The Monastery of the Holy Trinity was built in the 14th century on the Rusinica hill above Musutiste, 2 km to the south. In the valuable collection of manuscripts from 14 th to 18 th century there were a Book of Commemoration from 1465 and a hand-written Gospel from the 14 th century. The monastery also had a collection of icons from the 19th century — 1868-1985.
In the second half of June 1999, after the German KFOR troops deployed in the area, Albanian extremists vandalized this holy place and plundered the valuables. Between 10th and 17th July they dynamited the monastery church so that it is now completely destroyed. The monastery konak (residential quarters) was previously burned to the ground. The valuable library, and its icons, disappeared in the flames and wreckage. The church was obviously destroyed by explosive used by experts with military training.
The church of the Holy Virgin Hodegetria was built as a foundation by Dragoslav, the then chief court governor, and his family, in 1315, in Musutiste, about 10 km to the south-east of Suva Reka. The founder’s inscription above the entrance was one of the oldest and most beautiful Serbian epigraphic texts of its kind. It was an edifice with a semi-dome, had an inscribed cross in the ground plan and a semi-round apse. The wall was built of alternating rows of bricks and stone cubes. The frescoes of the Musutiste School, painted between 1316 and 1320 and famed for their plasticity and the saints’ typology were known as the best examples of Serbian art. That earned them a place in the company of other mature artistic works of the Palaeologus era from the first quarter of the 14th century. In the altar area there was a unique portrait of the South-Slav educator, St Clement of Ohrid. In the north-western corner of the naos there were figures of holy women, the warriors SS Theodore Tyro and Theodore Stratilates, angels, and St Paneteleimon. Two throne icons of Christ and The Holy Virgin dated back to the year 1603.
After the arrival of the German KFOR forces, and after the evacuation of the Serbian population from the area (15th to 20th June 1999), the church was desecrated, vandalized and looted by the local Albanian villagers. The home of the priest, and the parish house, were looted and set on fire. Early in June, the church was destroyed by explosive.
The medieval monastery of St Mark of Korisa used to stand on a rocky outpost above the Korisa river, 3 km south-east of the village of Korisa. The church was built in 1467 with a single-nave, a rectangular foundation and a preserved fragment of the original, ancient fresco. On the western side, above the rock, a belfry with two bells was added in 1861 as a foundation of Sima Andrejevic Igumanov. In April 1941, Albanians of Kabas forcibly tore out the bells and repeatedly desecrated and vandalized the founder’s grave. The monastery had a valuable library.
After the arrival of the German KFOR troops, the monastery was looted, burned, and completely destroyed by explosive. This was done by Albanian extremists.
The monastery of the Holy Archangel Gabriel, also known under the names of Binac and Buzovik, was built in the 14th century. It was located some 4-5 km south of Vitina, at the spring of the river Susica. The church had a rectangular foundation, a semi-round apse and a semi-cylindrical vault. There were two layers of frescoes, one on top of the other. The newer layer, from the 16th century, showed archbishops at liturgy. In 1867 ethnic Albanians slaughtered the priest. After that the monastery was abandoned and was renewed at the beginning of the 20th century. In the church there were valuable 14th century liturgical vessels.
Immediately after the peace was agreed in Kosovo in June 1999, Albanian extremists attacked this place. The church was desecrated and demolished, and then set on fire from the inside. The konak buildings were plundered and torched.
Devic monastery — Drenica (south of Srbica) — the Church of the Presentation of the Holy Virgin was built around the year 1434 by Despot Djuradj Brankovic in memory of his virgin („devica“) daughter, after whom the monastery was named, and her recovery from an illness. It was built on the original site where St Joannicius’s, the first founder, small church once stood. The monastery was restored on several occasions and consisted of a number of churches dedicated to the Presentation of the Holy Virgin, St Joannicius and St George.
There were four churches in the monastery, together with the konaks (residential quarters), which were looted, desecrated, mined and destroyed by the Albanians Nazis in 1941 when the Italians occupied Kosovo. The monastery used to have a rich collection of manuscripts and printed books. There was also a scriptorium within the monastery complex. The entire Devic book collection, comprising of ancient as well as the 19th and 20th century books, and the iconostasis with icons, were lost in a fire. At the same time the recluse of St Joannicius of Devic, on the hill north of the monastery, was wrecked as was the spring in a ravine below the monastery.
