From the World Heritage inscription:
The four edifices of the site reflect the high points of the Byzantine-Romanesque ecclesiastical culture, with its distinct style of wall painting, which developed in the Balkans between the 13th and 17th centuries. The De?ani Monastery was built in the mid-14th century for the Serbian king Stefan De?anski and is also his mausoleum. The Patriarchate of Pe? Monastery is a group of four domed churches featuring series of wall paintings. The 13th-century frescoes of the Church of Holy Apostles are painted in a unique, monumental style. Early 14th-century frescoes in the church of the Holy Virgin of Ljevisa represent the appearance of the new so-called Palaiologian Renaissance style, combining the influences of the eastern Orthodox Byzantine and the Western Romanesque traditions. The style played a decisive role in subsequent Balkan art.
The Medieval Monuments in Kosovo are a set of four Orthodox churches and monasteries in Kosovo. The site consists of:
- Dečani Monastery
- Patriarchate of Pec Monastery
- Our Lady of Ljeviš
- Gračanica Monastery
The part of the Medieval Monuments in Kosovo I visited was the Patriarchate of Pec Monastery in the city of Peja (Pec).
The churches are some of the most important places in the Serbian Orthodox church. The artwork is reminicent of other Orthodox world heritage sites I’ve visited which include the Boyana Church in Bulgaria, the Painted Churches in the Troodos Region of Cyprus, Monasteries of Daphni, Hosios Loukas and Nea Moni of Chios, and Meteora, the last two of which are in Greece.
These sites are also a massive political hot potato.
Kosovo unilaterally declared independence from Serbia in 2008. Serbia, however, doesn’t recognize Kosovo as independent. Even though over half of the members of the UN recognize Kosovo, Serbia and many of its allies (including Russia) do not, and they have been able to block Kosovo from joining the United Nations and UNESCO.
Kosovo came up for a membership vote in UNESCO in 2015 but was unable to get 2/3 approval.
This means that the churches are listed as being under Serbia (which I recognize on my World Heritage List just to keep with UNESCO protocol), but are de facto in territory controlled by Kosovo.
Looting and damage had occurred at some of the churches and today they are under the protection KFOR, a NATO Peacekeeping force in Kosovo.
When I visited the Patriarchate of Pec Monastery, it looked like a military camp. There were no signs on the outside indication it was there, and there was a giant wall with razor wire surrounding it. You had to talk to a guard which took your passport and let you in.
Getting to the Medieval Monuments in Kosovo actually isn’t that difficult, you just need to know that the monastery is there and that you have to talk to the security officer to gain entry. There are no signs telling you what to do. Also, it isn’t in any way dangerous. The walls and military presence look imposing, but it shouldn’t deter you from visiting.