St Peter's church
St. Peter's church near Novi Pazar (7-11 cent) - the mother church of the Raska Diocese
St. Peter's church was one of first Serbian episcopal centers where the founder of the
medieval Serbian state, Grand Zhupan Nemanya was baptized


The Diocesan Bishop

Bishop Artemije - On a Cross with his people
His Grace Bishop of Raska and Prizren
(short biography)

The Pride of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Prizren - Bogorodica Ljeviska Cathedral
the official Cathedral church of Serbian Orthodox Bishops of Prizren since medieval times

The Orthodox Christian Diocese of Raska and Prizren

Serbian Orthodox Diocese of Raska and Prizren comprises the territories of Raska and Kosovo-Metohija Regions (the area known as Old Serbia) and is continuing rich spiritual traditions of both former Raska and Prizren Orthodox Dioceses which were fused into one Diocese in 1808.


In the 10th century, the Raska Diocese was already existent. It encompassed the areas of central Serbia, by the rivers Raska, Ibar and Lim. It was first mentioned in 1020, in the second charter of the Byzantine emperor Basil II (976-1025). At that time, the Diocese of Raska was within the Archbishopric of Ohrid. Among the first bishop mentioned are Leontius (around 1123-1126), Cyril (around 1141-1143), Euthemius (around 1170) and Kalinik (around 1196). It joined the autocephalous Archbishopric of Zica in 1219, at the time of Saint Sava. On the occasion of declaring the Patriarchate of Pec in 1346, the eparchy was promoted to the diocese of a Metropolitan. The residence of the bishop of Ras was in the vicinity of the church of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul near the present town of Novi Pazar (formerly Trgoviste), or Ras. It is mentioned in historical sources, according to the names of the places where it was situated, as the eparchy of Pazar, Novi Pazar or Starovlaska. In the second half of the 17th century, the Raska Diocese included territories of the old eparchy of Budimlje, or the newer Diocese of Lim, or Petrovac, together with Bijelo Polje. This is why it was called the Diocese of Bijelo Polje for a while. In the 1789, after the death of the Prizren Metropolitan Eusebius, administration of the eparchy of Prizren was taken over by Metropolitan Joanicius of Ras. Since 1808, the Diocese of Raska was been joined with the eparchy of Prizren as - the Diocese of Raska and Prizren.


The Diocese of Prizren encompassed the territories of the old Eparchies of Hvosno, Budimlje and Polim, or Petrovac, that is, the town of Prizren with the surroundings, Hvosno (territories around Pec and Decani), and the places around the influences of the rivers Beli Drim and Crni Drim. It is mentioned in 1019, in the first charter of the Byzantine emperor Basil II. In 1219, when the diocese was included as a part of the independent Serbian Archbishopric, the territory of Hvosno was separated as the Eparchy of Hvosno, situated in the monastery Mala Studenica, northeast from Pec. The residence of Prizren bishops was in Prizren in the church of the Most Holy Theoktos of Ljevis. In the 1346, when the Serbian Orthodox Church was promoted to the level of Patriarchate, Prizren Diocese became the diocese of a Metropolitan.

Icon of Mother of God
Icon of Mother of God, 14th century

Short History of the Orthodox Church in the
Region of Kosovo and Metohija

The Orthodox diocese of Raska and Prizren covers the vast area of Kosovo, Metohija and Raska provinces, traditionally known as a cradle of Eastern Orthodox Christian spirituality since antiquity. It is one of the oldest Orthodox dioceses in the Serbian Orthodox Church. Its origins can be traced to the Apostolic times when the Holy Apostles Andrew and Paul visited these areas and brought the light of Christianity. The area of present Kosovo and Metohija is well known for many Christian martyrs who suffered from the pagan Roman authorities. Among the most famous are Ss. Florus and Laurus who were martyred in Ulpiana (near Pristina) in the 2nd century A.D. After the Edict of Milan (313) this region came under the jurisdiction of the Thessalonian vicariate; it is clearly indicated in a letter of Pope Innocent I to the Thessalonian Vicar Rufus in 412 that the vicariate included the area of Dardania (present Kosovo). In 535 a new archdiocese of Iustiniana Prima was formed and the area of Kosovo came under the new jurisdiction.