The frescoes dated from the 15th century. Beside the portrait of St Joannicius of Devic, clad in a senior monk’s robes and bearing a retained inscription which indicates that he was „the first founder of the place“, preserved were also an image of St Akakios and the compositions of The wedding in Kana Galilee and The healing of the Infirm. There was also another layer of frescoes from the 15th century, as well as one from the 19th century. The monastery owned the lands in Lausa, Ludovic, Lepina in Kosovo, Bica in Metohia, a vineyard in Velika Hoca, a number of houses and shops in Vucitrn, watermills, residential quarters, a bakery, a dairy… 60 hectares of arable land and 250 hectares of forest in total.
On 15th June 1999, immediately after the retreat of the Yugoslav security forces from Kosovo and the arrival of the French KFOR troops, the monastery was attacked and occupied by Albanian extremists belonging to the KLA (UÇK). For three days they systematically robbed, desecrated and devastated this sacred place. The nuns and their spiritual father (Fr. Seraphim) were maltreated and some of them were injured.
The Monastery of St Uros, with the Church of the Ascension of the Holy Virgin, was built by Empress Helen at the end of the 14th century, west above Gornje Nerodimlje, in the small village of Sarenik. In 1647-49 Patriarch Paisios donated the manuscript of the hagiography of Emperor Uros to the monastery.
Albanian extremists destroyed the monastery, using explosive, after the US KFOR forces had arrived.
The Monastery and the Church of the Holy Archangel, in Gornje Nerodimlje, were built in the 14th century and were reconstructed in the year 1700. The frescoes were painted in 14th and 15th century.
The monastery was looted and set on fire by Albanian extremists after the arrival of the US KFOR forces. A giant black pine tree, which was planted in 1336 by Emperor Dusan himself, was cut down and burned. The Christian cemetery was desecrated and the tombstones knocked over and damaged.
The new Church of St Nicholas of the Summer, in Donje Nerodimlje, was built on the ancient foundations in 1983. It was a single-nave building with an altar apse and a little dome. In front of it, facing west, there stood a hundred-years-old oak tree where the congregation used to gather even at times when the church was in ruins.
The church was demolished, burned and destroyed by Albanian extremists after the arrival of the US forces of KFOR.
The monastery Church of the Holy Virgin (also known as the Church of our Immaculate Lady) was built in Dolac near Klina. The church was a single-nave building, rectangular at the foundations, with a semi-cylindrical vault and a semi-round apse. Two layers of frescoes were preserved. The more recent one dated from 1620 while the older, found underneath, was from the 14th century. These were roughly restored, especially those found in the lower zone of the southern wall. Fragments of an old fresco were known for their very fine drawings and colours. Similar features could be found in the later date fresco, from the 17th century. Many think that the church is older than Decani and built four years before the Battle of Kosovo (1389).
A precious Evangelistar from 14th-15th century and an Octoichos for I-IV voices from the 15th century used to be preserved in Dolac.
In July 1999, after the Italian KFOR soldiers deployed in this area, the Albanian extremists vandalized the church and smashed the altar table to pieces. The churches in the nearby villages of Klina and Djurakovac were also desecrated and vandalized as were several less famous churches in the vicinity. The latest information reveals that the church was blown up and levelled with the ground at the beginning of August.
United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization
Non-resident Agency in Kosovo
UNESCO Mission and Mandate:
As a specialized agency of the United Nations, UNESCO contributes to the promotion of peace, human development and intercultural dialogue through education, sciences, culture, communication and information.
Coordinated by its Regional Bureau for Science and Culture in Europe based in Venice, Italy, and in close coordination with the UN Kosovo Team and UNMIK, UNESCO in the framework of its overall mandate has placed priority on activities related to culture including intercultural dialogue and the protection and conservation of multi-ethnic heritage, science including environmental sustainable development as well as enhancing education for all opportunities.
