In the last few years, fires near the Studenica Monastery have become more frequent. During the previous 2020, in the period from mid-March to mid-May, there were six minor fires in the monastery area. The last one got out of control and lasted for several days, approaching the Studenica Monastery and the nearby elementary school, almost endangering them. The fire was localized on May 16. It was extinguished by fire brigades, members of the Voluntary Fire Brigade “Studenica”, the local people as well as the brotherhood of the Monastery. Tens of hectares of pine forest were burned. The pine forest is difficult to extinguish and the terrain is steep and inaccessible. Aware of the importance of the Studenica Monastery and knowing about the fire threat, the Director and owner of the company “Vatrosprem” from Belgrade, graduate engineer Dragiša Marinković, decided to donate a fire truck to the Studenica Monastery. This company employs top expert engineers and only in Serbia manufactures and installs fire systems on vehicles. The vehicle donated to the Monastery has traction on all four wheels, tanks with water and foam, a pump and hoses for hosepipe spraying . In case of a fire, the fire brigade can head to the Monastery from Ušće, which is 11 km away, and in the best case, it can reach Studenica in about 15 minutes. The firefighting vehicle donated by “Vatrosprem” will always be ready in the Monastery complex.
Video by Radoslav Živković referes to the growing danger of fire in Studenica Monastery area:
The feast of the Venerable Anastasia was celebrated at the Studenica Monastery On July 4, 2021. One of Studenica’s Slava (patron saint venerated once a year) was celebrated at the Studenica Monastery – the feast of the Venerable Anastasia.
The Holy Hierarchical Liturgy was officiated by His Grace the Right Reverend Dr. Justin Bishop of Žiča, with the co-officiation of Archimandrites Tihon (Rakićević), Damjan (Cvetković) and Sava (Ilić), hieromonks Vitalije (Milošević) and Kiprijan (Monastery of the Ascension), archpriest-stavrophore Slobodan Marković, archpriest Radoje Sanda, priest Dejan Tripković, as well as deacon Stefan Simić.
The nuns from the Monastery of the Annunciation with the abbess Mihaila embellished the feast day with their voices and singing.
Due to the large number of people who came to the celebration, this time the Liturgy was officiated in the open, on the foundations of the St. John’s church. This temple from the 14th century is preserved only in the lower zone. It was built somewhat later in relation to the time when King Milutin built the church of Saints Joachim and Anne in Studenica. At that time, no one other than the ruler and his family could get permission to build a church, so this temple is the endowment of Nemanjić dynasty members – king Milutin’s heirs. Archpriest-stavrophore Slobodan Marković from Kosjerić started to pray with great respect for the Venerable Anastasia together with his spiritual children three decades ago. Since then, dozens of believers from Kosjerić regularly come to this feast.
The Bishop spoke on the feast theme, emphasizing the importance of respecting the Venerable Anastasia. Among other instructive words, the Bishop pointed out: – “Through ignorant fishermen, God transmitted divine science to the whole world. He chose them for the apostolic mission because the vocation of the fishermen was filled with constant hope. It often happens that they do not catch anything, so they need faith and calm. They often return home empty-handed, but they always return to their calling in calm and hope. When they met the Lord, they left everything and followed Him. They were not attracted by the power of the authorities of this world, but by the Truth they felt.”
The bishop reminded those present that our Saint Sava, like the apostle, left everything at the call of the Lord. He added: – “It was difficult for his parents, but they still blessed him and supported him to persevere on the monastic path. That is how the history of the holy dynasty of Nemanjić began. Venerable Anastasia was distinguished by her fear of God, with which she followed the wise virgins of Christ that we are told about in the Gospel.” The Bishop emphasized that even today we should not be tied to the temporary, but look at the Heavenly Jerusalem. In this way, we will follow the Lord and His saints, among whom is the Venerable Anastasia. God’s call gives us both strength and grace to live by God’s commandments.
Many people attended the Holy Liturgy and approached the Cup of Salvation (Holy Communion – Eucharist), and then, in festive joy, the Slava wheat was consecrated and a Slava bread was cut in honor of the Venerable Anastasia. The table of Christian love (agape) followed in this beautiful day which the Lord illuminated with the rays of His love.
