The Monastery of Krušedol
The Monastery of Krušedol

By Nikola Piperski | Research Associate, Department of Art History, Faculty of Philosophy, University of Belgrade, Serbia


The Monastery of Krušedol, is a Serbian Orthodox monastery on Fruška Gora Mountain, in Syrmia, Serbia, province of Vojvodina. It is dedicated to the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The monastery is the legacy of the last titular Orthodox Serbian despots in Hungary - the holy despots Branković. The monastery was erected beginning in 1509 with support from St. Angelina Branković of Serbia (ca. 1440–1520), and additional the financial support from the Grand Prince Vasili III of Russia (r. 1505–33). Initially, the monastery was founded as the mausoleum for the Branković family.

The original purpose of the monastery was changed in 1512, when St. Maxim (1461–1516), a former Serbian Despot Đorđe Branković (r. 1486–97), became the Metropolitan of Belgrade (1512–16). With the financial help of the voivode of Wallachia Neagoe Basarab (r. 1459–1521), Maxim continued the work on the construction of the monastery, which had started under his mother. The building continued not only as it was first intended, as a family mausoleum, but also as a new seat of the Metropolitanate of Belgrade. This was significant because at that time the city of Belgrade was in danger due to the threat of the Ottoman invasion.

The Monastery of Krušedol was founded in the Kingdom of Hungary, just before its demise at the battle of Mohács (1526). For the next two centuries, the monastery functioned within the political framework of the Ottoman Empire and its cultural model. The cults of the holy despots established the idea of Krušedol as the leading spiritual center of the Orthodox Serbs in the areas north of the rivers Sava and the Danube. Krušedol retained that status even after the region became part of the Habsburg monarchy at the end of the 17th century. In 1708, it became the seat of the Metropolitanate of Krušedol (which moved in 1713 to Sremski Karlovci). The Metropolitanate of Karlovci was elevated to the Patriarchate of Karlovci in 1848. In 1920, it was merged with the Metropolitanate of Belgrade and other Eastern Orthodox jurisdictions in the newly established kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes to form the Serbian Orthodox Church.


Although the relics were burnt during one Turkish intrusion in 1716, the cult of the holy despots persisted. Over time, Krušedol was gradually transformed from the mausoleum of the holy despots into the museum of Serbian archbishops and patriarchs. The Patriarchs who were buried in the monastery were Arsenije III Čarnojević (1674–90) and Arsenije IV Jovanović Šakabenta (1725– 37). Graves of other historical figures include count Đorđe Branković (no connection to the Branković family) (1645–1711), p rincess Ljubica Obrenović (18171–39), the wife of the Serbian Prince Miloš Obrenović (Grand Vožd of Serbia (1815–17); prince of Serbia (1817–39) and (1858–60), the Serbian king Milan Obrenović (prince of Serbia 18681–82 and king 1882– 89). Because of this during the last decades of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century, Krušedol was regarded as the Serbian national pantheon.

Krušedol is also famous for its cultural and artistic heritage, icon collection, and a large library. The monastery was severely damaged during WWII, when a big part of its treasures was lost. Today, many artifacts from the monastery are kept in the Museum of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Belgrade.

The strongest architectural character of the church and the overall appearance of the monastery, as it is today, emerged after the renovation in the middle of the 18th century, but the basic idea of the design of the original church can be reconstructed, and partially seen today. The first church building was built as a triconch church with a dome over the naos and a large narthex extending to the west. According to most researchers, this type of church originated from Mount Athos, and was widely used in the Serbian Late Middle Ages (ca. 1370–1459), become especially characteristic of the churches of the so-called Morava School.

What distinguishes Krušedol church from the churches of the Morava School is the absence of the decorative stonework of the facades, evident in other churches from this period. The main church of Krušedol was built of stone and brick, and then plastered. The simplicity of its facades makes Krušedol more similar to the early Renaissance churches that were erected throughout Pannonia during the reign of Matthias Corvinus (regnal dates). According to Abbot Bonini who visited Krušedol 1702, the monastery church at the time was decorated with frescoes inside and out. Based on that that one can assume that the church was originally decorated on the outside and inside with frescoes in the Greek (Byzantine) manner.

