It’s my second week in Belgrade. In my previous post, I wrote about many restoration projects that the city authorities are currently doing in order to improve the way the city looks. But, I didn’t mention one of the biggest and the most ambitious building projects – the Saint Sava Church. I wrote about this church in my article about Belgrade, so I am not going to repeat any of that now. The church is finished on the outside and they are now decorating it inside. However, one part of the church has been completely finished. The crypt!
Right now, you can’t visit the main part of the church because of ongoing works inside. That part is completely closed to the public. But on the left side of the church, they opened one small area for visitors. That’s also where you will find the entrance to the crypt.
So, I went to the church and took the opportunity to visit the crypt for the first time.
ABOUT THE CRYPT
The crypt is very impressive. It comprises a burial church, treasures of the Serbian Orthodox Church and an exhibition area.
In the future, it will be a burial place for Serbian patriarchs.
The crypt was constructed in the Byzantine style, as an independent underground area with four entrances.
The crypt is wonderfully decorated. Images of apostles, martyrs and saints cover the ceiling and the space in-between is covered by gold leaves. Additionally, walls are covered with Serbian religious images and the entire area is dominated by gold colour patterns. The crypt is also richly decorated with relief art.
One part of the crypt is a church, dedicated to the Holy Prince Lazar. The altar of this burial church is directly below the altar of the Saint Sava church. The bronze doors on the left and on the right of the alter lead to the burial chambers.
In addition to religious ceremonies, the crypt is also used for various cultural events, such as exhibitions, gatherings and concerts, because of its spectacular acoustic features.
To present the crypt in this article, I took photos of the wall and ceiling frescoes. The image below is on the wall directly opposite of the altar of the Saint Lazar Church. It is also the biggest wall fresco.
Images depict people and events related to the Serbian history.
Personally, I am not familiar with all images, although it would be interesting to learn the exact story behind every one of them.
After all, they’ve all been carefully selected as crypt decoration and each image sends a powerful message.
The wall frescoes were all painted directly on the walls, in the same technique as traditional fresco painting.
These images resemble Serbian medieval fresco painting.
What’s particularly interesting is that some frescoes contain images of people dressed in Serbian traditional attire.
It also gives us an idea of the way people used to dress in those times.
Unlike the wall frescoes, the ceiling frescoes were first painted on canvas and then attached to the ceiling. But, you can’t notice this variation in the technique.
The ceiling frescoes are various images from the Bible.
Perhaps, there is not much artistic value in these frescoes at the moment, although their decorative value is superb.
It is certainly not realistic to expect that, in this day and age, the frescoes are done the same way as they used to be done 500 years ago when Michelangelo painted the Sistine Chapel.
But, maybe in 500 years from now people will visit this crypt and will look at these images in the same way as we now look at the medieval and Renaissance paintings and frescoes, while we admire their artistic value.
In any case, the crypt is very beautiful and it’s a very special place at the same time, especially for the faithful of the Orthodox religion.
If you go to Belgrade, make sure that you visit the Saint Sava church. Right now you can only see it from the outside, but you can visit this magnificent crypt.
The Russian Academy of Science is decorating the church inside, together with the master iconographer Miloje Milinkovic. I look forward to seeing the final result, but it will be several more years before the works are completed.
I have no doubt that, like the crypt, the Saint Sava church will be equally beautiful.