Bela Crkva houses a very well preserved masonry sanctuary screen that is decorated with
frescoes on both sides. In accordance with the dedication of the church, together with the usual
iconographic program of wall paintings, the extended cycle of the life of Holy Virgin has also
been depicted in the Karan church.
An outstanding feature of the fresco ensemble of Bela Ckva is the gallery of numerous and
significant portraits of historical figures. In the western bay, members of the Nemanjić reigning
family – Saint Simeon, Saint Sava, King Milutin are represented, as well as the rulers of the
time, King Dušan and Queen Jelena.
Next to the portraits of the royal couple is a damaged figure of a little boy who barely reaches up
to King Dušan’s thighs, identified by some scholars as the young prince Uroš, the son of King
Dušan. This leads to conclusion that church was painted after Dušan and Jelena got married
(1332), and after their son, Uroš, was born (1337). According to this interpretation, the frescoes
in the church were completed before 1346, as the Greek lands, included in Serbian royal
titulature in 1343, are not mentioned in the inscription accompanying the portrait of King Dušan.
Also, as the little boy is not painted in the costume of young king, the wall painting of the Karan
church must have been carried out before 1342/1343, the year he became a young king.
However, the recent reexamination of the terminus ante quem of Karan frescoes, as well as the
identity of the little boy support the claim that young prince Uroš could not be depicted without
inevitable nimbus. Thus the young boy painted next to the King and Queen is more likely to be a
young page or sward-bearer.
Several other interesting and noteworthy portraits are painted in different parts of the church. In
the ktetorial (founders’ composition), Župan Petar Brajan – with the Karan church in his hand –
his wife Struja, and their four daughters, are represented in a quite prominent position facing the
portraits of the Nemanjić family.
Unfortunately, the painters of Bela Crkva remain unknown. Their skills, however, indicate that
they accepted iconographic and stylistic innovations of the time, and were well informed about
contemporary cultural and artistic trends, which enabled them to create elaborate iconographic
program and to accomplish some distinctive and vibrant artistic solutions.
The White Church of Karan is located in the village of Karan, southwest of Serbia. It is only 20km from the major town of Uzice.
See the map of all BLAGO collections