On a high plateau that rises above the city of Novi Pazar and the surrounding area stands the monastery of Đurđevi Stupovi (Pillars of St. George). Built in 1170/71, as we learn from a fragmentary inscription from the west portal of the church, it is one of the oldest Serbian medieval ecclesiastic monuments. The monastery was founded by Stefan Nemanja, soon after he became the Grand Župan of Raška, in the vicinity of his capital in the old town of Ras. He dedicated it to St. George, in gratitude to the saint to whom he prayed to deliver him from the captivity in which he was put by his brothers, as told in the biographical account written by his son, Stephen the First-Crowned.
The church is a single-nave with lateral vestibules, a tripartite sanctuary, and bell towers flanking the west end, after which the monastery bears its popular name. The entry tower of the fortification was turned into a chapel in 1282/83, later to become a burial place of King Dragutin. At the same time, new refectory and dormitories were built, church narthex and the chapel were painted. Painting of the chapel is of particular historical importance since in the ribbed vault scenes of Serbian state councils are depicted.
The original twelfth-century wall painting in the nave of the church has been severely damaged and most of the frescoes were transferred to the National Museum in Belgrade. The preserved remnants disclose the work of skilled painters whose linear, classical style displays the features of Comnenian Byzantine painting of the time.
During the Ottoman rule, as well as during the world wars of the 20th century, the monastery suffered great devastation. Archaeological and conservation works were carried out between 1960 and 1982; in 1979, Đurđevi Stupovi was included in the Unesco World Heritage list as a part of the Stari Ras and Sopoćani serial property. Toward the end of the 20th century, monastic life was revived and organized efforts were made to reconstruct entirely the church of St. George.
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