Stari Ras and Sopocani
Stari Ras and Sopocani are medieval Serbian monuments. Stari Ras was one of the first capitals of the medieval Serbian state of Raška. It was founded between 8th and 10th centuries and got deserted sometime in the 13th century.
Nearby Sopocani monastery was built in the second half of the 13th century. The frescoes of Sopocani are considered by some experts on Serbian medieval art as the most beautiful of that period. On the western wall of the nave is a famous fresco of the Dormition of the Virgin.
The WHS consists of 4 parts:
- Mediaeval Town of Ras
- Sopocani Monastery
- The Holy Apostles St Peter and St Paul Church
- Djurdjevi Stupovi Monastery
Visit May 2013
This WHS lies about 60km south of Studenica Monastery, and their histories are strongly related. The area was the heartland of mediëval Serbia. Now the region lies at the end of a beautiful winding road through a valley. It ends at Novi Pazar, the current regional capital that has preserved some buildings from Ottoman times. There is somewhat of an "end of the world"-feeling to it, as the area is close to the borders with Montenegro and Kosovo.
The site consists of 4 separate monuments. These are all scattered around Novi Pazar within a circle of some 10km. I planned to visit all of them, and fortunately each is well-signposted via the large brown signs that are signalling to monuments worldwide.
My first stop was Sopocani Monastery, which I found at the end of a small backroad full of potholes. There's a tiny car park, and the man attending the monastery shop was already on the lookout for me. I did visit the main church first however. It's a large romanesque structure, not too spectactular from the outside. The interior has a wealth of murals, painted in the same style as the ones in Studenica. This church is much larger and higher though, so the murals get more natural light.
At the road to Sopocani the remains of the old town, Stari Ras are to be found also. Well, I noticed some piles of stones across the street from Motel Stari Ras, so I guessed that must be it. There are no explanation signs however. When I looked it up later on the internet, I saw a kind of fortress on a hill-top. Maybe I should have walked uphill...
Last planned stop before lunch was the Djurdjevi Stupovi Monastery. This lies in another direction, but it also takes a small mountain road to get there. Approaching it, I was totally surprised with the number of cars wanting to go there too. Cars were left along the side of the road well before the hilltop. It all ended with one big traffic jam. I had to decide between seeing for myself what all the fuss was about, or turning around while I could and head for lunch in Novi Pazar. I choose the latter....
Refreshed after lunch, I drove to the last component of this WHS: St. Peters Church. It is the oldest church in Serbia, though how old is a bit of a mystery (somewhere between 4th and 9th century). Here I was the only visitor again. The gates were open and I could admire the pretty little building from the outside. It is surrounded by an old cemetery, with grave markers made out of heavy stones. I waited awhile for someone to show up, the "friendly priest" or the "neighbour with a key", to show me the interior of the church. But nobody did.
More photos can be found in the Picture Gallery
The most wonderful place on Earth!
| Date posted: February 2006|
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