Kosovo Medieval Monuments


  • Placed on the endangered list in 2004.
  • The four main monuments making up the site of Kosovo are located in Serbia. However, these days the Republic of Kosovo has now been declared independent of Serbia since 2008 . This fight for independence is the main reason for Kosovo’s mentioning on the endangered sites list. All of the war, conflict, and turmoil have taken their toll on the site over the past couple decades spanning from the early 90’s well into the 2000’s (Britannica).
  • These monuments were placed on the endangered list because they met criteria (ii)(iii)(iv).
    • (ii): to exhibit an important interchange of human values, over a span of time or within a cultural area of the world, on developments in architecture or technology, monumental arts, town-planning or landscape design.
    • (iii): to bear a unique or at least exceptional testimony to a cultural tradition or to a civilization which is living or which has disappeared.
    • (iv): to be an outstanding example of a type of building, architectural or technological ensemble or landscape which illustrates (a) significant stage(s) in human history.

The Republic of Kosovo is now independent of Serbia since 2008. source: https://www.google.com/maps/place/Kosovo/


Four Main Medieval Monuments of Kosovo:

  • Our Lady of Ljeviš
    • 13th century church that was restored to its present state from 1306-07 by King Milutin.
Our Lady of Ljevis, Kosovo

Our Lady of Ljevis, Kosovo Source: http://www.pbase.com/alangrant/image

Gracanica Monastery, Kosovo

Gracanica Monastery, Kosovo Source: http://www.kosovo.net/gracanica


  • Map of all four major medieval monuments
4 Main Medieval Monuments of Kosovo

4 Main Medieval Monuments of Kosovo Source: http://www.worldheritagesite.org/sites


Endangering Factors

Serbian Christian Church in Kosovo destroyed in during the conflict between Kosovo and Serbia

Serbian Christian Church in Kosovo destroyed in during the conflict between Kosovo and Serbia Source: http://serbiasos.blogspot.com/2012/08/kosovo

  • According to the World Heritage Site the churches were not only endangered by the age of the buildings but because of the conflict that has been going on between Serbia and Kosovo as Kosovo tried to gain independence from the Serbians. This caused difficulties in the management and conservation of the sacred monuments as the state of Kosovo was very unstable politically.
  • UNESCO also states that the medieval monuments of Kosovo were placed on this list because of the lack of overall lack of maintenance of the monuments. Essentially nobody was paying enough attention to them due to the political turmoil surrounding the area.
  • Also, a significant amount of the valuables such as the intricate paintings found throughout the churches were either destroyed or looted. Some of the buildings were set on fire by the Serbians during the fighting as well. This is a problem since archaeologists cannot dig the sites fast enough to save the artifacts from being looted even though there are lots of artifacts that should be preserved. This is causing a lot of valuable material culture and heritage to be lost and removed from context negating much of the information we could have gained from archaeological analysis.
  • In 2000 many smaller churches in Kosovo were being reduced to rubble from being blown up with dynamite.
  • These days the sites are pretty stable now that Serbia and Kosovo have since settled the two decade long dispute. Due to this, the Medieval Monuments of Kosovo have been under scrutiny by some to have the endangered status lifted. While 3 out of the 4 monuments are in a relatively stable, safe state, one of them is still not quite out of danger yet.
  • One of the other endangering factors is that the sites are hot tourist spots as well attracting attention worldwide.
  • The Dečani Monastery is the one monument that is still under reinforced surveillance today.
  • According to Besiana Xharra of the Balkin Insight development is also an issue in Kosovo for many of the smaller monuments.

Insight into Global Issues

Archaeological site in Ulpiana, Kosovo

Archaeological site in Ulpiana, Kosovo Source: http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/images

  • According to the Balkin Insight the main issue with archaeology in Kosovo is the fact that some of the sites are so heavily protected that excavating and digging in the sites is not allowed.
  • This most definitely is a global issue and one that is not just relevant to the sites in Kosovo. There is still so much to learn from archaeologists analyzing and excavating sites, however the thought of archaeologists “tampering” with things is not always looked at as beneficial.
  • Site management is a major concern in Kosovo.
  • Some sites such as Ulpiana have already been dug by archaeologists with impressive finds ranging from gold to human remains to pottery (Hurriyet Daily News).
  • The main concern for archaeologists in the area is that development is ruing sites in the area and either access has not been granted for archaeologists to excavate the sites or funding has diminished and they do not have enough money to pay for the process of digging.
  • This causes a lot of concern in the public with some wanting to know more about their past and cultural heritage. Looking at some of the comments, some people believe the inhabitants do not know enough about their own heritage and that they have been making up their past for generations.
  • On the other end of the spectrum, some people don’t want the archaeologists digging at all.
  • Overall, all of this issues discussed relate to the bigger issue of conflict in the are. It is not only a issue here, but ultimately, it is certainly a global issue. This is even more evident looking at the rest of the sites on the map as well. Conflict is evident at a majority of endangered sites across the globe.
  • This really hinders how much we can learn from the archaeologists. We could learn how to be more sustainable in this world of depleting resources or we could even learn more about ourselves and our heritage. Sites like Kosovo being strict or not having the funds to dig are holding society, as a whole, back in the quest for relevant knowledge about the past.


9 thoughts on Kosovo Medieval Monuments

  1. This is looking good! Maybe on your map, you could highlight where your site is, and even add a zoomed in map that shows where the four medieval monuments are! Check out the example archaeological site page to see how we would like you to do the citations (we will go over this in class on December 1st as well).

    1. Also, was struggling with the links not showing up after I added them Monday, I don’t think the site has been saving correctly every time. However, I think it is all fixed now.

  2. Interesting area! I was wondering if the churches on the list are still regularly used and if that further endangers the site? Also, what do you think contributes to the lack of care expressed by the people native to this area?

  3. Have archaeologists tried to excavate any of the smaller sites that have been destroyed? Also, what kind of surveillance is being used at the Dečani Monastery? This site was interesting because people typically don’t hear about archaeological sites in Serbia and the use of the sites seems intriguing.

  4. What is left of the original churches after being burnt and blown up? It’s interesting to find another site that has been destroyed by fire as mine has. The only difference being at your site the intent of the fires was clear, where as at my site the cause is unknown despite suspicions of intentional burning. I also find a similarity between our sites in that many local people are not interested in archaeologists working in the area to preserve the site as they believe it is a waste of resources. Great job on your site!

  5. It’s interesting to learn about a site like this that is located in Europe, since when I think about cultural heritage at risk due to conflict, I typically think of the Middle East, as it seems like Europe and the rest of the world is usually in a pretty good position to defend their cultural heritage. One question I have is why exactly are the churches being destroyed? Is it because one party sees destroying of the churches as a way to get back at the other party, or as a positional advantage, or are they under threat because of unintentional crossfire?

  6. Did any of your sources specify which of the four protected churches have allowed archaeologists to do research? I’m also wondering why tourism is endangering these site. Is it because they don’t take precautions that some other sites do (for example, at the Stonehenge you can’t actually walk very closely to the stones themselves, or through the center of the circle). And did any of your sources discuss the conflict in Kosovo in the context of the overall Yugoslav wars?

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