Gračanica is a Serbian Orthodox monastery located in Kosovo. It was rebuilt by the Serbian king Stefan Milutin in 1321 on the ruins of a 6th-century early Christian three-naved basilica.
In the church three kinds of painting can be discerned. The earliest is found in the nave, whereas two later ones can be recognized in the narthex. The frescoes were painted in 1321–1322. The painting works have been well preserved. The compositions in the nave deal with the earthly life of Jesus and the ecclesiastical calendar.
The paintings of Gračanica rank highest among the achievements of Milutin’s period, characterized by influences of the Byzantine splendiferous and luxurious style called the Paleologan Renaissance. In terms of style, they are also related to the art of the other of Milutin’s foundations.
The Art of Gracanica Monastery
Fragments of painting
The focal paintings of Gračanica include the Festival Cycle, the Passion and the miracles of Christ. Inside the narthex, there are portraits of the founders: King Milutin and Queen Simonida, Queen Hélène d’Anjou (king’s mother) as a nun and King Milutin as a monk. Of particular importance is the Nemanjić dynasty genealogy, the first ever painted, which starts with Stefan Nemanja and ends with Milutin. Also in the narthex, there is an exhaustive illustration of the Last Judgment. The scenes from the life of St. Nicholas are in the north parecclesion, while the walls of the south one display scenes from the Old Testament and the lives of Christ and the Mother of God. The master painters supposedly wereMichael and Eutihije with their assistants.
There are also considerable frescoes from 1570 in the exonarthex, commissioned by Patriarch Makarije Sokolović. There are some paintings in the narthex that date back to the late 14th and early 15th centuries, including the Baptism of Jesus, parts of the Virgin’s Acathistus Hymns and the Ecumenical Councils. Two subjects, however, dominate the narthex of Gračanica: the Doxology to the Holy Virgin and the procession of the Serbian archbishops from Saint Sava to Patriarch Makarije Sokolović. A historical composition of the death of the Metropolitan of Gračanica Dionisije covers the southeastern part of the narthex.