Bishop's Residence in Prizren
Bishop's New Residence in Prizren - Due to security reasons the Bishop had to leave Prizren. Now in the Residence live German soldiers who are guarding the Cathedral and the Residence

However, Iustiniana Prima did not last a long time. It was destroyed by Slavs and Avars in the beginning of the 7th century. The dioceses of the former metropolis were transferred again to the Thessalonian vicariate and remained under its jurisdiction until 732 when the Byzantine Emperor Leo III transferred the entire area of the Balkans from the ecclesiastical jurisdiction of Rome to that of the patriarchate of Constantinople. In the period 927-971 the region of Kosovo belonged to the Bulgarian patriarchate created by the Bulgarian Tsar Symeon (893-927). Following the conquest of Bulgaria the Byzantine Emperor Basil II abolished the Bulgarian patriarchate and created the new autocephalous archdiocese of Ochrid. The Byzantine empire regained the region of Prizren and subjected it under the archdiocese of Ochrid (976-1018). The new archdiocese was directly under the control of the emperor who had right to appoint the candidate for the throne of Ochrid while the Constantinopolitan patriarch consecrated the archbishops. The first written document mentioning the diocese of Prizren is the chrysobull of Basil II in which it was recorded that the diocese of Prizren belonged to the metropolitan jurisdiction of the archdiocese of Ochrid.

The diocese of Prizren, which comprised the greater part of Kosovo and Metohija, became a constituent part of the Serbian state in 1189 when Grand Zupan Stefan Nemanja (1168-1196) conquered Prizren and substantially enlarged the young Serbian state. In the beginning of the 13th century the Bulgarians again took over this area. But very soon it became the part of the Byzantine empire again and finally, in 1214, during the reign of the Serbian King Stefan the First-Crowned (1196-1227), brother of St. Sava the first Serbian archbishop, the diocese of Prizren was definitely included in the Serbian Orthodox Church and remained within the Serbian kingdom until the arrival of Turks on June 21, 1455.

The Church of the Virgin of Ljevis
Bogorodica Ljeviska isolated by photo filter from the surrounding houses built in recent time
Bogorodica Ljeviska Cathedral

During the period of the Serbian Nemanjic dynasty the diocese of Prizren became one of the most flourishing within the Serbian Church. Numerous churches, monasteries, and hermitages were built. Hundreds of well educated monks inhabited the monasteries which developed extensive spiritual and intellectual activities. The Church opened numerous schools, hospitals, and orphanages. This period was renowned for great masterpieces of Orthodox Church art, icon and fresco painting, as well as various other crafts. The emperors substantially supported the life of the Church which enjoyed all the privileges of the official religion. In 1346 when the Serbian archdiocese was raised to the dignity of a patriarchate with its seat at Pec, the bishop of Prizren was granted the title of metropolitan.

Prizren, Serbian quarter
In 1455 Kosovo and Metohija were conquered by the Turks, remaining within the Ottoman Empire until the Balkan Wars (1912-1913). After the definite fall of Serbia in 1459 and the death of Patriarch Arseny II the Serbian Church was transferred to the jurisdiction of Constantinople by the Turkish authorities and again became part of the archdiocese of Ochrid. In 1528 the Serbian Metropolitan Nyphon started the campaign for the independence of the Serbian Church from the archdiocese of Ochrid. In 1557, in the time of Patriarch Macary Sokolovic, brother of janissar Mehmed Pasha Sokolovic, the Patriarchate of Pec was restored and a series of the Serbian bishops replaced the Greek clergy.

On September 11, 1766, the Turkish authorities promulgated the decree abolishing the Patriarchate of Pec once again and the Serbian Church was given back to the Ecumenical Throne. This was the period of the so-called Phanariot bishops who were mostly Greeks and had very little understanding of the spiritual needs of the Serbian Orthodox people. Church services were often held in Greek and the absence of vernacular evangelization greatly influenced many Orthodox Serbs to convert to Islam under the tax pressures imposed by the Turkish authorities. In 1807 the dioceses of Raska and of Prizren were united under the Metropolitan Joanikios. It was only in 1891 that the Serbs were granted the right by Constantinople to have their kinsmen as bishops in the areas of the former Serbian patriarchate.

The Cathedral of St. George
The New 19th century Orthodox Cathedral of St. George, near the Bishop's Residence in Prizren

The area of Kosovo and Metohija was finally liberated from the Turks during the Balkan Wars after which the Turkish possessions in Europe were confined to a small area of eastern Thrace. In 1912 the diocese of Raska and Prizren automatically became the part of an autocephalous Serbian archdiocese (restored in 1879). During the First World War the area of Kosovo and Metohija was under Bulgarian occupation and many Serbs were confined and persecuted, among them members of the Serbian Orthodox clergy. After the
war, in 1918, this province became the part of the kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes. Two years later, in 1920, the Serbian Church regained the status of a patriarchate. During the Second World War many Orthodox Serbs were brutally persecuted by the Albanian fascists who incorporated the area of Kosovo and Metohija in Greater Albania. Many churches and graveyards were desecrated. Bishop Seraphim was arrested and died the martyr's death in Albania.

