Reuse and remodeling in the Late Byzantine world: the Church of Bogorodica Ljeviška in Prizren

Title: Reuse and remodeling in the Late Byzantine world: the Church of Bogorodica Ljeviška in Prizren
Variant title:
  • Znovupoužití a remodelace v pozdně byzantském světě: chrám Bohorodičky Ljevišské v Prizrenu
Author: Jevtić, Ivana
Source document: Convivium. 2021, vol. 8, iss. Supplementum 2, pp. [132]-155
  • ISSN
    2336-3452 (print)
    2336-808X (online)
Type: Article
Summary language
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This article responds to the recent popularity of spolia studies and the need for a more critical engagement with forms and ranges of reuse that we can interpret as spoliation. It highlights the key role that two artistic practices, reuse and remodeling, played in the renovation of Prizren's cathedral – Church of Bogorodica Ljeviška (Mother of God of Ljeviška) – under the patronage of the Serbian king Milutin (r. 1282–1321). This article interprets the rebuilding, i.e. reuse, of the three-aisled Middle Byzantine basilica as spoliation the goal of which was not to display fragments of the old building as trophies but rather to preserve its remains like relics. In turn, the remodeling of the original basilica into a five-domed church (1306–1309), supported by the inscriptions and a new painting program (ca 1310–1313), represent an artistic rewriting of the building's history. In light of Serbo-Byzantine rapprochement under King Milutin, this rewriting translates cultural meanings and political messages that complete the transformation of Prizren from a Byzantine episcopal seat and town into a significant center of the Serbian medieval state and church. Concepts of spolia and translation thus support a more holistic interpretation of the building and underline the potential renovations hold for the study of Late Byzantine monuments.