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Gracanica Monastery
Gracanica Monastery. Photo: Strugar

The Serbian village of Gracanica is located just 10km from Pristina. The turn of events in 1999 had transformed Gracanica from a sleepy village into an administrative center servicing the 75,000 Kosovo Serbs who live south of the Ibar River. International banks, Internet cafes and outlets of Serbian government institutions are located amidst the traditional farmhouses, geese and pigs. It gives Gracanica the feel of a semi- urban center dislocated into a rural community.

Many of its 13,000 inhabitants are urban Serbs who have been displaced from their apartments in Pristina. Zivojin Rakocevic, editor-in-chief of KIM radio, a Serb language radio station, is one of them. "We simulate the capital here …in the middle of fields'.

Gracanica is most famous for its monastery, fenced behind barbed wire and guarded by Swedish troops. The monastery church is an endowment of King Milutin. Under his reign (1284-1321), the Serbian kingdom stretched to the Adriatic coast with Skopje as its capital. The exceptionally well-preserved 14th century frescoes are great examples of Byzantine-inspired art. Attributed to Byzantine painters from the Thessaloniki school, they feature biblical scenes, the family tree of the Nemanji family and portraits of archbishops and patriarchs. In 1539, as a center of monastic learning, Gracanica had one of the first printing presses in Serbia. In 2002, an application was submitted for recognition as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

May 2008

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