The Mother Church of the Serbian Patriarchate 

Patriarchate Monastery

The Monastery of the Patriarchate of Pec is located at the very entrance of the Rugova gorge near Pec. The complex of the Pec churches is the spiritual seat and mausoleum of Serbian archbishops and patriarchs. The temple of the Holy Apostles was built by Archbishop Arsenije I in the third decade of the 13th century. He was also responsible for the painting of the church around 1260. Archbishop Nikodim built the temple of St. Dimitrije next to the northern side of the church of Holy Apostles between 1321 and 1324, while Archbishop Danilo II built the churches dedicated to Virgin Odigitrija and St. Nikola on its southern side. He also built the monumental parvis in the shape of a magnificent open porch in front of the western facades of the churches of St. Dimitrije, Holy Apostles and Holy Virgin Odigitrija. At the time of Patriarch Makarije, the elegant openings with dual arcades were walled up. An entire history of the styles of medieval wall painting can be seen on the walls of the Pec churches. The church of the Holy Apostles was also decorated around 1300, then around 1350 and 1375 and twice in the 17th century. The church of St. Dimitrije was painted for the first time at the time of Patriarch Joakinije, around 1345, and the new layer of frescoes was painted by Georgije Mitrofanovic around 1619-1620. The church of Holy Virgin Odigitrija was painted before 1337, while its parvis was painted in the 14th and 16th centuries. The church of St. Nikola was painted by painter Radul in 1673/1674.

As a result of severe Turkish repression Patriarch Arsenios III left Pec with several thousand Christian families and emigrated to southern Hungary at the end of 17th century. Despite pressure from the local Moslem population the monastery has been preserved until today. After the Second World War the Patriarchate of Pec was converted into a convent. Although this monastery jurisdictionally does not belong to the Diocese of Raska and Prizren it is nevertheless closely tied to the monasteries of the Diocese. As a stavropegic monastery it is directly under the jurisdiction of the Serbian Orthodox Patriarch from Belgrade. 

Today, the monastery is still one of the most important Serbian Orthodox centers in the Region with the sisterhood of 24 nuns. After the fire which was set by Albanian extremists in 1981 new residental quarters were erected. After the war 1998-1999 the monastery became an important center for the remaining Serbs in the area. At the moment in Pec town only these nuns remain. They live in everyday struggle to preserve this holy site and provide necessary humanitarian assistance to the neigboring Serb enclaves of Gorazdevac and Osojane. The monastery also owns the metochion of Budisavci, near Klina where two nuns remain under the constant KFOR protection.

Patriarch Pavle serving a Liturgy at the Patriarchate Monastery in Pec

Photo Gallery of the Patriarchate Monastery

Learn More about the Patriarchate of Pec Monastery

The Art of the Patriarchate of Pec with photos and text commentary

Another Overview of the History of Art of the Patriarchate Monastery

The tonsure of nun Melania the first tonsure after almost 20 years

Patriarchate of Pec Under Constant Threat of Albanian Extremists photos and texts about the centuries long struggles to survive in Muslim dominated surrounding

Budisavci Metochion, 14th century A little monastery (dependency of the Patriarchate) remains as a tiny Christian Orthodox spot amidst almost completely ethnically cleansed Albanian surrounding

The Patriarchate of Pec Pilgrimage of an American nun Natalia

The Patriarchate of Pec - New Web Site The site presents the rich treasures of this important monastery with many photos and information about the history of the Monastery, its art and spiritual tradition

Pec - A Town That is No More - About a documentary film that dispels prejudices and portrays a tragedy without resorting to big words

Pec Patriarchate
The Patriarchate of Pec - three churches comprising a unique architectural structure

Residental part of the Monastery
The Scenes of the Patriarchal Monastery in Pec - residental houses for nuns
rebuilt after the devastating fire in 1981

History of the Patriarchate of Pec Monastery

he Patriarchate of Pec, a group of churches in the immediate neighbourhood of Pec and at the entrance to the Rugovo gorge, is one of the most important monuments of the Serbian past. It was the centre of the Serbian church for centuries. From its origin in the 13th century the Patriarchate attracted learned divines, reputed writers and gifted artists, and all of them have left traces of their work in it. It is therefore not only the centre of the Serbian Church, but also an important repository of its cultural heritage.

