Saint George Church and Royal Mausoleum Oplenac
Topola is small town located 72 km away from Belgrade. Topola is know for the historical memorial complex of Oplenac named after the Oplenac Hill dominating the city. Oplenac is the historic place of the Serbian dynasty of Karađorđević who ruled Serbia interchangeably with the competing Obrenović Family, after the Ottoman Empire was expelled from Serbia, and before the World War II during which the communist party won the power. Oplenac is burial place of all members of the Karadjordjevic Royal family, beloved of all Serb monarchists. Royal Mausoleum Complex in Oplenac consists of the Mausoleum – exceptional Saint George’s Church which is endowment of King Petar I Karadjordjevic, the vast park, the Villa of King Aleksandar I Karadjordjević, the Villa of Queen Maria, the House of King Petar, the Karadjordje hotel, vineyards and the royal wine cellars.
King Petar I Karadjordjevic died on 16 August 1921, and his successor, King Aleksandar I Karađorđević personally took care about successful completion of the Royal Mausoleum. King Peter I was probably the most respected and loved leader among the Serbian people. After six years of war /1912-1918/ he became the first King of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes. Slowly and soberly he proved himself one of the finest liberal statesmen in Europe, and later, in the Balkan Wars which drove the Turks out of Macedonia and Old Serbia, he proved himself a magnificent soldier. He refused as offer as an old man to leave the country which was about to face Austrian-Hungarian occupation that started World War I. King Peter I Karadjordjevic went through the Albanian Golgotha – a winter retreat of the 110000 soldiers of the Serbian army and people through the Albanian Accursed mountains, while it was chased by the superior Austrian-Hungarian army and attacked by the Albanian troops, as well.
Original design of the Mausoleum church of St. George in Oplenac was built by the plan of architect Kosta Jovanovic to represent monumental building in the Serb-Byzantine style. The Church of Saint George in Oplenac features five domes, of which four are located on the cross’ ends and the fifth covers their section. The Saint George Church in Oplenac is covered with white marble from the Vencac Mountain. The interior of the Church of Saint George is decorated with 3500 square meters of impressive mosaics consisting of 725 beautiful compositions depicting 1500 scenes from more than 60 Serbian monasteries and churches. Beneath the whole surface of the Oplenac church nave there is the crypt, richly decorated with mosaics along the compositions of the most important Medieval monasteries of Serbia. The floor completed from multi-colored polish marble provides the extraordinary opulent and wealthy appearance. The low-ceiling crypt of the Saint George Church, where all the members of this royal dynasty were buried, is even more adorable. In its crypt there are more mosaics as well as graves of 25 members of the Karadjordjević dynasty. Outside next door to the church stands a tiny museum (the house of king Petar I) which is filled with royal portraits and belongings and other interesting historical items. In the northern choir of the Saint George Church there is the coffin of the King Petar, and in the southern choir the coffin of Karađorđe, founder of the Karađorđević Dynasty and the leader of the First Serbian Uprising.
The leader of the First Serbian uprising, Djordje Petrovic, nicknamed Karadjordje /”Black George”/ was born in the nearby village. The First Serbian uprising was led by the famous leader Karadjordje in 1804 against the Turkish rule and yoke that lasted for centuries. Here in Topola there are the remnants of the fortified stronghold of Karadjordje, the founder of the dynasty and the leader of the Serbian insurrection against the Ottomans in 1804-13. Karadjordje built a fortified residence on the Oplenac hill, overlooking Topola in the memory of Serbian historical struggle for freedom. The former 3-floors residence of Karadjordje, with thick walls and tiny windows is today turned into the interesting Museum on life of the famous Serbian rebellious leader, whose sculpture dominates in the center of beautiful park in Topola, commemorating the rich rebellion legacy of Serbia. King’s wine cellar belong to the same royal complex and provides visitors various options of wine tasting, after a pleasant walk through the beautiful park, and the visit to the king’s villa and other royal buildings.