Sava, son of a Serbian king, born in 1169 or 1174 and died in 1236, is the founder of the Serbian Orthodox Church and is as such the most revered saint in Serbia.
He founded, with his father who abdicated, an influent monastery on Mount Athos and obtained, thanks to his political sense (which enabled him to crown his brother King of Serbia), the autonomy of the Serbian Orthodox Church towards the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Byzantine Emperor in 1219.
First Serbian archbishop, Sava worked hard to spread Orthodox Christianity among the Serbian people by writing a code that brought together civil and ecclesiastical laws.
He created schools in which the monks instructed young and old people. And that is why he is, even today, the patron saint of students.
More than 300 years after his death, while Serbia was under Turkish domination, the pasha ordered to burn Sava’s relics, in order to erase the Orthodox roots of the Serbian people and encourage them to recognize the Ottoman power by converting to Islam.
It is on the site of the pyre on which the relics of Sava were burned that the temple of Saint Sava stands today, one of the largest Orthodox buildings in the world.
The construction of the temple began in 1939 but the works were interrupted by the Nazi occupation in 1941 and then by the will of Tito, the leader of Yugoslavia until his death in 1980. Works did not resume until 2001 and the temple was completed only in 2019, almost 800 years after the recognition of the autonomy of the Serbian Orthodox Church.
The temple of Saint Sava, which incorporates neo-Byzantine style elements from the 19th and 20th centuries, is modeled after Saint-Sophie of Constantinople, as it existed in 532, i.e. without the minarets subsequently added by the Ottomans and without the lateral reinforcements due to the various earthquakes suffered by Sainte-Sophie.
The exterior of the Temple of Saint Sava – relatively sober in white marble and granite – offers a striking contrast with the interior, rich in mosaics and icons.
The temple has the largest domed mosaic in the world. It is also the largest representation in the world of a Christ pantocrator, that is to say a Christ in glory.
The icons, which are real objects of veneration of Christ, saints or angels, mark out the journey of meditation of believers. Iconography is a sacred art which certainly reflects the talent of the iconographer but above all his or her quality as a servant of the Church. The work is often preceded by an asceticism which allows the iconographer, with a pure heart and spirit, to begin the task. The prayer accompanies the creation of the icon, and there is a prayer of Saint Luke dedicated to iconographers.
The iconostasis is the wall that separates the nave: it represents the separation of the terrestrial and celestial worlds and it constitutes the most important furniture of the Orthodox Church.
The crypt of the temple presents the treasure of Saint Sava as well as the tomb of Prince Lazar, venerated as a holy martyr by the Orthodox Church.
The temple of Saint Sava is of unreal beauty. Its interior, bright, joyful, is of unparalleled peace. One had to wait some eighty years to be able to admire this marvel, but what a striking result.
March 31, 2023