St. Michael's Cathedral, Belgrade
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|Cathedral Church of St. Michael the Archangel|
|Саборна Црква Св. Архангела Михаила|
|Website||Saborna Crkva Official website|
|Founder(s)||House of Obrenović|
|Dedication||St. Michael the Archangel|
|Relics held||King Uroš III|
Despot Stefan Štiljanović
Prince Miloš I
|Heritage designation||Monument of Culture of Exceptional Importance|
|Architect(s)||Adam Friedrich Kwerfeld|
|Style||Neoclassicism with late baroque elements|
|Number of domes||1|
The Cathedral Church of St. Michael the Archangel (Serbian: Саборна Црква Св. Архангела Михаила, romanized: Saborna Crkva Sv. Arhangela Mihaila) is a Serbian Orthodox cathedral church in the centre of Belgrade, Serbia, situated in the old part of the city, at the intersection of Kralja Petra and Kneza Sime Markovića streets. It was built between 1837 and 1840, on the location of an older church also dedicated to Archangel Michael. It is one of the most important places of worship in the country. It is commonly known as just Saborna crkva (The Cathedral) among the city residents. It was proclaimed as a Cultural Monument of Exceptional Importance in 1979.
The cathedral church is one of the few preserved monuments of Belgrade from the first half of the 19th century. During the times when new social and political structures were slowly emerging, the cathedral church became a central support in the independence fight from Turkish centralism to the final freedom from Ottoman rule.
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There was an older church, dedicated to St. Archangel Michael, at the site of today's church. Protestant priest and a writer on travel Stjepan Gerlach provided valuable records of its looks in his descriptions of travels of the Emperor's delegates to Istanbul, 1573–1578. Although spacious, with all necessary liturgical accessories and furniture, it was not large enough to receive all the Christian citizens of Belgrade.
Later records of existence of this church were mainly saved by travel writers from the 17th and 18th centuries. During the Austro–Turkish conflicts in the beginning of the 18th century it was destroyed, and the Austrian authorities were explicit in their order not to restore the damaged Serbian temples. Former Metropolitan Mojsije Petrović, who had expected the support of Russian Czar Peter The Great, who had meanwhile died, started renewal of the Church from its foundations, decorating it with a new iconostasis.
Following the Treaty of Belgrade concluded in 1739, Ottoman Turks once again entered Belgrade and "as soon as they entered the town they showed their anger toward Serbs and Serbian relics on this occasion". Impressive residence of Serbian Metropolitan was torn down, and the church was "robbed and its roof torn down". Few decades later, at the beginning of 1798, the church once again suffered from damage, this time from fire. Repaired for services it served until the beginning of 1813, when after breaking of the First Serbian Uprising Turks desecrated and robbed it. Necessary restoration work was performed after the Second Serbian Uprising.
Following the Sultan's Hatisheriff on the day of St. Andrew in 1830, which granted Serbs the freedom to perform the religious service, and by the order of Prince Miloš Obrenović a wooden bell tower was built beside the old church.
For the purpose of bell casting, a great fire was lit, which burned for three days. People would pass by and throw various silver objects to mould with bronze that was melting, so the bells would have "a more silvery" sound. Former Belgrade citizens were waiting for this happening "as for something great and unreachable. For them the sound of bells did not represent just an ordinary religious custom. The bells represented a symbol of centuries-expected victory". Decision brought by Prince Miloš was accepted among Turks with doubt and threat. An anecdote was saved until present days about a threat of Belgrade's vizier Husein-Pasha Gavanozoglu (1827–1833) referring to Duke Petar Čukić, who was in charge of construction of the bells, that he shall be punished for that. The Duke replied: "I know, I know efendi Pasha, if I raise them I shall die of Turkish hand, and if I do not, I shall die of hand of my master Prince Miloš. I prefer to die from a Turkish hand than from the hand of my master, as his disobedient servant.".
Today, the bell of the old cathedral church is situated in the bell tower of the Church of the Ascension (1863) along with four more historical bells, different in size and origin. This bell sounded for the first time on 15 February 1830 when Serbian Princedom got its autonomy. Destroyed and repaired, the old church had struggled until 22 June 1836, when, after numerous discussions, Prince Miloš ordered the church to be torn down and a new one constructed. Construction of the new cathedral church had begun on 28 April 1837. Its foundations were consecrated on 15 July 1837,  a contemporary described as an exceptional happening, witnessed by Metropolitan Petar Jovanović, Church dignitaries of high rank, Princess Ljubica and successors Milan and Mihailo, serfs, children and "folk of both sexes". The cannons were roaring and people were saying "church blessing this happy and happier time". On the day of patron's feast day of the church, St. Archangel Michael, on 8 November 1845, Metropolitan Petar Jovanović has consecrated the finished church and served the first liturgy in it.
Although the author of the design remained controversial for a long time, it is certain that the Church was built by constructors from Pančevo, according to project made by Franz Jancke Friedrich Adam Querfeld.
The cathedral was built between 1837 and 1840. The gold-plated carved iconostasis was made by the sculptor Dimitrije Petrović, while the icons on the iconostasis, thrones, choirs and pulpits, as well as those on the walls and arches were painted by Dimitrije Avramović, one of the most distinguished Serbian painters of the 19th century.
