Koha: „Serbs built on the foundations of ancient Illyrian and Arberian temples“

Crkva Bogorodica Ljeviška
Foto: KoSSev

Translation provided by KoSSev

By Bedri Muhadri

It is known that in 1307, King Milutin appropriated the cathedral church of St. Petka (Serbs call it Our Lady of Ljevis) in Prizren, which was the seat of the Prizren episcopate. The Church of St. Petka was built on a temple from the Roman period and a basilica from the 5th-6th century. It was the seat of the bishop of Prizren, which dates back to 1019.

This text written by Muhadri is a continuation of the text Koha published as part of its cultural section last weekend. The text, entitled „Appropriation of medieval Arberian monuments in Kosovo by Serbs,“ provoked a reaction from the Diocese of Raska and Prizren. Read more: Kosovo Serb Orthodox Diocese on Koha’s text: It spreads ethnic and religious hatred.

The Church of St. Petka in Prizren is an important monument of Kosovo’s cultural heritage. It was built on the foundations of a former Trinitarian church from the 11th and 12th centuries, as well as those that preceded them. The church got its modern shape following reconstruction by the Serbian King Milutin (1307), who changed its name and dedicated it to the Ascension of the Holy Virgin. It was turned into a mosque in the 18th century and became a church again in 1912, writes Edi Shukriu in „Kisha e Shën Premtës (Church of St. Petka),“ writes Koha.

The Church of St. Petka does not belong only to Serbs

Before the archeological excavations of 1950-1952, there were different views of the church of St. Petka. F. Mesenel wrote that the church belongs to the old churches of the Byzantine period.

Architect Dj. Boskovic admitted that there was an old Trinitarian church during the time of King Milutin and offered two versions of the former condition of the church in relation to the construction works conducted in the 14th century. According to the first version, King Milutin found the Byzantine church destroyed and rebuilt it, while according to the second, King Milutin rebuilt the Byzantine church on the existing foundations, while other parts were added in the middle of the 14th century, writes Shukriu. During its existence, this church had several different names that were used at different times and in different languages ​: Albanian – Shën Prenda, Shën Prena/Shëneprena, Shën Premtja, kisha greke; Serbian: Sveta Petka, Sveta Bogorodica, Ljeviska; Turkish: Xhuma Xhamia. The different names of the church of St. Petka are at the same time an expression of its age and the cultural layers of the holy site, but it always preserves the basic name of the church – Shën Prenda-Shën Premtja (cf. St. Petka). The existence of an earlier church is also demonstrated by the inscription placed in the eastern part of the church, which reads „restored from the foundations by King Stefan Uros, son-in-law of the Greek emperor Andronikos Palaiologos.“

Archaeological and architectural research conducted by researcher S. Nenadović during 1950-1952 established three phases of construction: the early Byzantine basilica, the Byzantine basilica from the 13th century, and the renovated church from 1306/07. Stefan Decani’s map reads: „The Church of St. Petka has existed since the time of the ancient kings,“ quoted Shukriu. Researcher S. Nenadovic, who has been working on its restoration and conservation for years, Shukriu writes, noted the presence of older fragments and monuments from the time of early Christianity, quoting: “We must assume that there is an even older temple, because research has not been conducted to that extent that we can be sure that there are no even older foundations under this old church.” J. Jastrebov also confirms the fact that this monastery „belongs to pre-Serb times.“ When it comes to the reconstruction of the church of St. Petka on the foundations of a pagan temple, it should be noted that Archbishop Danilo calls King Milutin „the builder and restorer of ruined and destroyed temples.“ Another fact about the existence of an earlier church is also an inscription, which says „restored from the foundations by King Stefan Uros…“

According to the archaeological and historical research of E. Shukriu, the development of the church of St. Petka in Prizren contained nine phases, ending with the conclusion that this temple existed before the Roman period to date. During the Ottoman rule, in 1756, the church was turned into a mosque. Since then, the Holy Church of St. Petka has been called the Mosque of Fatih Sultan Mehmed. It was popularly known as Xhuma Xhamia (The Friday Mosque). In 1912, after the Serbian army entered Prizren, the mosque was turned into a church again.

You can read the full article in the print edition of Koha Ditore newspaper.


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