Protected cultural monument of great importance, listed as SK 228 with the Republic Institute for the protection of monuments of cultural heritage.
The Church of the Holy Trinity in Gornji Matejevac was built on Metoh hill above the village, elevated above a wide valley.
It was built in the XI century by the orders of a local dignitary, in the pre-Nemanjić era, during the Byzantine reign of this region. It is commonly known as the Latin church or the Church of the Holy Trinity of Rusalia, and it is also known as „The Great church“. It was most likely dedicated to the Holy Mother of God, who was also added the attribute Rusalia, which is one of the three known cults of the ancient Serbs. The name Latin represents the memory of Ragusan merchants, the Latins, who used it in the XVI century, when they had a colony in this region.
The church in Gornji Matejevac is a single-nave edifice, shaped as a contractive cross with a dome above the central part of the church. It is west-east oriented, with the entrance in the west and a semi-circular apse in the east. The apse is slightly smaller in diameter than the width of the naos, somewhat lower than the eastern vault. On the western side, the narthex was later built, but only foundations remain today.
The inside is separated by pilasters into three rectangular traves of various sizes. The opposing pilasters are interconnected by arches, above which, over the middle trave, an eight-sided dome with windows on all four sides was built. The eastern and western trave are of the same height, crowned with semi-spherical arches, supported by lateral molded arcs.
The church was built using the alternate use of stone and brick. The polychrome surfaces of the exterior façade come to life thanks to the blind arcades made of evenly distributed bricks, using Byzantine motifs in ceramoplastic decoration. The three blind arcades on the side walls of the naos, the middle one being wider and higher, fully represent the inner structure of the edifice. The roof cover is separated by a cornice of bricks, laid in the shape of a dentil. The cell-like system of building using red brick and white mortar makes this edifice especially elegant. One Roman stele is built into the wall of the edifice, reclaimed from a Roman object nearby.
The church in Matejevac is not completely researched. It was interesting to researchers as early as the XIX century. Mihajlo Valtrović, our first antiquities researcher, reported to the Serbian Learned society that it „represents a strictly executed Byzantine array“. It was built during the Byzantine rule in the XI century. It is assumed that it was abandoned after the retreat of the Byzantines, and it was not accepted by the Serbs. The archeological research performed by the Institute for the protection of cultural monuments of Niš determined that the church was renewed in the XV century. It is believed that the temple was renewed by despot Stafan Lazarević, who dedicated the church to the Mother of God. The interior of the church did not reveal traces of medieval painting, but it is known that it was painted in 1870. One of the painted figures was Miloš Obilić in life size.
After the downfall of Despotate, the church does not appear in Turkish inventories. Only after the foundation of the Ragusa colony in Niš, in the mid XVI century was the church renewed and the Ragusans used it for their rites. A necropolis was formed around the church, which is testified by travel writers, and there are also reports from the Ragusa archives mentioning prominent merchants and diplomats who passed away and were buried there. After the Ragusans left, both the church and the cemetery were abandoned, and the only thing that remained was the name Latin church. A whole century later, there was not a single church in Niš and its surroundings, as the Turks had burnt them all or converted them into mosques, stables or barracks. It is assumed that this church was secretly restored and used for some time. It was dedicated to the Holy Trinity, and since it was the largest, the people called it „The Great church“. When the new church was erected in the center of Gornji Matejevac in 1838, the old Mother of God of Rusalia, Latin or Great church completely lost its significance.
Based on the results of the archaeological research, and the conservatory-restoration works carried out between 1968 and 1974, the church was renewed and restored to its original form, and today it represents a real gem of sacral architecture in this region.
Archaeologist Julka Kuzmanović Cvetković,museum advisor