Serb Orthodox Theological School in Prizren
Theological Seminary in Prizren (now a refugee center for the remaining Serbs in Prizren)

After the Second World War the Serbian Orthodox Church was faced with new persecutions under the Communist dictatorship of Josip Broz Tito. The activities of the Church, especially in the Albanian dominated province of Kosovo and Metohija, were reduced almost ompletely to bare existence. Patriarch Pavle, who occupied the throne of the Prizren bishops for more than thirty post-war years, was a witness to the enormous pressures and various forms of subtle persecutions perpetrated by the local Albanian authorities, especially in the period of their [sic] autonomy (1974-1989). Many Orthodox Serbs were forced to leave Kosovo and Metohija. The monasteries lived under almost constant siege; their crops were burned. In 1981 the palace of the patriarch in Pec was barbarously burned by the Albanian secessionists, many gravestones were overturned, and even the bones of the deceased were exhumed and abused. The Jeremian lament of the Kosovo Serbs was not heard by anyone. The Communist authorities completely ignored the cries of the suffering people. It was only in 1989 when the Albanian autonomy in Kosovo and Metohija was suppressed that the Serbs could live a normal life again. Of course, the new situation brought new challenges to the Albanian population and great dissatisfaction with the new Serbian regime. Almost ten years later, the people of the diocese of Raska and Prizren are again faced with new pressures and terrorist threats.

Map of DestructionAfter the war 1998-1999 and the arrival of the international peace-keepers our Diocese was exposed to unrestrained destruction of our churches and monasteries. Between June 13 and December 31, 1999 more than 70 churches and monasteries in our Diocese have been either destroyed or seriously damaged. (See our Web Page on Destruction of our shrines)

The wish of the Serbian Orthodox people of our diocese is to share this land of God with all the people of good will and to preserve their centuries-old shrines, beautiful works of art, and their Christian tradition as the common heritage of Christian Europe.

New Martyrs of Our Diocese (1941-1999)
Page devoted to those of us who died martyr's death for their faith and the Lord
from the hands of ungodly Albanian militants and communist authorities

Kosovo in the History of the Serbian Church, by Veselin Kesich

St. Saviour Church in Prizren
The church of the Savior - Sv. Spas (14th century) Prizren

An old photo of the Prizren town - Potkaljaja
left - St. George Cathedral - St. Saviour church is visible to the upper righ
Prizren old fortress in the background. This mainly Serb Christian quarter of Prizren
was severely damaged by looting and arson attacks which were organized by Kosovo Albanian extremists after the Kosovo war, although Prizren was almost completely spared from any damage during the war.

Cultural and social life of Serbs in Prizren, costumes, jewlery, photos

Kosovo and Metohija on the Crossroads of Two Centuries

Kosovo and Metohia-once a central land of Nemanjic kingdom, a seat of a patriarch and also a seat of spiritual culture, holy land for each Serb, welcomed the beginning of the XX century under the five hundred years long Turkish yoke. Liberated Serbia didn't feel that liberation a complete one, because Kosovo and Metohia still were ruled by a stranger.

Four centuries of the Turkish rule groundly changed Kosovo and Metohia.This region enriched by ores and fertile ground, at the end of the XIX century became just a primitive turkish province, ruled by anarchy.

A panorama made of beautiful churches, monasteries, fortresses and castles, (photo) was substituted by panorama of houses, simply made of rods and mud, and of hard albanian towers with slits for guns only . Monotony of this sight sometimes interrupts a here or there built slender mosque, and ruined churches and monasteries converted in mosques. (photo) Imperial clothing was substituted by albanian traditional garment, which was worn by Albanians in order to show their supremacy, but by some Serbs also, because it was their chance to survive. The period from last 20 years of XIX century until the liberation in 1912., for Serbs in Kosovo and Metohia means a time of the worse persecutions, physical destruction and expatriation. In last 20 years of XIX century, 60 000 Serbs from south Kosovo only, emigrated to Serbia. From the whole old serbian teritory, from 1876. to 1912., emigrated about 400 000 Serbs. After Kosovo and Metohia liberation, there was a regulation brought in order to deal with planed colonization of Serbs on Kosovo teritory. Until 1941., about 60 000 Serbs settled Kosovo and Metohia, mostly from undeveloped regions. This helped a little in fixing disturbed relations, that had been happening a few centuries ago and that had been happening at a disadvantage of Serbs. All these circumstances influenced the social life of Kosovo and Metohia. That influence is well pictured in an exhibition "Urban and rural costume on the crossroads of two centuries".

Dusan Batakovic “Kosovo and Metohija on the crossroads of two centuries”

Related Sites
The comprehensive list of Orthodox monuments
in Kosovo and Metohija

of main Orthodox shrines in Kosovo and Metohija - 500 Kb


The Art of Decani MonasteryThe Art of Gracanica Monastery
The Art of the Patriarchate of PecThe Holy Virgin of Ljevis Cathedral
The Art of Banjska MonasteryThe Art of the Holy Archangels'

History of Kosovo and Metohija

Destruction of the Serb Orthodox Churches in Kosovo
(since June 1999)

Human Rights Abuses in Kosovo Against Serbs

A Pilgrimage to Kosovo Today by Nun Natalia