Regarding the doubts that some have regarding the date of celebration of the Venerable Anastasia, the mother of Saint Sava, we can say the following:
The oldest transcript of the Hilandar Typikon (3rd decade of the 13th century) says that “the day of remembrance of the blessed Anastasia the nun” falls “in the month of June 21” (see: Hilandar Typikon. Manuscript CHIL AS 156, ed. D. Bogdanović, Belgrade, 1995, p. 87). The only surviving transcript of the Studenički tipik (manuscript IX Х 8 [Ш 10]) was transcribed by the monk Averkije of Hilandar in 1619 in the Upper Hermitage near Studenica (see: Saint Sava, Studenički tipik, Translation and comments: Prof. Dr. Maja Anđelković, Publisher: Manastir Studenica, 2018, pp. 92-93.). During the rewriting of Chapter 35 of the Studenica Typikon, the monk Averkije made a mistake or followed a mistake and wrote “the month of July” instead of June. This mistake is not significant because in all transcripts of the Hilandar type it is written “the month of June”. There was later another mistake made in the editions of the church calendar. Namely, although Srbljak says „мѣсѧца уна ка день“ (Srbljak, Prepared and edited by Bishop Pavle of Raska and Prizren, Holy Synod of Bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church, Belgrade 1986, pp. 2, 439), so June 21 according to the old calendar (July 4 according to the new calendar), the date “22. June ”(July 5 according to the new) entered the chutch calendars and it remained so until 2011 (see: Church calendar for the year 2011, published by the Holy Synod of Bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church, Belgrade 2010). This error „въ кв_и день“ (June 22) was repeated in the new edition of Menion (Житчски и студенически минеи, мѣсѧцъ уни / Žiča and Studenica Menion for June, Prepared by Bishop Chrysostom of Žiča, Diocese of Žiča: Žiča Monastery and Studenica Monastery, Kraljevo 2007, pp. 252, 455) but was finally corrected in the church calendar in 2012, where it says “21. June “, ie. July 4 according to the new calendar (Church calendar for the year 2012, published by the Holy Synod of Bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church, Belgrade 2011). This is the case in all later calendars of the Serbian Orthodox Church.
The Seventh National Conference of Byzantine Studies was held in Belgrade from June 22 to 25, organized by the Serbian Committee for Byzantine Studies, the Byzantine Board of Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts and the Byzantine Institute. This event included a thematic part entitled “Serbian-Greek Empire of Nemanjić. Idea and Reality”, a general part, entitled “Byzantine topics” and a discussion forum “Challenges of modern Byzantology”, in which members of the Austrian Academy of Sciences also took part. In the general part, which included topics from the wider field of Byzantine studies and medieval studies, several statements concerned the Studenica Monastery.
On Wednesday, June 23, Archimandrite Dr. Tihon Rakićević had a presentation on the topic “The meaning and significance of the terms “icon” and “sacred doors” in the Studenica Typikon of Saint Sava”. On Thursday, June 24, prof. Dr. Miodrag Marković, a corresponding member of Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts, spoke on the topic “One neglected information about the date of construction of the Church of the Mother of God in Studenica”, and Dr. Nevena Debljović-Ristić and Archimandrite Dr. Tihon Rakićević had a conference announcement entitled “Stone altar templon of the Church of Saints Joachim and Anne in Studenica – analysis of the original forms in relation to its meaning and function”. On Friday, June 25, the results of the latest research by a team of experts from the United States gathered around the Study Studenica project were discussed by prof. Dr. Jelena Bogdanović (Iowa State University) in the framework of the announcement “Possibilities of parametric and reverse architectural design for a better understanding of the Studenica’s church of the Mother of God”. The National Conference of Byzantine Scholars has been held every five years since 1990.
Western portal of the Church of the Mother of God in Studenica, around 1190, detail of marble sculptural decoration
The online presentation of the cultural heritage of Serbia has started on the “Google Arts and Culture” platform. By clicking on “Google’s” audio-visual platform, it is possible to virtually visit seven exhibitions about sights throughout Serbia, including the Studenica Monastery. “These seven exhibitions were selected because they were completely finished and ready to be published on “Google” according to their strict technical and technological requirements”, notes Dejan Masliković, Assistant of the Minister of Culture and Information of Serbia. He pointed out that it will greatly contribute to Serbia being recognized in the world as a country with a rich cultural heritage. As he said, “Google” is the world’s leading search engine and has an influence not only within IT technologies but also on creating a certain public opinion, with content that they offer to their users, of which there are several billion.
Baptism of Christ, detail of the damaged fresco in the nave of the Church of the Mother of God in Studenica, 1568.
These materials, available on Google, present in detail the cultural heritage in Serbia and are available not only to the general public but also to the academic community. It is believed that the cultural monuments of Serbia will be researched to a greater extent through academic works.
