Church of Christ the Saviour, Pristina
|Church of Christ the Saviour|
The building in February 2013
|Address||Agim Ramadani, Vreshtat|
|Town or city||Pristina|
|Owner||Serbian Orthodox Church|
The Cathedral church of Christ the Saviour (Serbian: Саборни храм Христа Спаса у Приштини/Saborni hram Hrista Spasa u Prištini; Albanian: Kisha serbe në oborrin e UP-së) in Pristina, Kosovo[a] is an unfinished Serbian Orthodox Christian church whose construction began in 1992. Due to have been completed in 1999, its construction, on the campus of the pre-war University of Pristina, was interrupted by the Kosovo War.
The autonomous status of Kosovo within the Yugoslav federation was removed in 1989 by President Slobodan Milošević of the Serbian Republic and direct control was established from Belgrade. Pristina Municipality, under control from Belgrade took a small parcel of land belonging to Pristina University and gave it to the Serbian Orthodox Church (SOC). An Orthodox cathedral was planned by the SOC on university land in the city centre and construction was begun in 1992 as part of a policy of Serbian nationalism. Its foundations were laid in the campus of the University of Pristina at a time when Albanian students and professors were expelled from the university buildings and there was an extensive campaign of serbization going on in Kosovo. Work on the building halted due to dwindling funds and recommenced in March 1995. The external structure was completed by 1998 yet the deteriorating security environment in Kosovo led to the suspension of construction. Construction of the building was not welcomed by the predominantly Muslim population of Kosovo.
Following the war and international military intervention in 1999, Kosovo became a protectorate under an United Nations administration (UNMIK) and a failed attempt was made to destroy the building with explosives that did little damage to the structure. Seen by Kosovo Albanians as a symbol of Milošević's rule, the building was vandalised in the aftermath of the war. The UNMIK administration held concerns that the Orthodox church could become a target due to retaliatory violence and the building was placed under protection along with other Orthodox churches of Kosovo. In 2003 the building became part of discussions by the public over its future.
Pristina Municipality, with an Albanian majority population became part of the newly established UNMIK provisional government institutions of Kosovo and it proposed four uses for the building: preserved as is, demolition, turned into a museum and usage for some alternative purpose. Albanian controlled Pristina municipality was openly hostile to the structure. Based in Gracanica at the time, the SOC stated that it was against the proposals viewing them as an attack toward a religious location and an attempt to remove the Serb presence from Pristina. The SOC compiled property documents demonstrating ownership over multiple locations within Pristina such as the Kosovo parliament, the accommodation buildings of Pristina university and its library. To counter municipal plans, the SOC suggestion was that these buildings be turned into museums. UNMIK eventually overruled Pristina Municipality over its proposals.
During the riots of 2004 by Kosovo Albanians against Serbs that resulted in the destruction or damage of 35 religious monuments, nearly all Orthodox churches, the building in Pristina was not damaged. Between 2005-2007 the international community sought a political solution for Kosovo's status and it generated the Ahtisaari Plan which outlined supervised independence and a provision to protect SOC property. In relation to the cathedral building, the matter became interpreted through property rights over land ownership and identification of the owner. The Ahtisaari Plan also made the Kosovo government through its Culture Ministry in charge of protecting the property of the SOC, an arrangement which the Serbian church did not acknowledge. To breach the impasse, the EU special representative (EUSR) in Kosovo selected a neutral mediator, ambassador Moschopoulos of the Greek Liaison Office to discuss matters between the government and church. After the communication mechanism was created, efforts were devoted toward resolving ownership of the site.
In the aftermath of Kosovan independence (2008), communication was nonexistent between the government and SOC. During 2009 the Kosovo Culture Ministry contacted the International Civilian Office (ICO) that through the EUSR contacted the SOC and international neutral organisations mediated between both sides to reach a resolution. The SOC produced title deeds showing the transfer of the site during the mid 1990s and they were allowed permission to undertake any future construction on the site. By 2011 public debate and administrative constraints over the structure had ceased and the SOC devoted its efforts to raising money for restoration and future constriction of the building. In 2015 construction still had not resumed on the site and other administrative and legal issues had arisen, while the building was vandalised.
The future of the building remains uncertain. Ownership of the building and the land on which it is located is disputed between the current University of Pristina and the Serbian Orthodox Church. Seen as a symbol of the rule of Slobodan Milošević, various Kosovo Albanian intellectuals have called for its demolition. In response for calls for its demolition, the church has been heavily desecrated and vandalised. Throughout 2016 the church was set on fire and turned into a public toilet and dumpsite. In 2016 the University of Pristina failed in a four year bid to take ownership of the land on which the church was built on through judicial proceedings. The Kosovo Appeals Court granted land ownership rights of the church grounds to the Serbian Orthodox Church, however the University of Pristina continues to block attempts to refurbish the church.
Notes and references
- Kosovo is the subject of a territorial dispute between the Republic of Kosovo and the Republic of Serbia. The Republic of Kosovo unilaterally declared independence on 17 February 2008, but Serbia continues to claim it as part of its own sovereign territory. The two governments began to normalise relations in 2013, as part of the 2013 Brussels Agreement. Kosovo has been recognized as an independent state by 112 out of 193 United Nations member states, while 11 states have recognized Kosovo only to later withdraw their recognition.
- "Kosovo Court Upholds Serbian Church's Right to Land". Balkan Insight. Retrieved 2018-09-27.
- Poulton, Hugh; Vickers, Miranda (1997). "The Kosovo Albanians: Ethnic Confrontation with the Slav state". In Poulton, Hugh; Taji-Farouki, Suha (eds.). Muslim Identity and the Balkan State. C. Hurst & Co. Publishers. p. 168. ISBN 9781850652762.
- "Christ the Saviour Cathedral - Sightseeing in Pristina". Archived from the original on 2 March 2014. Retrieved 24 February 2013.
- Delaney, Van De Haar & Van Tatenhove 2017, p. 140.
- Vinca, Agim (22 September 2016). "Kisha djallëzore në Universitetin e Prishtinës dhe debati rreth saj". Retrieved 15 April 2018.
- Demolli, Donjeta (2012-10-31). "Kosovo Mulls Fate of Milosevic-era Cathedral". Balkan Insight. Retrieved 27 February 2013.
- Delaney, Van De Haar & Van Tatenhove 2017, p. 141.
- Delaney, Aogán; Van Der Haar, Gemma; Van Tatenhove, Jan (2017). "'If This Was a Normal Situation': Challenges and Potentials for Deliberative Democratic Peacebuilding in Kosovo's Emerging Governance Networks" (PDF). 37 (2): 140–141.
- Godwin, Martin (23 September 2012). "Bad religion: A Place Beyond Belief reaches Kosovo - in pictures". The Guardian. Retrieved 9 April 2016.
- "Albanian Intellectual: Demolish 'bad religion' Serbian Orthodox Temple". eBritić. 21 October 2012. Retrieved 6 April 2013.
- "Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Pristina set on fire". Orthodox Church Info. Retrieved 2018-09-27.
- "Pristina: Orthodox chapel turned into public restroom". Serbian Orthodox Church. Retrieved 2018-09-27.
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