Main activities in Kosovo since programmes started:
Recognizing the role that cultural heritage is playing as a potent symbol of identity and as a factor for reconciliation, UNESCO has developed a framework for coordinating the contributions of the international community towards the restoration, reconstruction and protection of cultural heritage in Kosovo.
Following international donors conference to safeguard cultural heritage in Kosovo (13 May 2005) thanks to the generous support from Albania, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Russian Federation, Turkey and USA, UNESCO has actively supported the restoration and reconstruction works of multi-ethnic examples of extraordinary cultural heritage. In addition to strengthening the capacities and widening of the knowledge of young local professionals through the physical works undertaken, UNESCO has contributed to the reconciliation process by ensuring that all professionals, regardless of their ethnic origins, work on monuments representing a variety of different cultures, thus fostering a process to deepen cross-cultural understanding.
All projects have been implemented together with local experts in cooperation with all partners involved in the protection of heritage, in particularly close cooperation with UNMIK (in accordance to the Memorandum of Understanding of 2006) and the UN Kosovo Team.
Major Goals for next 3-5 years:
- Along its five areas of competence – culture, education, natural sciences, social and human sciences and communication and information – UNESCO has identified a range of future priorities:
- Enhance capacities for the management, safeguarding, and promotion of cultural heritage and cultural diversity as tools for dialogue, sustainable development, welfare, and prosperity.
- Strengthen the science & technology system, improving internal, regional and international collaboration
- Encourage adoption of EU standards in higher education, making education available to all with a particular focus on girls, and promoting life-long learning.
- Strengthen sustainable management of ecosystems, freshwater, terrestrial resources, and biodiversity, including strengthening capacities for disaster risk reduction and rural development
- Foster the development of youth and minority policies that give all citizens opportunities for representation and participation.
- Support the development of an independent and pluralistic media.
Contact for Kosovo
Kosovo Faces Major Obstacles to Joining UNESCO
After UNESCO decided to look at Kosovo’s membership application – a move that infuriated Serbian officials – experts said that obstacles remain on Pristina’s path to joining the UN’s cultural body.
|Kosovo’s deputy foreign minister Petrit Selimi.
Photo: Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Kosovo’s second bid to join UNESCO, the result of an official request last week from Albania for the former Serbian province’s admission to UNESCO, is expected to be strongly contested by Belgrade.
Tirana filed a request on Friday for the UNESCO Executive Council to put Kosovo on the agenda of its October session. The request was backed by 44 other UNESCO member states out of a total of 195.
Kosovo’s deputy foreign minister Petrit Selimi told media on Friday that UNESCO’s board will review Kosovo’s application for membership on October 3, while its general assembly is expected to vote on the issue in the first week of November.
But Serbian labour minister Aleksandar Vulin said on Saturday that Albania’s move “doesn’t lead to good neighbourly relations”, adding that Belgrade will do all it can to stop Kosovo’s UNESCO membership bid.
“I’m sorry that Albania did what it did… That doesn’t restore trust in the region and shows there are countries that don’t care or only care a little about what Serbia and Serbs feel,” Vulin said.
Belgrade opposes any recognition of Kosovo’s independence and argues that Pristina has failed to protect Serbian cultural and religious heritage since the war ended in 1999.
Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic admitted that the battle against Kosovo’s admission to UNESCO will be tough.
“We are ready for that fight. It is reasonable that we oppose such a decision being made,” Dacic said on Friday.
Albania’s request comes several months after Kosovo’s Prime Minister Hashim Thaci announced that Kosovo had applied to join UNESCO.
At the time, Dacic send a letter to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon saying that Kosovo’s request was unacceptable under international law.
Kosovo’s membership bid was then rejected.
But Behlul Beqaj, a Kosovo political analyst, argued there was now a real chances for Kosovo to join the UN body, although he also said he expects Serbia’s government to try to block it.
“I assume they will complain about the way the membership bid was put forward, as it didn’t go through the United Nations but through the signatures of UNESCO member states,” Beqaj told BIRN.
Dusan Janjic from the Forum for Ethnic Relations, a Belgrade-based think tank, predicted that the biggest obstacle for Kosovo would be getting enough votes in its favour.