The grounds of the present Patriarchate monastery were probably occupied by an early Christian site (cemetery) even from Roman times. Several stellae were excavated with inscriptions in Roman language. It is not excluded that this was a site of an ancient pagan temple which was later turned into a Christian church. Nevertheless no traces of previous church buildings, prior to Slav arrival exist.

The precise date of the foundation of the mother church in the Patriarchate of Pec is not known. It would seem that the site on which the Patriarchate of Pec stands now became the property of the Zica monastery, the previous seat of the Serbian archbishopric, already at the time of St. Sava of Serbia.

Archbishop of Serbia - Arsenije I - the founder of Patriarchate Monastery, 13th c.

Archbishop Arsenije I erected on this estate a church dedicated to the Apostles because he wanted the centre of the Serbian Church to be removed to a less exposed place and nearer the centre of the state. Soon afterwards, about 1250, he had it painted. Some time later the church began to be also called St. Saviour, a name given to it in commemoration of the consecration of Zica.

The Church of St. Demetrius, north of this earliest church, was built by Archbishop Nikodim around 1320.

A decade later, Nikodim's successor, the well-known writer Archbishop Danilo II, built a church dedicated to the Virgin Hodegitria south of the Church of the Apostles, and also added, south of the Church of the Virgin, the small Church of St. Nicholas. Danilo II then raised a monumental narthex in front of the three main churches, and a tower in front of the narthex. In the time of Archbishop Joanikije, c. 1345, the Church of St. Demetrius, which had not been painted by then, got fresco decoration. Minor reconstruction works were also carried out in the Church of the Apostles during the 14th century, so that some parts of the building were subsequently painted. The archbishops and patriarchs of Pec were buried in the churches of the Patriarchate from the 13th to the 15th centuries, and sometimes even later, until the 17th century.

The serenity of the Patriarchate grounds is the most beautiful landmark of Pec region

After the Turkish conquest of the Serbian state the activity in the Patriarchate of Pec died away for some time, partly because the Ohrid Archbishopric took over the administration of what had been the Serbian Church territory earlier. The restoration of the church organisation of the Serbs in 1557 gave a new lease of life to the monastery, and the Patriarchate became the centre of the Serbian Church again. Danilo's narthex was repaired and for the most part painted already in 1565. At the same time the iconostases in the Pec churches were reconstructed and the treasury was replenished. The second important reconstruction was initiated by Patriarch Pajsije: the churches were covered with lead, the Church of St. Demetrius was rebuilt, and almost half of its frescoes were restored by Georgije Mitrofanovic, an eminent painter, in 1620/21. He also painted the old monastic refectory in the same year. A little later Patriarch Pajsije undertook a partial reconstruction of the Church of the Apostles; as a result, the west part of the building, in which the old frescoes had been greatly damaged, was adorned with new wall paintings in 1633/34. The roof of the refectory was also reconstructed in the same year. Mid-17th century is also the period when the Patriarchate of Pec established links with the Russian Empire. The Pec abbots travelled to Russia and brought back gifts in the form of money, printed books and liturgical requisites.

Another major restoration of the Patriarchate of Pec took place in the time of Patriarch Maksim. Within a short period, monastic buildings were enclosed (1672-1683), the little Church of St. Nicholas was painted (1673/74) and an iconostasis was made for it (1677).

The Austrian-Turkish war at the end of the 17th century brought hard times to the Patriarchate of Pec.

