Gračanica

During Pride Week, I felt that I should visit a Serbian enclave to maintain as an objective and unbiased perspective as possible. My Fulbright colleague Rich Raymond and I took a 10-minute taxi ride (8€ each way) approximately 3 miles outside Prishtinë to Gračanica, the home of a 700-year old Serbian Orthodox monastery, which now has become the spiritual home of the Serbs in Kosovo as well as a convent for two dozen nuns.

The day was very cold and windy, but the monastery itself was beautiful. During our walkabout, we met a middle-aged nun, who offered to give us a tour of the church. She was very hospitable and knowledgeable and spoke excellent English; the conviction of her faith and her love for this historic site were evident throughout. She highlighted the history of the church building and noted both the techniques and stories of the beautiful though damaged frescoes. (Most of the damage was incurred in the late 1300s and late 1600s during wars with the Ottomans, who scraped away most of the eyes of the saints in the frescoes.)

Unlike Roman Catholicism, Orthodox Christianity prohibits all three-dimensional displays of humans in churches, hence the proliferation of two-dimensional icons. Islam, however, prohibits all human portrayals in sacred sites but allows calligraphy as well as beautiful mosaics.

Our tour ended with the arrival of a dozen uniformed Ukrainian Orthodox soldiers stationed here with KFOR. Since she could not speak Ukrainian, she spoke in English, which was then translated by one of the regular soldiers.

The following are my pictures from our visit.

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About David McTier

Professor of Theatre Department of Theatre & Musical Theatre Sam Houston State University