The second reason is the real reason why I’m writing this post. If you, like me, like art and are interested in the Serbian 19th century painting, this church is where you can see the work by one of the greatest Serbian romantic painters. In other words, visiting this church is like visiting a museum. It’s the same in almost all other churches that I visited during my stay in Serbia last year. The most prominent Serbian 19th century artists worked on their embellishment.
The Saint Peter and Paul church is in the centre of Šabac. It dominates the central area. If you read my previous post, you will see that Šabac is not like cities and towns in Vojvodina. You won’t find elegant squares with monumental palaces. In places like Novi Sad and Zrenjanin, churches are just one of many beautiful ornaments adorning these cities. In Šabac, this church is the only true historic site that overshadows everything else.
The church was built in 1831 at the initiative of Jevrem Obrenović, the younger brother of Prince Miloš Obrenović I. He lived in Šabac for 15 years and used his time there to transform the place into a modern European city.
The Obrenović dynasty ruled Serbia until 1903 when King Aleksandar I, his wife and around 200 members of the Obrenović dynasty were killed in a military coup. The still existing Karađorđević dynasty replaced them and ruled Serbia and then Yugoslavia until 1945.
Of course, Jevrem Obrenović, the main benefactor of the church, lived long before these tragic events at the turn of the 20th century. The Obrenović dynasty may have been widely unpopular at the time of their massacre, but that’s not the case now.
In Belgrade and other places across Serbia, many streets and squares are named after the members of this dynasty. The time distance puts a proper light on historical events, thus more than 100 years later we can ask whether it really made sense to kill the king and replace him with another one, from a different family.
But I’m not writing this post about Serbian royal families, so let’s get back to the main topic.
The church suffered in the First World War, they had to rebuild the bell tower in 1922. Considering that Šabac was the front line city, it’s a miracle that the church still exists.
The most incredible is that the iconostasis didn’t get destroyed, otherwise it would’ve been impossible to restore it. How would you restore the icons done by the great Serbian romantic painter Pavle Simić?
He painted the icons of the iconostasis, that you can see in the photos in this post, in 1855.
But during the First World War, the Austrian soldiers damaged the icons in the lower part of the iconostasis. Stevan Čalić, an academic painter from Šabac, restored them and painted some additional ones in 1931.
Of course, it’s impossible for me to tell which icons are the authentic work by Pavle Simić. For sure, images in the upper part of the iconostasis are his masterpieces. But it doesn’t matter, because even the restored ones are based on his original work.
You can see some of Pavle Simić’s paintings in the National Museum in Belgrade.
However, his most important paintings are in Matica Srpska Gallery in Novi Sad. Certainly, this church is one more place where you can see his work.
The Russian painter, Andrej Bicenko, painted the wall and ceiling frescoes in 1931. It took exactly 100 years for the church to be completed.
Finally, in the photo below, you can see the wall frescoes and the main entrance of this church.
Even if you are not particularly interested in going to Šabac, I think that this church is worth a visit all by itself. It’s a magnificent religious temple, but also a place with works of art by one of the greatest Serbian 19th century painters.
I’m certainly very glad that I’ve seen it and that I have these photos that I can revisit in the future, to refresh my memory and marvel in Pavle Simić’s beautiful images.