CULTURAL ROUTE

Table 1

 

This place is said to have been the centre from which 800 years ago a settlement, present-day Bijelo Polje, started to expand and develop. Here, in 1196, Miroslav, the duke of Hum, and brother of Grand Prince Stefan Nemanja, built the Church of St Peter the Apostle, leaving an inscription about it engraved in the stone above the entrance door stating:

“IN THE NAME OF THE FATHER, AND OF THE SON, AND OF THE HOLY SPIRIT I, THE SON OF ZAVID, AND BY NAME THE SERVANT OF GOD, STJEPAN MIROSLAV, THE DUKE OF HUM, HAVE BUILT THIS CHURCH OF ST PETER THE APOSTLE.”

From the very beginning the church became a cultural and educational centre in the valley of the River Lim. Within the church reading and writing were studied, and the scriptorium school for monks was founded as well. Its significance is best told by the fact that the seat of the bishopric was moved here from Ston in 1254. The rulers of the Nemanjić dynasty considered this to be of great importance, and so they appointed trusted friends or eminent members of their family as its bishops. Uroš I appointed his brother Predislav the bishop. It is known that in this temple two saints – Archbishops Danilo II and Saint Sava II, as well as Bishops Josif, Longin and Maksim had their seat. They continued their work as benefactors, so in the mid-13th century King Uroš I added two bell towers with a narthex onto the original construction, the singlenave basilica with the altar apse. In the 14th century King Milutin added chapels to the north and south sides of the church. At the end of the 17th century with a lot of devastation and restoration, the Turks transformed it into a mosque. The southern spire of the bell tower as well as the northern and southern chapels were destroyed, whereas additional material was added to the northern tower which reached a height of 18 metres.

The church regained its original role in 1912, after the liberation of Bijelo Polje from Turkish rule, and it was consecrated again in 1923. The reconstruction of the church was initiated in 2010, and works are planned to be completed in 2016. Also, one of the most important movable monuments of the world cultural heritage, listed on the UNESCO’s Memory of the World Register is connected to the Church of St Peter. Miroslav’s Gospel is the oldest preserved Cyrillic manuscript in the Serbian language. King Miroslav intended this book (a religious service book) in which texts were organised according to readings throughout the religious year, for his legacy (memorial church) – the Church of St Peter on the River Lim. In terms of its beauty and value this manuscript is unique in the history of world culture. Nothing similar has been preserved either before it or since it. Larger in format than other gospel books, each illuminated letter is different, luxuriously painted and gilded. The book contains 296 miniatures, flags and illuminations, drawn with pen, and then painted in red, green, yellow and white and decorated with gold. The text of the gospel was written in black ink in two columns on one hundred and eighty-one pages of fine, white parchment. The writing of Miroslav’s Gospel integrates Byzantine tradition with the Romanesque style, probably under the influence of the scriptoria of central Italy. Made between 1180 and 1191, Miroslav’s Gospel had a turbulent fate. It was kept in Hilandar Monastery on Mount Athos for a long time, until 1896, when it was given as a present to King Aleksandar Obrenović on the occasion of his visit to Hilandar Monastery. In World War I, during its retreat, the Serbian Army took it along across Albania to Corfu, where it was kept in the main state treasury. During World War II it was hidden in the floor of Rača Monastery. Today it is kept in the National Museum in Belgrade. However, one page in Miroslav’s Gospel is missing. During his visit to Hilandar Monastery in 1845, the Russian archimandrite, and later on archbishop of Kiev, Porfiry Uspensky, cut out this page fascinated by the beauty of the so-far unseen manuscript. That 166th page of Miroslav’s Gospel is kept in the National Library of Russia in Saint Petersburg.

 
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