonsured in Studenica and received the name Simeon. Two years after his tonsure, he left for Mount Athos. Simeon died in 1199 AD in Hilandar monastery, which he built together with his son Sava. Simeon is canonized as saint in the (Serbian) Orthodox calendar.

Upon the request of his brothers Stefan and Vukan in 1206 AD, Sava brought the holy body of their father Saint Simeon to Studenica. His body lies in the crypt of the main church dedicated to the Holy Theotokos. The Archimandrite Sava remained in Studenica as the Abbott until the second decade of the thirteen century. Under his guidance, Studenica became a cultural, spiritual and medical center of the medieval Serbia. He wrote the Typikon of Studenica where he narrated the life story of his father, Stefan Nemanja, later Saint Simeon. In his writing, Sava left references of the spiritual and monastic life of his time. The beginning of the Typikon of Studenica is actually the life story of Saint Simeon, an old Serbian literary work.

Nemanja’s descendants continued to maintain Studenica monastery. Nemanja’s grandson, the King Radoslav in 1230 AD, erected the monumental narthex of the main church in dedication to the Holy Theotokos (the Theotokos Church). Inside the narthex, there is a church dedicated to the Saint Simeon the Myrrh-streaming. The Serbian King Milutin in 1314 AD erected the small church dedicated to Saints Joachim and Anna, parents of the Theotokos.

There used to be fourteen churches and paraklises (smaller churches) inside the complex, of which there are only three preserved (three paraklises) and used actively for worship today. There are two preserved foundations of the churches; and two paraklises are partially preserved since the guest houses were rebuilt on the same site. The Theotokos Church was completed in 1209 AD, of which the founder’s inscription on the edge of the dome witnesses: “This most holy temple of the most holy virgin Theotokos was erected by the highly praised lord and son-in-law of the Greek lord Alexis—Stefan Nemanja—who received the tonsure under the name of Simeon the monk…and it has been completed by endeavor of the great lord Stefan and the great ruler Vukan in 6717, that is 1209 AD, indict no. 12 and myself, Sava, who worked there, remember me a sinner.”

The period under Ottoman occupation was difficult for the Serbian people as well as for the monastery of Studenica. At the dawn of their rein, the Ottomans melted the lead roof construction of the church and used it for ammunition. After the retreat of the Austrian army in the great Austrian-Turkish war (1683–1699 AD), Studenica was robbed, but the greatest suffering underwent during the First Serbian uprising—the Ottomans burned the monastery. One group of monks took refuge in Vracevsnica monastery, bringing with them the incorruptible body of Simon the monk (The First crowned). The incorruptible body was transferred to Kalenic monastery and finally returned to Studenica in 1839 AD. Joakim Vujic noted the monastery was burned twice. Apart from the fire, the monastery was unprofessionally rebuilt in 1846 AD when the fresco writers put a new layer of plaster and frescos on the current frescos. A hundred years later, under the restoration in 1951, the new layer was removed. At that point, the founding inscription of Saint Sava was found. The Theotokos Church was built as the family sepulcher or crypt. On the right hand side in the nave, there is a crypt of the incorruptible body of Saint Simeon, the founder of the Nemanjic dynasty. In front of the altar screen, on the right, lies a sarcophagus of Saint Simon (Stefan the First crowned), and on the left, a sarcophagus of Saint Anastasia, the mother of Sava. Studenica has been on the list of cultural heritage sites under the protection of UNESCO since 1986 AD.