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 did not 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 the 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 is 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.
1. ABOUT THE CRYPT
The crypt is very impressive. It comprises the burial church, the treasure of the Serbian Orthodox Church and the exhibition area.
It will be the burial place of Serbian patriarchs.
The crypt was constructed in the Byzantine style, as an independent underground area with 4 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. Walls are also covered by religious Serbian 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 the right hand side 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.
2. WALL FRESCOES
For the presentation of the crypt in this article, I took photos of the wall and the ceiling frescoes. The image below is on the wall directly opposite to 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 of the images, although it would be interesting to find out more about the exact story behind every one of them.
After all, they have all been carefully selected for the purpose of the crypt decoration and each image sends a powerful message.
Wall frescoes were all painted directly on the walls, in the same technique as traditional fresco painting.
These images resemble medieval Serbian fresco painting.
What’s particularly interesting is that some of the frescoes contain images of people dressed in the Serbian traditional attire.
This also gives an idea of the way people used to dress in those times.
3. CEILING FRESCOES
Unlike the wall frescoes, the ceiling frescoes were first painted on canvas and then attached to the ceiling. But, this variation in the technique cannot be noticed.
Ceiling frescoes are various images from the Bible.
Perhaps, there is not much artistic value in these frescoes, although the decorative value is superb.
It is certainly not realistic to expect that in this day and age frescoes are done in the same way as they were done 500 years ago when Michelangelo painted the Sistine Chapel.
But maybe in 500 years from now, people will visit this crypt and look at these images the same way as we now look at medieval and Renaissance paintings and frescoes, admiring their artistic value.
In any case, the crypt is very beautiful and it altogether creates a very special place, 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 work is completed.
I have no doubt that the Saint Sava church will be equally beautiful.