Studenicka Mother of God
In the main church of the monastery Studenica, on the east side of the southwest pilaster a big figure of the Mother of God with Jesus is painted in the lower zone, at the place where prior table is usually put in monastery churches. As with the other standing figures painted in this zone this one is also presented in wide stroke of brush and restrained coloring with discrete greenish shades on the pink-ocher incarnadine. In their commentaries about paintings in Studenica researchers from earlier times rarely mention this fresco. Recently researchers have rediscovered its importance. V.Djuric refers to the fresco in its real context as a newly created type of national icon. G.Babic makes parallels with top Byzantine art of the time, and M. Timotijevic points out to its importance in state and religious policy of the Serbian Nemanjic dynasty.
It is especially interesting that the fresco signage is written in Serbian Cyrillic: Studenicka Holy Mother of God, not with usual MHTHR QEOU. It presents a clear intention of St. Sava, who took care of church decoration and ideological content of paintings, to establish national church. Fresco signage in Cyrillic in any of the churches built in the region of the archiepiscopacy of Ohrid before the church in Constantinople had given them the independence was a challenge against its jurisdiction. The Constantinople Church reacted severely but unsuccessfully. Particular novelty was the very name Studenicka (meaning: of Studenica), which confirms the creation of a national cult regarding the icon of the Mother of God painted in the church-mausoleum of the founder of the dynasty. This cult was created with clear purpose to overcome Constantinople by local importance and to emphasize legitimacy of the Serbian Church in the hierarchy of ecclesiastical centers of that time. With such well-conceived program for the accomplishment of ecclesiastical independence St. Sava gave a great contribution to the political struggle of Stefan Nemanja and Stefan Prvovencani for complete independence of the Serbian Church and State.
The cult of the Studenicka Mother of God disappeared from the ecclesiastical practice in Serbs but the monastery of Studenica and its prior still occupy the first place in the hierarchy of old sovereign endowments.
(On the top: Photo of the fresco Studenicka Mother of God; On the right: trace of the complete fresco Studenicka Mother of God by Branislav Živković )