Kopaonik and its piedmont, blessed by nature, have attracted people from time immemorial. The remains of same of their dwellings can still be found. Historical traces of the broader region of Kopaonik reveal Illyrian and pre-Illyrian heritage. Roman settlements and later Slav consolidation. A few mighty fortresses, built on wisely chosen heights, are still defying time. Many medieval rulers had erected their memorial churches and monuments at the foot of the mountain.
Kopaonik was an important center of the Serbian medieval states at the time of the Nemanjic, Lazarevic and Brankovic dynasties.
The Ibar river valley, from Zvecan to the Zapadna Morava River, was mentioned as the Župa in the documents of Stefan Nemanja and his son Stefan Prvovencani (12th and 13th centuries). The mineral resources of the region were mined extensively during the 14th and 15th centuries-at the time of the despots' rule. In addition to mining, trade flourished as well, especially with Dubrovnik, Byzantium and Western Europe. One of the main roads of medieval Serbia, linking the country with the south coast, ran along the Ibar valley.
The oldest historical documents of the Southern Slavs say that King Stefan Uroš I of Raška brought Germans to the country, as excellent miners. The well-known Saxons were present from the beginning of the 14th century, especially in Kopaonik mining area.
The medieval miners' settlement Stari Trg, near Trepca, was the marketplace for the miners' handicrafts. The present-day ruins of a basilica are probably the remains of a Catholic church, which was mentioned from the 14th to the 17th century. Rogozno, which was given as a gift to Banjska by King Milutin, also had a Catholic house of worship.
In many written documents from those days Trepca was denoted as a mining town. A mint in Plana was mentioned just before the Battle of Kosovo (1389). Mining was particularly developed during the rule of Despot Ðurad Brankovic. Settlers from Dubrovnik came at the beginning of the 15th century.
In 1455 the Turks seized the two richest mines of medieval Serbia-Novo Brdo and Trepca. The mining activities began to dwindle.


Near Kopaonik there are several medieval monasteries, which brought world renown to Serbian culture.
Nemanja's Studenica, of eternal white, was built by the river of the same name, approximately in 1190. Its ornaments were carved in marble, and an unknown artist painted the crucifix in 1208. The monastery also includes Sava's dining room for the entire fraternity, Radoslav's spacious vestibule (second quarter of the 13th century), King Milutin's small church called Kraljeva crkvica (1314), full of paintings, as well as a rich treasury.
Žica, built by Stefan Prvovencani (c. 1215), was the first seat of Archbishop Sava (1219). Its purple regalia can be seen from afar.
Gradac, the memorial of Helena d'Anjou (Jelana Anžujska), on the left tributary of the Ibar, was recently reconstructed and is reminiscent of the Gothic style of the Queen's fatherland. The Sopocani monastery "at the source of the Raška" (c. 1265), the memorial of her husband, King Uroš, should also be noted as it is the most beautiful gallery of Serbian medieval painting.
Banjska (second decade of the 14th century), near the field of Kosovo, was the place where King Milutin was supposed to be buried, but fate would not have it that way. The remains of "the insatiable builder of glorious churches" had to be moved, before the Battle of Kosovo, to Trepca, which was indebted to this powerful ruler because of the development of mining in the area during his lifetime.
In the vicinity of Kopaonik there is also Nemanja's monastery of Ðurdevi Stupovi (before 1168), with Dragutin's Chapel (c. 1282). Petrova crkva, located near these memorials of the Nemanjic dynasty, is even older (8th or 9th century), and it is believed the Grand Župan Nemanja was converted to Orthodox Christianity under its oval roof. Many riches of Illyrian origin and of great artistic value were found underneath the foundations of this edifice (at present they are at the National Museum in Belgrade).
Just at the foot of Mount Kopaonik there is another temple of pre-Nemanjic Serbia, which still resists the passing of time. It is the half-demolished Stara Pavlica (Old Pavlica). Nova Pavlica (New Pavlica), the church of the Music brothers, legendary Kosovo heroes (9th decade of the 14th century), is also located nearby.
Somewhat further off, on the opposite side of the mountain, to the north-east, there are several memorial monasteries of the Morava group, from the end of the 14th and the beginning of the 15th century: Veluca, Lazarica, Rudenica, Milentija, Ljubostinja. Near the town of Kuršumlija, to the south-east, are the remains of the monastery of St. Nicholas, one of the oldest Nemanjic memorials (before 1168).
In Zvecan, at the entrance of the Ibar canyon, in one of the oldest Serbia medieval cities (from the 11th to the 14th century), the blinded ex-King Stefan Decanski came to the sad end of his life. Already by the end of the 14th century the Turks conquered the city. At the end of the canyon, above the ess of the river, Maglic still towers over the area. These two fortifications, as well as Brvenik (14th century), ruled the entire canyon. Koznik (beginning of the 15th century) is also nearby. It stood against assaults coming from the opposite direction. It is assumed that Vrhlab (beginning of the 14th century), above the Lab River, was the summer residence of King Milutin.
Towns guarded fertile region of the wine-growing district, ore and forest wealth of Kopaonik and rich pious foundations of the Serbian rulers. These formerly mighty cities, built under difficult conditions, for medieval warfare, gradually lost their strategic advantages, but the ruins of their stonewalls are still defying the passage of the centuries.

Dr Dobroslav St. Pavlovic
"A Giant in the Centuries"
Turistical Union of Serbia, 1982.

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