“Getting a majority [of the UNESCO member states] to vote for Kosovo’s membership would be hard because Kosovo doesn’t have full diplomatic relations with many of them,” Janjic told BIRN.
But he said he was pessimistic about Belgrade’s chances of blocking Pristina.
“Serbia is trying to lobby and to explain that joining UNESCO is one step further towards the international recognition of Kosovo. But I don’t believe they [Serbia] will be successful. Kosovo will enter UNESCO like it entered the International Olympic Committee [in 2014],” he said.
Many significant Serbian Orthodox monasteries and churches lie in Kosovo, and Belgrade officials have accused Pristina of not protecting them properly or even colluding in their destruction.
During ethnically-charged unrest across Kosovo in March 2004, 19 people were killed and more than 800 buildings were destroyed or damaged (including 29 churches or monasteries),according to an OSCE report.
International courts in Pristina have since convicted several people of destroying Serbian Orthodox churches, handing down jail sentences ranging from 21 months to 16 years.
But Milan Antonijevic from the Belgrade-based NGO Lawyers Committee for Human Rights said that the issue of Kosovo joining UNESCO was purely political.
“This is not about taking care of cultural heritage. This story is about politics and the questions of [Kosovo’s] statehood, as joining UNESCO would be a confirmation of statehood,” Antonijevic told BIRN.
He said he expects “high resistance” to Kosovo’s bid from countries that have not recognised Kosovo’s independence or have regularly supported Serbia, like Russia.
In order to become a UNESCO member, Kosovo first needs the support of its executive council. The council will then decide if UNESCO’s general conference will vote on Kosovo’s request during its session in November. Kosovo needs two-thirds of the vote to become a UNESCO member.
“Now the battle for votes will intensify, with both parties trying to gain the support of as many member states as possible,” said Gezim Krasniqi, a fellow in Albanian studies at University College London.
Krasniqi said Kosovo was well placed to get through the executive council stage but the general assembly would be a greater challenge.
But he said that because of Pristina’s support from major powers like the US and various European states, “Kosovo stand a very good chance to join UNESCO in November”.
Serbia has no right to veto Pristina’s UNESCO membership bid, and Kosovo is able to join even though it is not a UN member state.
UNESCO Board Agrees Kosovo Membership Vote
UNESCO’s executive board has voted to put Kosovo’s bid for membership to a final vote at its general conference in November, despite Serbian opposition.
|UNESCO headquarters in Paris. Photo: UNESCO.|
The executive board voted on Wednesday by 27 to 14 for Kosovo’s bid to join UNESCO to move to the next stage, despite opposition from Serbia, which sees it as a further unacceptable step towards recognition of its former province’s independence.
“It was a small but emotional step forward in a long road,” Kosovo’s Deputy Foreign Minister Petrit Selimi wrote on Twitter after the vote.
The membership bid will now be put to a final vote at UNESCO’s general conference in November, when two-thirds of its 195 members need to vote in favour in order for Kosovo to be allowed to join.
Delegations from Serbian allies Russia and Cuba asked the executive board to postpone Kosovo’s request but the head of the session refused the request, saying it was too late, Kosovapress reported.
Serbia opposes any international recognition of Kosovo and argues that Pristina does not have the will to protect Serb religious monuments in its former province.
Marko Djuric, the head of the Serbian government’s office for Kosovo, said that despite Wednesday’s vote, Belgrade would not stop trying to prevent Pristina from joining the UN cultural body.
“We will continue our diplomatic struggle in the coming days because the battle to stop Kosovo becoming a UNESCO member, no matter how hard it is, is not over yet,” Tanjug news agency quoted Djuric as saying.
Kosovo Serbs protested on Wednesday at an Orthodox monastery in Gracanica and in the north of the divided town of Mitrovica ahead of the crucial UNESCO executive board meeting.
Dozens of Serbs gathered inside the Gracanica monastery and placed photographs of destroyed Serbian Orthodox churches on the ground to spell out the slogan “No Kosovo in UNESCO”.
Igor Simic, a politician from Mitrovica who took part in the protest, recalled the destruction of Serbian Orthodox churches during unrest across Kosovo in 2004.
“Kosovo’s membership of UNESCO will not protect Serbian churches,” Simic told media.
