Why is it important? The Pec Patriarchate had been the seat of the Serbian Orthodox Church from the 13th century to the abolition of the Pec Patriarchate in 1766. The Pec Patriarchate was regarded as the spiritual center of the Serbian Orthodox and had been the seat of the Serbian Patriarchs since 1346.
The fire burned large areas of the monastery complex, a series of structures. It was started simultaneously in two separate locations. The konak, or residential living quarters, and religious artifacts were destroyed. The fire destroyed the winter church of the monastery complex.
In the period between 1960 and 1981, the Albanian separatists plundered and destroyed the Serbian monasteries of Devic and at Decani. Christian churches were targeted by Albanian Muslim separatists to destroy evidence of the Serbian cultural and religious presence in Kosovo.
Andras J. Riedlmayer, the director of the Documentation Center of the Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture at Harvard's Fine Arts Library, stated in his 2002 testimony at the Hague that he had heard of the 1981attack on the Pec Patriarchate but dismissed it as an accident: “That period was not part of our study, but yes, I've heard reports of that. I've also read that police at the time claimed that it---the fire at the konak---was accidental.”
The New York Times reported on the burning of the Pec Patriarchate in the story “Sacred Serbian Site Damaged by Blaze” by Marvine Howe:
“Before daybreak on March 16, the Patriarchate of Pec, which had survived invasion and occupation by the Ottoman Turks, was heavily damaged by fire. A whole wing of the complex was demolished, including the living quarters of the Patriarch, the nun's refectory, a sick ward, a workshop …”
No one has ever been arrested or charged for the attack. No independent investigation has ever been conducted. The konak was rebuilt on October 16, 1983. The causes for the fire remain unknown. It becomes an epistemological game. Some “claim” or “allege” arson while Albanians “claim” an accident. What is the real story? It all depends on whom you ask. The answer is a function of self-interested motivations and concerns. Was it “arson” or was it an “accident”? Serbian sources “claim” it was purposely set on fire by Albanian Muslims in a terrorist attack to drive out the Kosovo Serb population. Albanian sources and their supporters in the US “claim” that it was an “accident”.