The Church of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, commonly known as the Church of St Peter, is one of the oldest churches in the region. The church is located a little over a mile (2 kilometers) north of the city of Novi Pazar on a hill in Ras, the former capital of medieval Serbia.
While scientists haven’t been able to pinpoint the exact date the church was founded, evidence suggests it existed as far back as the 4th century. However, it was first mentioned as the seat of the Serbian eparchy sometime around the 9th century
The church was constructed on the foundation of several earlier Christian churches. The hillside around the church is an archeological site unto itself, where ancient Greek sculptures and pottery were discovered. The church’s architectural style is reminiscent of churches found in Italy, Armenia, and Georgia that date between the 7th and 9th centuries. The church’s frescoes cover the 10th, 12th and 13th centuries.
Stefan Nemanja, the Grand Prince of the Grand Serbian Principality, was baptized inside the church around the early 12th century. His two sons, Stefan Nemanjić and Rastko (later known as Saint Sava,) were also baptized inside the church. After Rastko left Serbia for Mount Athos in Greece around 1192, Stefan Nemanja abdicated his thrown. Three years later his son, Stefan Nemanjić, was crowned inside the church.
Despite the fall of the Nemanjić Dynasty and the subsequent Ottoman conquest, the church was not abandoned. It was mentioned throughout historical texts until 1690 and the Great Migration of the Serbs to the north. It was later restored by Archbishop Arsenije IV in 1728.
The church is surrounded by a cemetery and tombstones that represent the lives of those who survived during the middle ages. Most of the tombstones are cross-shaped, while the older headstones resemble a crate with a human head contour, along with geometric or floral ornaments on the surface.
As part of the larger Medieval Ras complex, the church was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1979.
Know Before You Go
The church is part of the Old Ras medieval complex, which includes the nearby monasteries of Sopoćani and Đurđevi Stupovi, as well as the fortress of Old Ras. The city of Novi Pazar is itself an interesting fusion of cultures, as it's a multicultural area of Muslims and Orthodox Christians.