Celije Monastery in the vicinity of Valjevo

Serbian Monastery Tours

Tue 14.09.2021

Zica and Studenica Tell About the Beginnings of the Holy Nemanjic Dynasty and the Serbian State 

The first independent Serbian medieval state was established in the 11th century and is inextricably linked to the rise of the Church. The founder of the dynasty, Stefan Nemanja, was a great benefactor and was canonized as the first saint of the Serbian Orthodox Church. 

The Church started to play an important role thanks to his youngest son who initiated the independence of the Serbian Christian Orthodox Church and was its first archbishop. Nowadays, he is one of the nation’s greatest saints - Saint Sava. An independent Church and Episcopal Diocese were the first conditions for establishing a new kingdom, and the monasteries of Zica and Studenica played an important role in this story.  

Good to know: the cult of Saint Sava is so widely spread that you can find monasteries dedicated to this saint even in America! The most remarkable complex is built in Libertyville to serve as a seat of the Serbs’ Bishop and the gathering place for all new immigrants who arrive in America. 

Zica - the Crowning Place of Seven Kings 

Zica was built by the efforts of Saint Sava and his elder brother Stefan the First-Crowned, the first king of the nation. Both of them imagined Zica as the crowning place and also the center of the national Christian Orthodox Church. Built in the 12th century, on the banks of the eponymous river, Zica is one of the oldest medieval monasteries and Serbian churches and is still considered the most remarkable spiritual center. 

The original building with a bell tower and a few remaining frescos are still standing and tell the story of the greatest times of medieval life. The complex is located only 180 km from Belgrade and is easily approachable from every part of Serbia since it is on the main highway. Also, Zica monks produce wine, rakia, jam, all made of organic fruits. So if you decide to take a break from your Belgrade tour, visiting this complex and the Studenica Monastery, which is in the immediate vicinity, is easily doable. 

Studenica - One of the Oldest and Most Significant Serbian Monasteries 

The jewel of the national medieval art, architecture, and Crown is definitely Studenica Monastery. Rich fresco paintings inspired by Byzantium and a unique architectural style were enough reasons to be listed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. 

Built in the 12th century by the founder of the Holy Dynasty and state, Stefan Nemanja, Studenica is one of the must-see sights when visiting this Balkan country. Hidden in unspoiled nature, only 50 km away from Zica, Studenica is the next unavoidable spot on this route. Also, when visiting Studenica, don't forget to taste some of the high-quality wines made by the monks here using local fruits. 

Sopocani and Gradac - Connected Through Love 

The center of the medieval state was near today's city of Novi Pazar (270 km south from Belgrade). That's why all the members of the dynasty chose nearby locations to build monasteries. Studenica is only 60 km away from Novi Pazar, Gradac is 40 km away, and Sopocani is only 14 km from the town.  

Sopocani and Gradac are the legacy of a royal couple, King Uros the First and French princess Helen of Anjou, who lived in the 13th century when both monasteries were built. These two monasteries don’t only symbolize their love story, but also the unbreakable link between the Western civilization and the Byzantine world. Known for its fresco masterpieces, original architecture, and great cultural impact (Queen Helen of Anjou established the first girl’s school), Sopocani and Gradac are definitely spots to visit when traveling here. Also, in the immediate vicinity, there is the gorgeous eight-tower Maglic Fortress overlooking the Ibar River and Lilac Valley. 

Lilac Valley - Home to the Largest Female Monastery 

Gradac Monastery, even today, is the cultural center of this area since it is home to the unique event Days of Queen Helen that takes place in May. At this site, visitors can enjoy knights games, competitions, and even try to learn an old craft or painting their own icon. Also, there are classes for all students from this area to upgrade their skills in foreign languages, mathematics, and information technology since all the monks and nuns are well-educated and ready to work on educating local people. 

Last but not least, both Uros the First and Helen of Anjou were canonized as saints and Sopocani is listed on the UNESCO’s World Heritage List together with Serbia’s first capital city Ras. 

Gradac Monastery


Gracanica Monastery in Kosovo Is One of Four Heritage Sites Under UNESCO’s Protection

Gracanica is undoubtedly one of the most important Serbian Orthodox monasteries. It was built by King Milutin the First, son of Uros the First Helen of Anjou, and one of the most successful kings of the Nemanjic Dynasty. Gracanica is one of the masterpieces of European medieval architecture from the beginning of the 14th century. 

During the Ottoman rule, this Serbian Orthodox monastery was one of the most important cultural and spiritual centers of the state. Preserved frescoes that are some of the best examples of medieval frescos overall, the specific atmosphere, and gorgeous nature are enough reasons to plan it in your route and be one of the rare people who know this great story. 

Gracanica, along with four other sites: the Patriarchate of the Peć Monastery, Dečani Monastery, Church of Holy Apostles, and Church of the Holy Virgin of Ljevisa, is listed on the UNESCO’s World Heritage List under Medieval Monuments in Kosovo built from the 13th to the 17th century.  

Contact Us and Plan Your Trip to the Tiniest Detail! 

Monumental sites, churches, gorgeous nature, adventurous trips, and a lot of interesting stories are only a small part of everything this country has to offer. A two-week trip, combined with free vaccination, is definitely something worth trying. Also, the good news is - there are no restrictions or lockdowns, so you can enjoy your vacation to the fullest!