Saint Sava Orthodox Cathedral Belgrade
The Temple of Saint Sava in Belgrade – the Saint Sava Orthodox Cathedral is one of the main landmarks of Belgrade and Serbia, and far the most monumental structure in Belgrade, being the second largest Orthodox church in the world. The Saint Sava Orthodox Cathedral in Belgrade is dedicated to Saint Sava, the founder of the Serbian Orthodox Church in the Medieval Serbia and its first Archbishop, and the originator of Serbian legislation and literature, and the founder of the Hilandar Monastery on Mount Athos and a diplomat. The Saint Sava Orthodox Cathedral is built on the Vračar plateau /named later Svetosavski plateau after the Saint Sava/ on the spot where the largest Orthodox Church in Belgrade stood until its destruction by invading Turks and where the holy remains of this prominent Serbian saint were moved from the Mileševa Monastery to have been burned in 1595 by the Ottoman Empire’s Sinan Pasha. St. Sava Orthodox Cathedral, also known as the temple of Saint Sava, is one of the largest buildings in Belgrade, and it is in fact the largest Orthodox Christian complex in the entire world, almost twice the size of the Saint Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow. The Saint Sava Cathedral finishes Belgrade’s line Kalemegdan – Trg Republike – Terazije – Beograđanka – Slavija – Temple of Saint Sava. From its particular position on the vast plateau of Vracar, the Saint Sava Orthodox Cathedral dominates the Belgrade’s cityscape.
Construction of the Saint Sava Orthodox Cathedral began in 1935, based on designs by the famous Serbian architects Bogdan Nestorović and Aleksandar Deroko. Construction was halted due to the outbreak of World War II and the bombing of Belgrade, followed by the time of Tito’s communist Yugoslavia and thus the temple had to wait for better times, until 1984 when the then-communist Yugoslav government permitted construction to continue. Construction was only resumed in May 1985, when the Divine Liturgy was served with presence of almost 100000 believers, and was ever-since being financed exclusively by donations.
Made of highly polished local stone of the interior, but the façade of wonderful white marble and granite on the exterior with elegant domes, topped with golden crosses, the Saint Sava Orthodox Cathedral dominates the region of Belgrade where it stands, surrounded by an extensive array of walkways, reflecting pools, and gardens. The church itself is 91 m long from east to west, and 81 m from north to south. The dome of the Saint Sava Orthodox Cathedral in Belgrade is 70 meters high, while the main gold plated cross is another 12 meters in height, which gives a total of 82 meters of the height of the Saint Sava Orthodox Cathedral. Its domes have 18 more gold-plated crosses of various sizes, while the bell towers have 49 bells. The peak is 134 meters above the sea level (64 m above the Sava river); therefore the church holds a dominant position in Belgrade’s cityscape and is visible from all approaches to the city. The monumental dome of the Saint Sava Church, 4000 tons in weight, was in fact constructed as a single piece on the ground and then lifted up onto existing walls, a process that took 40 days and the most advanced cranes available at the time.
The Saint Sava Orthodox Cathedral in Belgrade has a surface area of 3,500 square meters on the ground floor, with three galleries of 1,500 sq m on the first level, and a 120 sq m gallery on the second level. The Saint Sava Orthodox Cathedral Belgrade can receive at any time 10,000 faithful. The three choir galleries accommodate 800 singers each, with the observation gallery. The basement contains a crypt, the Treasury of Saint Sava, and the grave church of Saint Lazar the Hieromartyr, with a total surface of 1.800 sq m.
The facade of Saint Sava Cathedral is completed of white marble and granite and, when finished, the inner decorations will be of wonderful mosaics. The central dome of the Saint Sava Orthodox Cathedral contains the mosaic of Christ Pantocrator. To give a sense of the monumental scale, the eyes of Chris Pantocrator are about 3 meters wide. The 10-ton cargo with the first part of the mosaic for the largest dome of the Temple of St. Sava traveled for over 2,000 km through Russia, Belarus, Poland, Slovakia, and Hungary before reaching Serbia. The mosaic, depicting the Ascension of Jesus Christ, is the work of Russia’s leading iconographer, Nikolai Mukhin. The mosaic, that features a 30-meter diameter and spreads on an area of 1,230 square meters, weighing a total of 40 tons, has been installed by a Russian-Serbian team.