Around 200 Serb students also rallied in Mitrovica in protest, marching from the university to the main bridge over Ibar River that divides the town’s Serb and Albanian population.
“As students do not accept the Republic of Kosovo, they are also against Kosovo’s acceptance into UNESCO,” said student representative Milan Savic.
In the ethnic unrest in March 2004, 19 people were killed and more than 800 buildings were destroyed or damaged, including 29 churches or monasteries, according to an OSCE report.
International courts in Pristina have since convicted several people of destroying Serbian Orthodox churches, handing down jail sentences ranging from 21 months to 16 years.
Many of the most significant Serbian Orthodox monasteries and churches lie in Kosovo, including the monastery churches of Gracanica and Decani and the Patriarchal complex in Pec/Peje, which are already on the list of UNESCO world heritage sites.
Belgrade accuses Pristina of not looking after them properly and of colluding in the destruction of some sites.
Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic told reporters before the vote on Wednesday that the issue of Kosovo’s membership of international organisations should be discussed during the ongoing EU-led dialogue to normalise relations between Belgrade and Pristina.
“We want to take this issue to the talks in Brussels, not to let the Albanians cheat us anymore by joining every organisation they can get into by outvoting us,” he said.
However Serbia has no right of veto over Kosovo’s UNESCO membership bid, and Kosovo will be able to join even though it is not a UN member state.
Safeguarding of Cultural Heritage in Kosovo
Protection and conservation of a multi-ethnic heritage in danger
Responding to the events of March 2004 in Kosovo, to the attacks on the region’s rich cultural heritage, it was declared that it was not only monuments but also “memory and cultural identity” that were being destroyed.
Recalling the spirit of the Ohrid Declaration, approved by all the Heads of State of the region in August 2003, in which they stressed the role that cultural heritage could play as a potent symbol of the identity of peoples and as a factor of reconciliation, UNESCO has developed a framework for coordinating the contributions of the international community towards the restoration, reconstruction and protection of cultural heritage in Kosovo.
Medieval Monuments in Kosovo inscribed on the World Heritage List
The Dečani Monastery was built in the mid-14th century for the Serbian king Stefan Dečanski and is also his mausoleum. The Patriarchate of Peć Monastery is a group of four domed churches featuring series of wall paintings. The 13th-century frescoes of the Church of Holy Apostles are painted in a unique, monumental style. Early 14th-century frescoes in the church of the Holy Virgin of Ljevisa represent the appearance of the new so-called Palaiologian Renaissance style, combining the influences of the eastern Orthodox Byzantine and the Western Romanesque traditions. The style played a decisive role in subsequent Balkan art. – More
Cultural Heritage in South-East Europe: KOSOVO
SEE edition featuring UNESCO mission in Kosovo and extensive field visits outside Priština (March 2003)
Cultural heritage in South-East Europe; 1
Publ: 2003; 154 p., illus.*. – read
Cultural heritage in South-East Europe: KOSOVO
protection and conservation of multi-ethnic heritage in danger, mission report, 26-30 April 2004
Cultural heritage in South-East Europe; 2
Publ: 2004; 63 p., illus., map*. – read
Protection and Preservation of Cultural Heritage in KOSOVO
45- page colour consolidated summary of main working documents of the International Donors Conference. May 2005
Publ: 2005; 44 p., illus.*. – read
11. ST NICHOLAS’ CHURCH, in Slovinje near Lipljan
The Church of St Nicholas, in the village of Slovinje near Lipljan, was built in the 16th century, pulled down in the 19th century and reconstructed in 1996.
After the deployment of the British KFOR troops the church was vandalized in June 1999 by Albanian extremists. On 17th July 1999, using explosive, the extremists completely destroyed the shrine.
12. THE CHURCH OF THE HOLY APOSTLES PETER and PAUL, in Suva Reka
The new Church of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul was built in 1938, on the eastern outskirts of the town of Suva Reka. Beside the church with a dome was a belfry.
13. THE HOLY TRINITY CHURCH, in Petric near Pec
The new Church of the Holy Trinity in the village of Petric, on the Pec-Pristina road, was built as a foundation of the Karic family in 1992.
