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Gracanica Monastery
Gracanica Monastery. Photo: Strugar

The Serbian village of Gracanica is located just 10km from Pristina. In the aftermath of the 1999 war, Gracanica transformed 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 Serbian government agencies compete for space with traditional farmhouses, geese and pigs. The setting gives Gracanica the feel of a semi-urban center dropped onto a rural community.

Many of Gracanica’s 13,000 inhabitants are urban Serbs displaced from their homes 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, now 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. As a center of monastic learning, Gracanica had one of the first printing presses in Serbia in 1539. In 2002, an application was submitted to recognise the twon as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

May 2008

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