At the beginning of the 1740s, a general renovation of the church took place, in the spirit of “Baroque Classicism. ”At the time, the altar apse was significantly expanded, the passage between the nave and the narthex was widened, and a new porch was built on the west side of the church. This redesign emphasized the linearity of the church, which gained a total of 3 m in length. This expansion can be seen from the perspective of the increasingly pronounced tendency to give the liturgy a ceremonial character in the 18th century. The number of participants in the liturgical drama was increasing, which formally required both a larger congregation and a larger altar space.

The wall paintings of the church of Krušedol were created between the middle of the 16th and the middle of the 18th century. Today, the original painting of the narthex, which dates to 1543, and those of the naos, dating to 1545, can only be partially seen. The majority of the original frescoes have been covered with the newer ones from the 18th century. The original painting of the narthex is known only from the parts discovered during the conservation in 1962, when a layer of later painting up to 170 cm high was removed in the lowest zone. Then the painted plinth and the lower part of the standing figures of the first belt became visible. Among the standing figures, one can recognize the figures of Christ, the Mother of God, Barlaam and Josaphat, St. Sava Nemanjić, St. Simeon Nemanja, holy kings of the Nemanjić dynasty, Maxim Branković, his mother Angelina and brothers Jovan and Stefan. The original painting can also be seen to some extent on the upper parts of the walls. Ecumenical councils were painted above the standing figures, and above them is a belt of medallions with waist-length figures of saints. The rest of the original program is unknown, but based on remaining of the painted borders above the circular medallions it can be assumed that on the north and south walls there were 12 compositions of the Akathist cycle.

In the nave, thanks to conservation interventions, a significantly larger area of ​​the original painting was discovered than in the narthex. Unfortunately, the discovered parts do not provide a basis for a complete overview of the thematic repertoire. One can only see that in the lowest zone, in addition to the figures of monks and hermits, holy warriors also appear, and that in the upper zone, the cycle of the Feasts of Jesus Christ was arranged, from which only the scene of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary can be seen on the western wall. It is noticeable that in very visible places on the sub-dome columns there are images of St. Sava, St. Simeon and St. Maxim.

The frescoes on the western porch (1650–66) of which the monumental representation of the Last Judgment is best preserved, are executed in the late Byzantine manner, typical for frescoes in Serbian churches created during the Ottoman rule.

The re-painting of the main church of Krušedol took place around the middle of the 18th century, when the Baroque understanding of church painting in the Metropolitanate of Karlovci was already largely accepted. The work was entrusted to the workshops of Jov Vasilijevič (ca. 1700– after 1760) and Stefan Tenecki (ca. 1720–98), the best educated and most respected artists of the Metropolitanate of Karlovci at the time. The first artist was of a Ukrainian origin, and the second a pupil of the painting school of the Kyiv Pechersk Lavra. Moreover, the Gate Church of the Trinity (Pechersk Lavra) monastery, whose painting is often compared to the one of Krušedol, was most certainly well known to the two artists. Therefore, their work in Krušedol Monastery in Syrmia attests to the necessity for further investigation in order to grasp a better insight into the complex artistic and cultural connections in the regions to the north and south of the Danube River.

Further Reading

Davidov, Dinko. Krušedol. Beograd: Jugoslavija; Novi Sad: Matica Srpska, 1964.

Shorter monograph of the Monastery of Krušedol written in French.

Matić, Vojislav. The Monastery of Krušedol. Novi Sad: Platoneum, 2018.

A short monograph written in English with basic information about the church, the belfry, the frescoes, oil paintings, the iconostasis and other antiquitis of The Monastery of Krušedol.

Timotijević. Miroslav. Manastir Krušedol I and II. Belgrade: Izdavačka kuća Draganić and Pokrajinski zavod za zaštitu spomenika kulture Vojvodine, 2008.

Monograph about the Monastery Krušedol in two books, followed with a very good visual material, written by one of the Serbian most important art historians Miroslav Timotijević. Book is in Serbian.

This contribution was sponsored by the Mary Jaharis Center for Byzantine Art and Culture at Hellenic College Holy Cross.

Nikola Piperski, "The Monastery of Krušedol," Mapping Eastern Europe, eds. M. A. Rossi and A. I. Sullivan, accessed June 3, 2023,