After the Italian KFOR units were deployed in the area, the church was damaged at the beginning of July 1999. Albanian extremists looted, desecrated and vandalized the interior. Soon thereafter they partly destroyed the church. In mid-August they mined the church again and this time levelled it with the ground.
14. THE HOLY VIRGIN CHURCH, in Belo Polje, Pec
The Church of the Presentation of the Holy Virgin, in Belo Polje near Pec, was built in the 16th century and restored in 1868 under the patronage of the Empress of Russia, Maria Alexandrovna. A collection of ancient icons, books and liturgical vessels was kept in the monastery among which particularly stood out a 15th-16th century Italo-Cretan icon of The Holy Virgin with Christ.
Subsequent to the arrival of the Italian KFOR troops, the church was desecrated and vandalized, at the end of June 1999, by Albanian extremists. The entire Serbian population of the village was forced into exile. The last three remaining Serb peasants were murdered by UÇK militants.
15. ST UROS’S CATHEDRAL, in Urosevac
The Cathedral Church of Holy King Uros, in the city of Urosevac, was built between 1929 and 1933 by Josif Mihailovic, the architect from Skopje. The icon collection, belonging to the medieval period of Serbian icon painting, also included the 1896 Holy Trinity icon painted, by Josif Radevic from Lazaropolje. The church had votive patens from 1909, a censer and several bells donated by the women of Kragujevac in 1912.
After the arrival of the US KFOR forces in Urosevac, at the end of June 1999, the cathedral demolished inside and set on fire by Albanian extremists.
16. ST ELIJAH’S CHURCH, in Vucitrn
The Church of St Elijah in Vucitrn, was built in 1834, on the eastern outskirt of the city, at the site where previously buried holy relics had been discovered. The wall paintings, painted by Blaza Damnjanovic from Debar, date from 1871.
The church was desecrated in June 1999, in the presence of the French KFOR troops. The priest’s house was looted and vandalized.
17. ST JOHN THE BAPTIST CHURCH, in Samodreza near Vucitrn
The Church of St John the Baptist, in Samodreza near Vucitrn, is known in history as „the white church of Samodreza“ in which saint Prince Lazar gave the Holy Communion to the Serbian knights on the eve of the Battle of Kosovo (1389). The new church, made from blocks of white marble according to the design of A. Deroko and P. Popovic, was erected on the foundations of the old church, in 1932. The famous poet and painter Zivorad Nastasijevic painted the frescoes in the new church in the same year. Albanians desecrated the church and damaged the frescos in 1981.
At the end of June 1999, after the French KFOR forces were deployed in the area, Albanian extremists vandalized Samodreza church, burned the interior.
18. ST PARASCEVA’S CHURCH, in Drsnik near Pec
The Church of St Parasceva, in Drsnik near Pec, was at one time devoted to St Nicholas. It was a single-nave building, of rectangular foundation, with a semi-cylindrical vault. There was a semi-round apse facing east. The church had a gable roof covered in stone slates. The wall consisted of irregular layers of stone and plaster. The old frescoes were considerably damaged. The church was restored during the 1570’s. Preserved was an icon from that period, remarkable for its fine drawing and strong colours. The technique was good and in spite of constant rain and snow, the frescoes were well preserved. Two marble crosses were elaborately shaped and placed on the eastern and western roof vertices respectively.
After the Italian KFOR forces into the area the church was vandalized, set on fire and seriously damaged by Albanian extremists using explosives, in June 1999.
19. THE HOLY VIRGIN CHURCH, Naklo village near Pec
The Church of the Holy Virgin, in the village of Naklo near Pec, was built in 1985.
After the arrival of the Italian KFOR troops, this Christian shrine was demolished and set on fire by Albanian extremists.
20. THE HOLY TRINITY CHURCH, in Velika Reka near Vucitrn
The Church of the Holy Trinity, in the village of Velika Reka near Vucitrn, was built as a foundation of Dimitrije Ljiljak in 1997 according to the design of the architect Ljiljana Ljiljak.
The church was vandalized, desecrated and set on fire by Albanian extremists in June 1999, after the French KFOR troops had arrived.
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