Gradac Monastery – Gradac, Serbia - Atlas Obscura

Gradac Monastery is a medieval Orthodox monastery founded by Queen Helen of Anjou, spouse of King Stefan Uroš I during the late 13th century. It’s located north of the city of Ras, a medieval capital of Serbia located on the slopes of Mount Golija in the Ibar river valley. This area is known as the “Serbian Valley of Kings” as many emperors and rulers constructed their monasteries throughout the region. 

The monastery’s name derives from a Byzantine fort from the 6th century that included an early-Christian church. The foundations of that church are still visible at the monastery. Inside the complex are two churches, the Church of the Entry of the Most Holy Theotokos into the Temple and Church of St Nicholas. The larger church was the burial place of Helen, until Ottoman raids forced the monks to flee with her sarcophagus. It has been missing ever since. 

According to Archbishop Danilo, the queen chose the best artists to construct the monastery. The Church of the Entry of the Most Holy Theotokos into the Temple highly resembles sacral buildings of central and southern Italy. This has led many to believe that the builders came from the Adriatic coast.

The monastery church represents the fusion of western European culture and art that represented the queen’s heritage. It’s believed she was of French or Italian descent. With the traditional forms of the Raška architectural school, several Romanesque and Gothic architectural features are skillfully connected. The most visible among them are the windows, arcades, and rooftop decorations, all of which make it unique among Serbian medieval temples.

Gradac Monastery was founded as a friary and hosted a number of monks during the 14th century. It was devastated and renewed multiple times over its history. Nowadays, it’s a nunnery. 

Know Before You Go

The monastery is open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. in the summer and from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. in the winter.

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March 6, 2020

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