Located in the 13th-century Serbian Orthodox monastery of Mileševa, the “Beli Anđeo” (“White Angel”) fresco is one of the finest examples of the Serbian and European medieval art.
The fresco depicts an angel wearing white robes, sitting on a stone and showing the myrrh-bearers the empty tomb of Christ—the place of his resurrection. The angel’s enigmatic facial expression is often compared to that of Mona Lisa, gazing straight into the observer’s eyes. It is a part of a larger work called “Mironosnice na Hristovom grobu” (“Myrrh-bearers on Christ’s Grave”), which is the work of an unknown artist.
It was painted over in the 16th century, and remained hidden from the public eye for the next four centuries. As that paint started to wear away, the original fresco was discovered underneath. In 1963, the fresco was sent as a message in the first satellite broadcast signal from Europe to America in 1963. The same signal was later sent to space, as an attempt to communicate with extraterrestrial life forms, as a universal symbol of peace, along with photos of the Great Wall of China and man’s first steps on the moon, as well as recordings of whale song.
The monastery of Mileševa is located on the Mileševica River near the town of Prijepolje in southwestern Serbia. Built in Raška medieval architectural style by the Serbian king Stefan Vladislav, it is considered one of the most important places in the Serbian Orthodox Church. The monastery has changed hands several times and weathered damage from floods and lack of upkeep. Over the 20th century it has been restored and resettled, and in 2002 Mileševa became a female monastery.