The area of Kosovo and Metohija holds the pearls of the Orthodox Serbian architecture, iconography and fresco painting. Many of them, preserved for centuries, were damaged in the conflicts of 1999, and then in the riots of Albanian extremists in 2004. Today, owing to the effort of the Serbian Orthodox Church, Serbian institutions and UNSECO, some of them are being renovated. The report of Liljana Sindjelic Nikolic.
Let us remind, the Christianity was spreading in today’s territory of Kosmet already with Holy apostles Andrew and Paul. In 1189 this eparchy became part of the Serbian state, and during the rule of the Nemanjic dynasty, numerous churches and monasteries were built there, representing some of the peak accomplishments of the Christian European civilization.
After the recent burnings and destruction, many of the churches and monasteries required urgent salvation from deterioration. These buildings are not just cultural monuments, but also part of the living church, which means religious rituals are still performed there. Even in the areas where the Serbs have been expelled, the monks or Orthodox priests either did not leave at all, or returned quickly, at the price of being harassed or even murdered. Some of those monasteries are on the UNESCO world heritage list. This organization has organized the restoration and conservation works in several Kosmet monasteries. The finances have been provided by Russia, donating two million dollars for that purpose.
The monastery of Decani is widely renowned for its beauty, especially of the frescoes. The church was built between 1327 and 1335. The min church of the monastery has the biggest preserved collection of Byzantine painting, in 20 cycles and more than a thousand compositions. These frescoes require protection, because the restoration was interrupted by wars. In the monastery they hope that thanking to the Russian donation to UNESCO, the restoration of the priceless frescoes will be completed.
Among other churches that are being under renovation is the temple of the Holy Mary of Ljeviska, in Prizren, erected in early 14th century. The Albanian extremists had set it on fire on several occasions, and even threw in the tar barrels, so the frescoes are damaged. The restoration is very demanding, but nowadays the experts have the ability and materials to help this church be brought back to its full splendor.
It is stressed in the Serbian Orthodox Church that the protection of monasteries is important, but so is the process of Serbs’ return to their houses and churches. This process is unfolding very slowly, Serbs are still being attacked in Kosmet and their property is usurped. However, despite it all, the Serbs do not wish to leave behind their land and homes, hoping that life in tolerance is possible – that heir rights will be respected, their sanctities and houses protected, like in the rest of the civilized world, and especially Europe.
Let us remember the words of the late Patriarch Pavle, who had lived in Kosmet for a few decades: “We deeply believe that the time will come when bullies will be ashamed. We pray for our enemies too, to understand that doing evil cannot bring good to anyone. Let them know that after all defeats that they use to humiliate others, in the end they will defeat themselves with hopelessness”.