THE FOUNDATION OF DESPOT STEFAN LAZAREVIĆ
The history of the fortified Resava monastery is hardly known. Its Foundation Charter is not preserved, sources are scarce, and there is so little information that it is hard to interpret over five hundred chronicler’s years of “painful executions, slavery and final despoliation.” Life in such difficult and bloody times – when, in the summer of 1790, the Turks invited about two hundred Serbs to worship at Manasija, and put them all to death – left deep marks of devastation and destruction. There was no possibility of continual maintenance and repair, and the monastery was often pillaged, burned, destroyed and neglected. Turks used the monastery as a fortification and the church as a horse stable. The Austrian army used the narthex as a gunpowder magazine, which once caught fire. However, owing to the care of the people nearby and the opinion prevailing after the Second Uprising that “much care is required to preserve these monuments of antiquity without damage to the extent possible” – this magnificent edifice has survived to this day as one of the most beautiful and most significant monuments of the Serbian medieval culture.
The oldest but only basic and incomplete data about the construction of this monastery were recorded by Constantine the Philosopher “of Kostents” in his writing from 1432-1433 about the life of Despot Stefan Lazarević. The Despot’s biography was found in 1884 in the Zograf Monastery on Mount Athos. Constantine’s writings are deemed an exceptionally reliable, extensive and important source for the history of the Serbian people in Middle Ages.
Resava, very early called Manasija – probably because Despot Stefan, owing to his rich literary style, was called “second Manasija” (after the Byzantine chronicler Constantine Manasija from the 12th century) – is mentioned in our medieval chronicles and records, far apart in time and containing meagre information, on the basis of which it is impossible to precisely present life and work in the monastery, its sufferings and recoveries.