– “I can give the example of the Studenica Monastery, and the wall painting of the Studenica Monastery, which is one of the most beautiful and most valuable wall paintings in the world; several doctorates from abroad have already been dedicated to the topic of the painting of the Church of the Mother of God”, emphasizes Masliković. It is expected that more than 50 new exhibitions will be set up by the end of next year, which will contribute to the further online promotion of Serbia’s cultural heritage. This will affect the development of tourism, but also the cultural community in Serbia.
A little more than a decade after the uplift of the Church of the Mother of God in Studenica, the sons of Stefan Nemanja Stefan, Vukan and Sava Nemanjić, who was then the abbot of the Studenica Lavra, undertook extensive work on completing their father’s endowment and sepulchral church.
Thanks to Saint Sava, 1208/1209. the best painters of that time were hired to decorate the monumental church of the Mother of God with frescoes. They probably arrived from Constantinople after the Fourth Crusade and the fall of the Byzantine capital to the Latin Empire in 1204. While frescoing the main Studenica Monastery church at a time when the relics of the Venerable Simeon the Myrrh-bearer had just been transferred from Hilandar and stored in a pre-prepared marble tomb, for the first time in the Serbian environment, painters used the most precious blue paint and gold. During this period, these materials were difficult to obtain; the azure blue natural pigment was more expensive than gold itself, imported from distant lands in the East. It was produced by a special recipe, crushed and extracted from the semi-precious stone lapis lazuli, which was excavated in the province of Badakshan in Afghanistan, several thousand years before the birth of Christ. It was exported to the Mediterranean and Asia region and was highly respected in Ancient Egypt as well.
Lapis lazuli (lazurite, ultramarine) is a complex mineral that, in addition to blue, also contains impurities of calcite, sodalite and pyrite, which contribute to its unique shade, from light blue to dark purple tone. The most valuable is lapis lazuli of a deep shade of blue with a touch of purple and small “veins” of pyrite, which is also called “Byzantine blue” due to its noble composition, specific vivacity in tone and the highest degree of purity. In the Byzantine semantics of colors, this blue color is an expression of a new, eschatological reality in eternity, immaterial light, peace, the fullness of virtues and spiritual authority. That is why the epithet “Byzantine Blue” suits completely, associating it with the most sublime spiritual heritage of the Byzantine Empire. The process of obtaining pure lazurite pigment has only been partially described in old painting manuals (Erminias and Il Libro dell’Arte by Chenino Chenini), because this knowledge required years of viewing and learning in order to properly extract the finest powder from a compact rock of exceptional hardness. It was then mixed by an “alchemical” process with heated pure beeswax, gum arabic and rosin, until the final rinsing of the compact mass and the separation of the pigment of the highest degree of purity, ready for use.
The use of gold in frescoes has been noticed among Serbs since the time of Saint Sava. Gold symbolizes the light of truth, tested and purified in the fire of temptation, the supernatural beauty of the glory of God and the Heavenly Jerusalem which is contemplated by the eyes of the faith. Like lapis lazuli, gold, when used in painting, reflects an eschatological reality devoid of the category of space and time. Material gold is just an ambiguous symbol of the “immaterial gold” of the unfading Light, the original beauty of the soul and everything created, many times brighter than gold itself. Based on the conducted research, it is known that during the painting of the apse and the domed space of the Church of the Mother of God in Studenica in 1208/1209. gold was used extensively in some places with the aim of achieving the impression of a mosaic, while in other parts of the main Monastery church gold was used wherever it was necessary to highlight halos, significant inscriptions in Cyrillic, stars and gold embroidered details of the vestments. The results of the latest expert analysis, published in the journal Archaeometry, University of Oxford / I. Drpić, A. Jelikić (2021), On large-scale gilding and mosaic simulation in medieval Serbian wall painting, 1-15 /, confirmed the presence of gold and lapis lazuli on Studenica frescoes from the beginning of the 13th century. The amount of lapis lazuli used during the fresco painting of the Church of the Mother of God in Studenica is proportional, if not greater, than the amount of gold, which has been largely preserved to this day.
Thanks to the work of the conservator-restorers of the Republic Institute for the Protection of Cultural Monuments of Serbia – Belgrade during the past years, blue lazurite and gold shine again in their true splendor. When visiting Studenica Monastery, special attention should be paid to these details and to the opportunity to see the eight centuries-old beauty of this magnificent art.