The Dome of the Pec Monastery
Patriarchate domes with the Prokletije Mountains in the background

The Pec treasury was concealed in a dome of monastery Gracanica, but the Turks, acting upon an informer's report, found it in 1688 and plundered it. The treasure of Pec is said to have been so great that it took nine horses to carry it away. When Patriarch Arsenije III fled to Austria in 1689, the Pasha of Pec Mahmud Begovic plundered all he could find in the Patriarchate. Later, Patriarch Mojsije bought back with great difficulty the lands that had been seized, and he enclosed the monastic buildings in 1720. At that time, in 1722, the Church of the Apostles got a new iconostasis.

The Austrian-Turkish war waged in 1737-1739 also brought great hardships to the Patriarchate of Pec. In the second migration of 1739 Patriarch Arsenije IV Sakabenta took the valuables acquired in the meantime to Sremski Karlovci.

In the course of the second half of the 18th and in the 19th century, economic conditions got increasingly worse, and there was no important artistic activity in the Patriarchate of Pec, but persistent efforts were made to keep the monastery going. A new iconostasis was painted by Simeon Lazovic, a priest from Bijelo Polje, for the Church of St. Demetrius in 1803, and his son Aleksije painted some icons for the Patriarchate three years later. In 1831 the Patriarchate of Pec was plundered once again, this time by Arslan-Pasha of Bosnia.

The old gravure of the Monastery from the 17th century

In mid-19th century enterprising abbots erected new buildings in the monastery: a water-mill in the south-east part of the yard was restored in 1847, and a guest-house was build next to it in 1850. A richly carved Virgin's Throne was made for the Church of the Virgin around 1863, and the frescoes in the churches of the Patriarchate, particularly those in the Church of the Apostles, were restored by Avram, the son of Dico Zograph from the Debar district, in 1875. The Pec guilds raised, jointly with the administrative body of the monastery, the wall on the eastern part of the yard. At the end of the 19th century, in 1895, a representative guest-house was built in the north-western part of the yard, and a new wall was constructed on the south side of the yard in 1912.

After the end of the First World War the Serbian Church was united, and the first patriarch of the restored Patriarchate Dimitrije was invested in the Patriarchate of Pec. From that time onward all the Serbian patriarchs have been invested in the Patriarchate of Pec. Extensive conservation works, directed by architect Durde Boskovic, were carried out there in the course of 1931 and 1932 and partly restored the original appearance of the Patriarchate of Pec. After the Second World War, too, important conservation works and archaeological explorations have been carried out in the Patriarchate. The new guest-house, lying west of the narthex, was built

An old photo of the Church of the Holy Apostles - Pec Patriarchate

In 1981 the old dormitory was set on fire by Albanian extremist. The perpertrators have never been arrested while the new dormitory was soon after rebuilt. At the moment the monastery is a convent with 26 nuns. During the Kosovo war 1998-1999 the monastery has been many times in direct danger. After the war it has been placed under special protection by the Italian army within KFOR. Constant provocations, throwing stones and verbal abuses by passing Kosovo Albanians have since then become again the reality of this holy site which has survived through centuries of Muslim rule and oppression.

Patriarchate Monastery at the beginning of the XX century
travelogue of Mary Durham

Through the Land of the Serbs - travelogue by Mary Durham who travelle around Serbia and Montenegro in the beginning of the XXth century. We are presenting two extracts covering her visit to "Old Serbia" - Pec and Decani, with picturesque impressions from the monasteries and contacts with the people.

Abbess Fevronia

Abbess of the Patriarchate Monastery
Mother Fevronia

24 Serb Orthodox nuns in Gracanica today with their abbess Fevronia resist the continual attempts of Kosovo Albanians to eliminate this last remaining Serbian spot in the Pec area. After the war 1998-1999 all Serb residents of Pec were forced to leave. Those who remained suffered violent death or abduction by Albanian extremists who control the area despite the presence of NATO led troops.

Amidst the absence of any laws and the domination of Islam Patriarchate Monastery remains a humble but eloquent witness of centuries of Christian Orthodox culture and religion in the Pec region.

The scenes of the church and the monastery graveyard
click on each photo for a larger size image

The nuns' cemetery - Aeternam pax dona eis Domine..

Click on a photo for a larger size image