The Church has a single nave construction with semi-circular apse on the East side and narthex on the West side above which the high bell tower is rising. The inner space is divided into the altar space, nave and narthex in which baptistery and stairs leading to bell tower are situated. Different from the North and South façade, shaped simply and in the same manner, the West façade is emphasized by distinct portal and wide entrance stairs. Architecture of the cathedral church directly adopted with its assembly and fine proportions the standards of neoclassical churches with recognizable baroque tower, that were built at the same time in Austria. Somewhat older cathedral church in Sremski Karlovci (1758), which also belongs to this group, could have been a possible model. Architecture of this church was used as a model in sacral architecture during the reign of Miloš Obrenović.
Decoration and interior works were performed after finishing of the construction. Belgrade's church municipality hired a sculptor, engraver and smelter, Dimitrije Petrović (1799–1852), educated on the Academy in Vienna to make drawings for iconostas and choir. Exuberant in form with certain eclectic decorative elements, iconostas of the cathedral church in Belgrade is certainly the most prestigious classicist iconostas in Serbia.
Painting of the cathedral church was confided to one of the most famous 19th-century Serbian painters Dimitrije Avramović (1815–1855), who painted eighteen big wall compositions and almost fifty icons for iconostas during the period of 1841 to 1845. The artist was under the influence of the historical school of Vienna and German Nazarenes, but his distinct feeling for a dramatic colour scheme and plastic-dramatic rhythm created a recognizable Serbian manner. He has created unique monumental compositions of religious content at the walls of the cathedral church, highly evaluated in newer Serbian painting.
Besides painting, engraving works on the iconostasis, choir and pulpit, wall paintings, a treasury presents a special value, where applied art objects are kept – golden products from the 18th and 19th centuries, priests' garments, crosses, individual icons from second half of the 19th century and other objects of cultural historical importance.
In the vicinity of the Church, in today's Zadarska Street and part of Kralja Petra Street and Kosančićev Venac an old Serbian graveyard was situated. Its gradual broadening included the church yard of the Cathedral, which was not fenced during the first decades of the 19th century and it served as a graveyard, where prominent Serbian persons of those times were buried.
The skull of Duke Karađorđe was buried in the south part of the Church yard until 1837, when it was, according to wish and order of Princess Ljubica taken out and transferred to Topola. The relics of St. Czar Uros and St. Despot Stefan Štiljanović (†1540), tombs of Serbian rulers Prince Miloš (1780–1860) and Mihailo Obrenović (1823–1868), as well as the tombs of certain Church dignitaries are situated in the Church. Serbian writer and educator Dositej Obradović (1742–1811) and reformer of Serbian language Vuk Karadžić (1787–1864) were buried in front of the main entrance of the Church.
The first Belgrade Singers Society – performing Serbian sacred music, which is active today as well, was founded in 1853 at the cathedral church. This choir has been conducted by all distinguished composers of Serbian music, like Josif Marinković, Stevan Mokranjac, Kornelije Stanković and others.
Relics and graves
The special value of the church is its treasury, in which the relics of Serbian saints emperor Stefan Uroš V, parts of the relics of Lazar of Serbia, despot Stefan Štiljanović, and the graves of Miloš Obrenović, Mihailo Obrenović, Metropolitan Mihailo, Metropolitan Inokentije, Patriarch Gavrilo V, Patriarch Vikentije II, Vuk Karadžić, Dositej Obradović.
Patriarchate of the Serbian Orthodox Church
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Today's Building of the Patriarchate was built from 1934 until 1935 and designed by architect Viktor Lukomski. It is located across Saborna Crkva. The building has a square base, it is solid and has monumental forms. On the main facade, against the cathedral church, an impressive portico stands out, with low columns and an arched portal above which is a sculpted coat of arms of the Serbian Orthodox Church. On the top of this facade, in a niche, is a mosaic composition representing St. John the Baptist. In the east part of the building, there is a chapel dedicated to St. Simeon. It contains a carved iconostasis, the work of Ohrid masters, bearing icons painted in 1935 by Vladimir Predojević. The Cathedral Church of St. Michael the Archangel was declared Monument of Culture of Exceptional Importance in 1979, and it is protected by Republic of Serbia. The Library and Museum of Serbian Orthodox Church are in this building, too.
The cathedral is a popular tourist attraction in Belgrade; however, for tourists, it is best to visit the church during weekdays as the church usually holds weddings, baptisms etc. during the weekend.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Belgrade Cathedral Church.|
- Beside the cathedral church dedicated to Saint Archangel Michael, some sources (as Spomenica Saborne crkve u Beogradu), about existence of one more church in former Belgrade, that was dedicated to Saint John the Baptist, but without any closer records.
- Joakim Vujic, Putesestvije po Srbiji, I knjiga, 1828. godina, Beograd, 1901, 23.
- Nikola Nestorovic, Gradjevine i arhitekti u Begradu proslog stoleca, Beograd, 1937, 22.
- Spomenica Saborne crkve u Beogradu, 41.
- Dragan J. Rankovic, Iz Beogradske proslosti, BON, 1938. br. 3, 210
- Milan Dj. Milicevic, Uspomene, 1831-1855, Beograd, 1952, 61.
- "Saborna crkva Beograd".
- Бранко Вујовић (September 1996). "Саборна црква у Београду". Belgrade: Projekat Rastko.