antiquarian devoted to the national past, butrnwhen after a two-hour drive we enter thernmonastery of Patriarsha—headquarters of thernSerbian Orthodox Church—it becomes clearrnthat in rediscovering their cultural roots, Serbsrnlike Mr. Kostitch are also rediscovering theirrnfaith. Like him they carry Kosovo “like a wrinklernon the forehead.”rnThe region of Metohia takes its name from arnGreek Orthodox word for church property. It isrnan appropriate name, since the hills and valleysrnof Metohia are studded with the brilliant gemsrnof medieval churches and monasteries. We arernonly able to visit three monasteries, Patriarsha,rnVisoki Dechani, and Grachanitsa. My interestrnwas primarily antiquarian, not aesthetic. I hadrnjust spent three weeks in Italy—in Parma, Monza,rnMilan, Pisa, and Rome. What had Serbia tornoffer at that? I had been impressed by the picturesrnof what I thought were Byzantine frescoesrnin the Serbian churches, but books (even the superbrnvolume put out by Jaca Books of Milan)rnhad not prepared me for these days in Kosovo.rnPatriarshia is located outside of Peteh, in arnrange of foothills looking up to the ProkletijernPlanine—the “Damned Mountains” that leadrninto Albania. Sheep are grazing in a green meadow that slopesrndown to a clear mountain brook. The place is very quiet, andrnthe beauty of the scene is the right introduction to the church,rnwhich might have sprouted from the very stone of the mountains,rnand the frescoes inside are painted with the colors of thernheavens, blue and gold. This is not art, as I have known art, butrnan epiphany of the world as seen through the eyes of SerbianrnOrthodox mystics, and to say much more would lead us fromrnthis painted paradise into the purgatory of art history and thernhell of criticism.rnHigh Dechani is a more classic construction, and Grachanitsarnis almost dizzying in the off-centered beauty of its cupolas,rnbut I am as impressed with the entire scene of Patriarsha as I amrnwith anything I have ever witnessed. The prioress gives us arngreeting, full of high and ancient courtesy, and we drink a glassrnof her plum brandy, which seems distilled out of the flowers asrnwell as the fruit of the plum, so clean and pure a drink is it. Thernlady smiles, and the sun gleams off her gold teeth, radiant asrnthe halo in an icon.rnAs we leave, I am shown the building that Albanians assaultedrnand tried to burn down ten years earlier. I have alreadyrnnoted the external frescoes of the church, which generations ofrnMuslims have done their best to efface, but every church wernvisit has a story to tell, and some have already shipped offrntheir most historic icons to Belgrade, in anticipation of morerndetermined assaults. Everywhere, it is the face, partieulariy therneyes, that are scratched out, because the Muslims regard suchrndepictions as blasphemous. The most famous case is thernpainting (in Grachanitsa) of Queen Simonida, the Byzantinernprincess who at the age of six became the fourth wife of KingrnMilutin.rnThe gentle and learned nun who gives us a tour of Grachanitsarnpoints out the mutilated painting and quotes the verses ofrnMilan Rakitch, the Serbian consul to Turkish-held Prishtinarnwho mourned the eyes that “some Albanian gouged out.”rnMills and Fleming drinking coffee on the rocky plateau above the NeretvarnRiver.rnatrocities, the Serb poet finds beauty in desolation, as PrincernLazar built a spiritual kingdom in his death and defeat atrnKosovo:rnLike stars burned out that stillrnsend human kind their light;rnand we see the splendor, the form and color,rnof distant stars that are no longer there.rnBrian Hall (New York Times Magazine, 9 May 1993) repeatsrnthe Albanian explanation that it was really the Serbs, believingrnin the curative power of the plaster, who defaced their ownrnchurches. Hall is just clever enough not to endorse such nonsense;rnhe merely reports it in the course of a one-sided narrativernthat manages to leave out nearly every relevant fact ofrnKosovo’s history.rnIn the Middle Ages, Kosovo-Metohia lay at the center of Serbia,rnand even by the end of the 17th century the territory wasrnno more than 5 percent Albanian, but in the 18th century, afterrndefeating the Austrians, the Turks were able to push out arnlarge part of the Orthodox population and to begin restockingrnKosovo with Albanians. But even by the end of World War I,rnthe Albanians amounted to no more than 60 percent.rnAs an underclass, first in the majority then in the minority,rnKosovo Serbs enjoyed few protections. The Turks relied heavilyrnon Albanian chieftains, whom they could scarcely control,rnand even reforming sultans at the end of the century were unablernto restrain the Albanians in their relentless persecution ofrnGhristian “inferiors.” French, German, and Russian visitors allrncommented on the savagery and lawlessness of the Muslim Albanianrnmaster class that refused to consider it a crime to murderrnGhristian Serbs, and one Serb writer has recendy comparedrnthe role of the Albanians with that of the Kurds employed byrnthe Turks as their shock troops in the Armenian genocide.rnAll that is ancient history, but in Worid War iT many Alba-rnRather than use the occasion for a sermon against Muslim nian Muslims leaped at the chance to return to ancient ways.rnAUGUST 1993/15rnrnrn