Monday, September 5, 2016

Kosovo Prizren

I've been quiet - again.  It's again been busy!  I went for my two week annual summer training with the Air National Guard - and had the opportunity to visit with Fr. Lavoie in Kosovo.

After some orientation and briefing on the situation here in Kosovo - why we are there and the situation with the soldiers and how, as chaplain, I can help during these two weeks, we had the opportunity to make some "morale trips" with the soldiers.

Our first trip was to Prizren - a very historic city in Kosovo.  It is the 2nd largest city.  Here you can learn about the city of Prizren.

These photos are all of the Serbian Orthodox Church: Mother of God Ljeviška - or at least what remains of it.  It was built in the 14th century - converted into a mosque during the Ottoman Empire and in the 20th century converted back into a church.  It has been unused / unusable since the time of the Kosovo Civil war (1999) and, just weeks before we visited, was again broken into and vandalized - leading to the posting of a security guard 24/7 outside the church.

Next on our tour that day we headed up toward the ancient medieval fortification.  On our way we passed these very beautiful sites in the town of Prizren.

As this picture shows, the instructions for us were that we were to travel everywhere in uniform - which was quite different from what I expected.  Normally you want to keep a "low profile" for security purposes - but here in Kosovo you keep a high profile so that the military presence is regularly seen.  It is, in fact, an important part of the NATO peace-keeping mission to be seen out in uniform.

As we climbed the hill toward the ancient fortification - once the seat of the Serbian Empire, we came across the ruins of a church: St. Spas Church / Christ the Savior Serbian Orthodox Church.  It was built in 1330 and, at one time, had remarkable murals.  

Built in 1330, it is an important testament to the Byzantine art of medieval Serbia. The building is remarkable for its mural paintings. It has a narthex, a single nave, and a choir covered by a dome. The church is next to an incomplete large annex which, today, forms an enclosure of which only the walls remain, and next to a more recent campanile, added in the 19th century.
The interior decor of the church was completed in two phases, and dates entirely from the 14th century. The paintings from the second phase, situated in the nave and in the narthex (depicting the Theotokos Paraklesis and the Christ Antiphonetes, etc) are of particularly remarkable quality and were restored under the framework of this project.

We then finally got to the top of the hill and the medieval fortification also known as Kaljaja and Dušan's Fortress.  It was built in the 11th century and used as a fortification by various empires until the early 1900's.  

Me (R) with the Chaplain Assistant, Sgt White (L), and her roommate (center)

After a long day we headed back to the Post.  Next blog post: The Staff Ride - a quick ride through the history of Kosovo.

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