Monastery Studenica: conservation and restoration works in the nave

The Studenica Monastery is an object of exceptional importance for the Republic of Serbia. It is part of the world’s cultural heritage, under the protection of UNESCO, and the frescoes it has are the most valuable but also the most endangered part of this monastery.

In 1994, the Republic Institute for the Protection of Cultural Monuments started the project for protection and restoration of the Church of the Virgin in Studenica. The uneven cash flow and the long-term lack of funds are the main reasons for the interruptions and slow realization of this project. After a long pause, the works continued in 2006 and in the next 11 years, about 40% of the total surface of the wall paintings was successfully completed. This project is financed by the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Serbia, a one-time donation from the Government of the United States of America and their embassy in Belgrade, as well as through the donations of individuals, friends of the monastery.

Frescoes in the Church of the Holy Virgin have been completely preserved and restored in the northern and southern chapel and interior narthex. These works lasted 6 seasons, from 2006 to 2011. After that the works on painting in the nave began, which is the main part of the church and where the oldest frescoes can be found. Until now, the paintings in the altar apse, triumphal arch and on the eastern wall of the nave were protected and restored.

Since they were discovered 70 years ago, the frescoes in the nave are still not fully treated and protected. The works have been successfully carried out in the previous years, although with constantly diminished funds. The protection and restoration of the frescoes of the Church of the Virgin in Studenica took place even in the previous season when funds from the state budget were completely absent. With the help of a lot of volunteers, a retouch on the eastern wall of the nave was completed, and also an endangered painting on the northern and southern walls was consolidated and sealed. In addition to the young experts, a great contribution to the continuation of the work was given by the experienced conservers from previous seasons, which this season participated without compensation. Each of them spent some time in Studenica, working in a more delicate phases, for which more experience was needed.

A crucial contribution to all these efforts and within the frames of its limited possibilities, the Studenica Monastery provided travel expenses, food and accommodation for the volunteers.

This season, the Republic Institute for the Protection of Cultural Monuments is implementing another phase of works on the protection and restoration of the paintings in the Church of the Virgin in Studenica Monastery.

According to the plan for 2017, conservation and restoration works on the composition of the Assumption of the Virgin and the surrounding zones on the northern wall in the subcupal area will be finished.

Consolidation of the medieval mortar is under way, damage processing and sealing on about 100 m2 of heavily damaged paintings. This is a delicate and demanding procedure, and there are between 150 and 400 damages in one square meter, and each is individually treated by already established verified procedures. This minuscule work requires skill, expertise and calmness so the team of restaurateurs is made up of trained experts with experience, but also with natural prerequisites and abilities for this type of work.

Each procedure as well as the expected result is planned in advance, foreseen by an existing project and recorded in the photo and technical documentation of the works.

This year we are all especially motivated because it is planned to complete the works on an exceptional composition, the Assumption of the Virgin, which is one of the most representative works of the 16th century. Until now, it was not possible to see this fresco as a whole because of the thick network of damages that the surface of the image is covered. It is also planned to do retouching and reconstructing of the missing areas. Thus, after the scaffolding is removed this year in November, we will be able to see the renewed work for the first time after 170 years. This exceptional work is attributed to the painter Longin.

In addition, an inscription which will testify to the emergence of this and the surrounding frescoes that occurred during the 16th century will be preserved. There will also be great preservation of the surrounding frescoes from the 13th century like the one of Archdeacon Stephen, where the background is still preserved, colored with Byzantine blue as well as golden inscriptions.

All historical layers of frescoes will be protected and visually perceptible after these works.

The works are financed by the Ministry of Culture and Information of the Republic of Serbia and the contractor is the company KOTO.

With the blessing of the igumen of Monastery Studenica, Tihon, works on wall painting in the Church of the Holy Virgin are on the right path to be brought to an end, but only if the investments of the state would increase and stabilize through regular financing. Thus, it would be possible to intensify the work, therefore the results would have been visible earlier and the valuable heritage of Studenica protected and secured for future generations.

Project author and conservation supervision MSc Stojanka Samardzic, painter-restorer, advisor, Republic Institute for the Protection of Cultural Monuments Belgrade


  1. GORDANA JAKOVLJEV, BSc. Conservator-Restorer
  2. VESNA CANAK, BSc. Painter-restorer
  3. SUZANA ZLATARIC, BSc. Conservator – Restorer
  4. MILICA ANDJELIC, BSc. Conservator-Restorer
  5. VLADIMIR MARKOSKI, BSc. Conservator-Restorer
  6. LUKA DEDIC, BSc. painter
  7. NENAD BOGOJEVIC, BSc. Conservator-Restorer
  8. MARIJA PESANOVIC, BSc. Conservator-Restorer
  9. JELENA SIMIC, Master Conservator-Restorer
  10. DRAGANA VICENTIJEVIC, Master Conservator – Restorer
  11. SELENA JUNACKOV, Conservator-Restorer
  12. JOVANA JOVANOVIC, Master Conservator – Restorer
  13. MILANA JOVANOVIC, Master Conservator – Restorer
  14. ANASTASIA JOVICIC, Master Conservator – Restorer
  15. STANICA MLADENOVIC, Master Conservator – Restorer
  16. MARIJA VRANIC, Master Conservator – Restorer
  17. ILIJA ANDRIC, student of the second year of conservation and restoration of FAAD

Translation to English : Biljana Vidoevska