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Kosovo is notorious for its complicated geopolitics, and these religious sites are stark reminders of the region’s challenges. They are obviously significant to Serbia as Serbian Orthodox Christian churches and monasteries. They are, however, in a province that is fighting for total liberation from Serbia, so tension is unavoidable.

This collection of sites, as well as its World Heritage classification, are strongly intertwined with Kosovo’s historical wars. It’s no surprise that the Medieval Monuments of Kosovo were designated as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2004. Kosovo saw its worst unrest since the Kosovo War in 1998-1999 in the same year. Because of the continued tensions, UNESCO designated these historical sites as “at-risk” in 2006, and they are now protected.

Deçani Monastery

Let’s begin with the Decani Monastery, which is a significant landmark in Western Kosovo. The Visoki Deani Monastery, located just outside of Deçan, is a notable religious institution that continues to operate today. In 1335, Serbian monarch Stefan Deanski built the monastery as a location for his tomb.

It’s safe to state that the Decani Monastery is the best preserved of Kosovo’s Medieval Monuments. While the outside appears to be in good condition, the main church contains a plethora of genuine medieval paintings on its walls. Given all of the warfare throughout the years, it’s rather remarkable how well this historical relic has survived.

The Decani Monastery is the most highly protected of the sites because of several of these issues. Before accessing the monastery, you must pass through two security checkpoints monitored by UN forces. Because there have been issues at the monastery in the past, this is the case.

One of the main advantages of going to Decani Monastery is the chance to meet and speak with members of the order who currently operate it. The monastery is administered by monks from the Serbian Orthodox Eparchy of Raška and Prizren, who also manufacture items such as wine to help sustain it. 

Patriarchate of Peja Monastery

The Patriarchate of Peja Monastery was the Medieval Monument in Kosovo that made the most lasting effect on me. One of the primary attractions of Peja, a city in western Kosovo near the Montenegrin border, is this magnificent monastery. I only wish we hadn’t gone during a very persistent rainstorm, since I don’t think my shot does it credit.

It’s a bit of a walk around the walled monastery to really enter after passing the security checkpoint by the road. However, it is well worth the trip once you enter the verdant garden. It provides the type of tranquillity you’d expect from a monastery, surrounded by vegetation and away from city sounds. There are four churches inside the grounds.

Gračanica Monastery

The Gracanica monastery, near Lipljan in Kosovo, is King Stefan Milutin’s final monumental foundation. The monastery was constructed in 1321 and dedicated to the Annunciation of the Holy Virgin, but was later re-dedicated to Her Dormition. It was built on the ruins of the ancient Church of the Holy Virgin. The king’s charter is written on the western wall of the southeastern chapel, and it reads: “I have witnessed the ruins and degradation of the Holy Virgin’s temple of Gracanica, the bishopric of Lipljan, so I havfe built it from the ground up and painted and ornamented it both inside and out.”

Our Lady of Ljevis, Prizren

Our Lady of Ljevi (Serbian: Богородицa Љевишка, romanized: Bogorodica Ljeviška; Albanian: Kisha e Shën Premtës) is a Serbian Orthodox church in Prizren, Kosovo. It was built in the 14th century. The church has been a part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site Medieval Monuments in Kosovo since 2006.

It was built on the site of an ancient Byzantine church in the early 14th century during the reign of King Stefan Milutin of Serbia. Michael and Eutychios Astrapas, Byzantine Greek painters, painted frescoes in the reconstructed church. A minaret was built and the structure was transformed into a mosque once the Ottomans completed their annexation of the region in the 15th century. When the Serbian army annexed Kosovo in 1912, the church’s status was restored. It was extensively restored and rebuilt after World War II, and it served as a museum during SFR Yugoslavia. The site was severely damaged during the violence in Kosovo in 2004 and has been undergoing restoration since then.

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