Church of Saint Sava

Belgrade, Serbia

Church of Saint Sava

9.4

The Temple of Saint Sava (Serbian Cyrillic: Храм Светог Саве, romanized: Hram Svetog Save, lit. ''The Temple of Saint Sava'') is a Serbian Orthodox church which sits on the Vračar plateau in Belgrade, Serbia. It was planned as the bishopric seat and main cathedral of the Serbian Orthodox Church. The church is dedicated to Saint Sava, the founder of the Serbian Orthodox Church and an important figure in medieval Serbia. It is built on the presumed location of St. Sava's grave. His coffin had been moved from Mileševa Monastery to Belgrade. The coffin was placed on a pyre and burnt in 1595 by Ottoman Grand Vizier Sinan Pasha. Bogdan Nestorović and Aleksandar Deroko were finally chosen to be the architects in 1932 after a second revised competition in 1926–27 (for which no first award was granted, Nestorović being runner up). This sudden decision instigated an important debate in interwar Yugoslavia which centered around the temple's size, design and symbolic national function. This was accompanied by a sizeable increase in the base area of the ambitiously conceived project. The new design departed from the competition guidelines issued in 1926, and was to replicate the dimensions and architecture of Hagia Sophia.

The first stone was laid in 1935. When Yugoslavia was under occupation in 1941, the construction was approximately ten metres high. The incomplete building was used as a depot by the German army and Tito's partisans. After the war, the Orthodox Church was unsuccessful in its attempt to secure permission to complete the building. Permission was granted in 1984, and the architect Branko Pešić was commissioned to adapt the project to new construction techniques. On May 12, 1985, a liturgy was held at the temple with 100,000 people in attendance. This marked a turning point in the then-communist country; the church had reinstated its position and the communist elite had to back down from a decade-long ban prohibiting the construction of the church. In June 1989, the concrete dome of the temple, weighing 4,000 tonnes and constructed entirely on the ground, was raised to its present position. This was a landmark achievement in construction.

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