The oldest church in Serbia

Monastery of Djurdjevi Stupovi, Novi Pazar, Serbia, stari ras

The oldest church in Serbia

  |   13 Comments

This is the website of travel writer, Michael Turtle. After working in broadcast journalism for a decade in Australia, Michael left Sydney to travel the world indefinitely and write about his discoveries.

Stari Ras and Sopocani, Serbia

When I arrive at the Church of St Peter, just outside the Serbian city of Novi Pazar, it’s all locked up. An old man sitting on a stool under a tree smiles, pulls himself up and wanders towards me. He’s got the keys to the church in his hand and for one euro will open it up for me.

I happily oblige and he takes his time with the large keys and the rusting lock. There’s no hurry, though. This is the oldest church in Serbia and has been around for more than 1200 years. It’s not going anywhere anytime soon.

Church of St Peter, Novi Pazar, Serbia, stari ras

The Church of St Peter is one of the buildings in this part of the country that made up the old Serbian Capital of Ras, which has now been designated as a World Heritage Site. It was the most important city in this small part of the world between the 8th and 13th centuries… although not much still exists of it today.

This church is one of the highlights and is an excellent example of early Christian architecture. Its frescoes are very well-preserved and, although it is small, it takes a while to see everything and take in all the details.

Monastery of Djurdjevi Stupovi, Novi Pazar, Serbia, stari ras

The nearby Fortress of Gradine is also part of the UNESCO listing, as is the Monastery of Sopocani, which was built by a king to hold the remains of his parents and… eventually… him.

But the Monastery of Djurdjevi Stupovi, a half hour walk from the Church of St Peter over a couple of green hills, is probably the best known site in this area. It was first built in 1171 and fuses Romanesque and Byzantine architecture. Although it is partly in ruins now, with the fortified wall lacking any fortification abilities these days, the church at its centre has been maintained and is used regularly.

Monastery of Djurdjevi Stupovi, Novi Pazar, Serbia, stari ras

Although the buildings around the old city of Stari are not huge tourist sites or particularly famous, they were one of the first places to be added to the UNESCO World Heritage List. Their significance in the spread of Christianity in this region – and their good condition – can not be underestimated. As part of my week of World Heritage Sites in Europe, I would now like to share some photos of what is officially called ‘Stari Ras and Sopocani’.

Monastery of Djurdjevi Stupovi, Novi Pazar, Serbia, stari ras

Monastery of Djurdjevi Stupovi, Novi Pazar, Serbia, stari ras

Monastery of Djurdjevi Stupovi, Novi Pazar, Serbia, stari ras

Church of St Peter, Novi Pazar, Serbia, stari ras

Church of St Peter, Novi Pazar, Serbia, stari ras

Church of St Peter, Novi Pazar, Serbia, stari ras

Church of St Peter, Novi Pazar, Serbia, stari ras

Monastery of Djurdjevi Stupovi, Novi Pazar, Serbia, stari ras

UNESCO world heritage siteThis is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. For more info click here.
You can see all the UNESCO World Heritage Sites I’ve visited here.

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13 Comments
  • Tara | Aug 22, 2013 at 10:38 pm

    One euro well spent! ! I must visit this part of Serbia. It looks very interesting!

    • Michael Turtle | Aug 27, 2013 at 7:06 pm

      Serbia as a whole is not particularly well-visited and this part in the south especially has hardly any tourists. It’s definitely worth checking out!

  • T.W. Anderson @ Marginal Boundaries | Aug 23, 2013 at 3:06 am

    Heck yeah, definitely worth the money you spent =)

    One of the things I love about the monasteries in Eastern Europe is just how well preserved they are…the wood, the stone, the clothing, the relics…these people are dedicated to their craft for sure.
    T.W. Anderson @ Marginal Boundaries recently posted..Comment on Five Things I’ve Learned After Six Years Of Immersion Travel by T.W. AndersonMy Profile

    • Michael Turtle | Aug 27, 2013 at 7:05 pm

      Ha – I didn’t really have a problem with spending the euro. Actually, one of the funny things about Serbia was that entrance fees to most places were generally no more than a couple of dollars. I guess there’s a balancing act of encouraging visitors while still trying to make some money for maintenance.
      And, yeah, I was particularly impressed with how well the old church had been preserved. There’s a lot of love for it.

  • Derek Freal | Aug 23, 2013 at 3:12 am

    Very impressive photos! Keep hearing such great things about Serbia, cannot wait until I finally get the chance to make it there for myself! Thanks for sharing bro :)
    Derek Freal recently posted..Banyu Sumurup: Traditional Village And Home Of The KrisMy Profile

    • Michael Turtle | Aug 27, 2013 at 7:03 pm

      Serbia is great – the people, the scenery, the food, all of that. And these little gems of history and culture just make it an even better place to visit. I especially love sites where there are no other tourists and you feel like you’ve discovered something a bit special for yourself! :)

  • Mary @ Green Global Travel | Aug 24, 2013 at 12:00 pm

    In reading those first few lines, I was hooked – primarily by the seemingly incredible serendipity of the presence of this old man who just happened to be both the church’s gatekeeper and soaking up some sunshine in the yard just when you wanted to explore this divine little structure. Thank you for documenting these stunning frescoes – It is beautiful to see them, even if not in person!
    Mary @ Green Global Travel recently posted..MALAYSIA: A Sneak Peak at the Borneo Sun Bear Conservation CentreMy Profile

    • Michael Turtle | Aug 27, 2013 at 7:00 pm

      I’m not sure how many visitors the church gets each day. It can’t be many if the door is usually locked and has to be opened especially. But I don’t think the gatekeeper was doing much except waiting for people so I hope he gets enough visitors to stop him getting too bored all the time! :)

  • The GypsyNesters | Aug 26, 2013 at 9:34 am

    We love cemeteries – those gravestones are beautiful. Thanks for sharing!
    The GypsyNesters recently posted..Fjords, Carnivorous Plants and Standing on the Earth’s Mantle in NewfoundlandMy Profile

    • Michael Turtle | Aug 27, 2013 at 6:47 pm

      Cemeteries are odd, aren’t they? They should be sad places and I always feel a bit wary taking photos in them… but there is something quite beautiful about the way that communities honour their dead.

  • maiko | Sep 21, 2013 at 6:28 pm

    Hello, I would love to go to Serbia. Especially for religion pleases. please advise, which most popular attractions can be seen in one week time?

    • Maja | Sep 23, 2013 at 11:24 pm

      There are A LOT monasteries and churches in Serbia. But probably the most famous are: st.Sava temple in Belgrade, Zica monastery, Studenica and Gracanica on Kosovo. And of course monastery Milesevo, where is the famous paint of the White Angel. It is worth visiting because it is beautiful and unique. Welcome to Serbia, land of culture ;)

      • Michael Turtle | Sep 24, 2013 at 3:17 am

        Thank you, Maja. You’ve answered Maiko’s question much better than I could have!
        And there are a couple of places on that list I didn’t get to myself – so it’s good to know for the next trip.
        Thanks!

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