The time when
Studenica was built, the last two decades of the twelfth century, marks the
beginning of a new era in Serbian history, even a turning-point. The unification
of Serbian lands into a large state under Grand Zhupan Stefan Nemanja brought
Serbia first independence and then international recognition. Nemanja fought
many decisive battles for the Christian faith, suppressed the Bogumil heresy
and other 'impure' faiths throughout his land, strengthened Serbian statehood
by the establishment of the Serbian Orthodox Church and founded numerous churches.
The buildings he raised may serve as signposts in his life. Evidence of his
rising importance can be found, among other things, in the manner in which his
figure and bearing are depicted in paintings at the time of the building of
particular churches. According to Stefan Prvovencani, his son and successor
on the throne, during the construction of the Church of St. Nicholas (Sv. Nikola)
at Toplica, he walked barefoot - like some latter-day Moses, or Jesus of Nazareth.
He took off his shoes to show that the place on which he had set foot was holy,
a place in which was manifested the power and the glory of the Almighty, to
whose will he bowed. This was the period when he was maturing as a ruler, when
he was strengthening his rule over Serbia (Raska or Rascia) with Byzantine help.
The raising of the Church of Djurdjevi Stupovi (George's Pillars) at Ras near
Novi Pazar, vowed to the holy warrior George for recent aid in battle, marked
the period of his victories and assumption of supreme power in the state. Studenica
and Hilandar round off Nemanja's foundations, representing his highest achievements
as a builder and Christian. When St. Sava wished to describe symbolically the
construction of Studenica, he used as ancient image of the mystical hunt:
"God bless! This holy monastery of ours, as you know, was
like a deserted hunting ground of wild beasts. When our load and autocrat Stefan
Nemanja, who ruled all Serbian lands, came to this place to hunt, it pleased
him to build, here in this deserted spot, this monastery for the peaceful life
and furthering of the monastic community."