The Stari Ras and Sopocani
Stari Ras was one of the first capitals of medieval Serbian state Raska. On the outskirt of this capital, lies a cluster of monuments among which the most important one is Sopocani, a monastery which serves as a reminder of the connection between Western civilization and the Byzantine world. There are various churches, fortress and monuments which gives Stari Ras its own unique appeal and a place in the world heritage list.
Located at the convergence of the Raska and lbar, the ancient town of Ras became in 1159, with its accession to the Serb dynasty of Nemangic, the first Serb State capital. Situated on a hill at the border between the small kingdom of Raska and the Byzantine Empire, this old Balkan city drew its strength from its location at an important crossroads, influenced by its contacts with both Eastern and Western influences. Its many monuments make up a single architectural complex that testifies to the time when the capital of the Serb State became located at Stari Ras until the early years of the 14th century, when King Milutin transferred the capital to Skopje. These buildings, mostly built between the 9th and 11th centuries, in their plan and in their decoration and architectural interest, are characteristic of the Raska School:
The Monastery of Sopoćani, on the road to Andrijivica, was built in 1260 by King Uros I as the resting place for the ashes of his parents and his own tomb in its vault. This building, surmounted by a cupola and extended to the west between 1336 and 1345 by the Emperor Dusan, is noteworthy for its exceptional frescoes. Those in the narthex, out of which two projecting vaults open, provide invaluable historical evidence about the family of the founder of the monastery. The plastic quality of these compositions, mostly from the 13th century, testifies to the vitality of Byzantine art at a time when Constantinople was in the hands of the Crusaders.
With the arrival of Slavs beginning in the 520s, the Byzantine (Roman – “”castellum of Arsa””) town Arsia soon became a peripheral place for Serbia, as it served as the capital in the early and high Middle Ages (ca 880-960). In the early stages of Serbian statehood it was the easternmost town, bordering the First Bulgarian Empire, also annexed by the Bulgars in 924-927. The oldest church-building in Serbia, the Church of Saint Apostles Peter and Paul, was founded in the 8th century on foundations of an Early Christian church dated to at least the ruling period of Emperor Constantine (306-312). Serbian Prince Petar Gojniković (r. 892-917) was entombed in this church.
A Serbian bishopric may have been founded in Ras as early as 871 during the rule of Serbian Prince Mutimir, confirmed by the Council of Constantinople in 879-80. Byzantine Emperor John I Tzimiskes (r. 969-976) recognized the Ras region as being the focus of the Serbian lands.
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