In this post about Serbian Orthodox churches in Belgrade, I will write about temples that are slightly detached from the most popular touristic areas. It means that it’s not likely that you will see them while you are in Belgrade, unless you make a bit of an effort.
But, that shouldn’t discourage you. Areas of Belgrade where they are located are also interesting to see.
Also, these churches are not as monumental and famous as churches that I mentioned in my previous post. Although, they are equally important and beautiful.
Additionally, one church in this post is the oldest church in the city. It’s special and you should visit it for that reason only.
Finally, I’ve also visited these churches for the first time ever.
CHURCH OF THE ASCENSION
The Church of Ascension is in the centre of Belgrade, very close to the Belgrade Palace. I’ve seen it many times in the past. But for some reason, I’ve never been inside. Officially, the church is in Admirala Geprata street and it’s very easy to find.
This is also the 19th century church, built in 1863. Serbian Prince Miloš Obrenović ordered its construction in 1860, although he died in the same year. His son Prince Mihailo Obrenović oversaw the completion of the church.
The church is modelled on medieval Serbian monasteries, especially on the monastery Ravanica.
Perhaps, the same as me, you will also be surprised with the beauty of this church. I think that, because of its small size, you wouldn’t expect to see very much inside. You may think that its the modest size indicates a modest interior.
But, that’s not the case in this church. Some of the most famous artists worked on it embellishment.
The icons within the beautiful iconostasis, that you can see in the photos, were painted by the eminent Serbian painter Stevan Todorović. Some of his most famous paintings are in the National Museum in Belgrade.
He painted the icons in 1880 – 1881, they replaced the original work by another person. Undoubtedly, Stevan Todorović’s masterful work can’t leave you indifferent.
If for no other reason, you should visit this church because of his work.
It’s like a visit to the museum, the same as you would do in churches in Italy and Spain, which are also adorned with works of art and masterpieces by great Renaissance and Baroque masters. In this particular church, this great Serbian master continues to live through his magnificent legacy.
But, that’s not the end of it. There are also beautiful wall and ceiling frescoes. You can see some of them in the photos in this post, although the best thing to do would be to go there and see them in their entirety, in proper context.
The Russian artist, Andrej Bicenko, who painted frescoes in the Ružica church, also painted these frescoes. He finished them in 1937, long after the construction of the church.
It’s interesting that, despite many talented and famous Serbian painters, this Russian painter worked in three prominent Belgrade’s churches. Perhaps, that was because he was a true master in this type of artistic work.
The photo below is the rear part of the church, you can see the main entrance. There was no one in the church when I was there, in fact, it was the same in most other churches that I visited. That was partly because of an ongoing coronavirus epidemic, but also because it was hot.
Well, that was good, I had this and other churches for myself.
SAINT ALEXANDER NEVSKY CHURCH
I’ve never been to the Saint Alexander Nevsky church either. I haven’t even seen it many times in the past. It’s in central Belgrade, at the edge of the city’s most central area, in Emperor Dušan street.
There has never been anything very interesting in that area, although that’s changing now. You can see the restoration works in front of the church, they are restoring the street. In fact, they restored four connecting boulevards, starting from Vuk’s Park, all the way to Kalemegdan.
But, there is still a lot of work to be done, a lot of buildings need to be restored. However, if you go there now, you will find numerous coffee shops, bars, restaurants and other interesting things to see.
The church that we see today, it was constructed in either 1928 or 1929. The original church that stood there was too small, so they decided to build a new, bigger one.
Although the construction works started in 1912, they stopped because of the First World War and then continued after the war. So, this is in fact a nearly 100 years old, 20th century construction.
A Russian saint, Alexander Nevsky, was a guardian of the Russian statehood and the Russian Orthodox religion. He successfully defeated German and Swedish enemies. He also made an agreement with the Golden Horde, the Mongolian invading army that during his time controlled a vast territory in Europe and Asia.
The Russian Orthodox church declared him a saint in 1547.
Thus, Alexander Nevsky also has this church dedicated to him. As you can see in the photos, this church is also beautifully decorated.
The marble iconostasis was a gift from King Aleksandar Karađorđević, in 1930.
The icons for the iconostasis were also painted in 1930, in the workshop of the Russian painter Boris Selyanko.
However, the walls and the ceiling frescoes are much younger.
Jeromonah Naum Andrić painted the frescoes between 1970 and 1972, in the “al secco” technique. Jeromonah is a monk of the eastern church who is at the same time a priest.
Considering that the frescoes are approximately 50 years old, it’s not surprising that they look sharp and fresh. I hope that they will last for a long time.
You can see its beautiful dome, with the Christ’s image, in the photo below.
Finally, the rear side of the church, with its main entrance. This church was also completely empty when I went there.
CHURCH OF THE HOLY VIRGIN
To see the Church of the Holy Virgin, you have to go to Zemun. With the Treaty of Passarowitz in 1718, Zemun became part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. After two hundred years under the Ottoman rule, the city started to flourish. The Christian religion regained supremacy over Islam, which also signalled a period in which new Christian churches would be constructed.
Built in 1780, this late-Baroque 18th century church is among the oldest in Belgrade. At the time of its construction, across the Sava river, Belgrade was still an Ottoman city.
I visited this church for the very first time approximately a month ago, when I visited Zemun. It means that, in order to see it, you would also have to go there.
That shouldn’t be a problem, because Zemun is a very interesting part of Belgrade that you would certainly want to see.
It’s immediately obvious that this is the 18th century construction. With its late-Baroque architectural style, it is radically different from churches that you can see in Belgrade’s old historical centre.
Aksentije Marković, a master woodcarver, carved the magnificent Baroque iconostasis for this church.
It’s precisely when you see this iconostasis that you realise that the Church of the Holy Virgin belongs to a different, historically older era.
That also includes everything else, all ornaments that you can see inside of the church. I took some photos for this post, although it’s impossible and unnecessary to photograph absolutely everything.
Arsenije Teodorović, the great Serbian late 18th and early 19th century painter, painted the icons, the murals on the first vault below the iconostasis and on the first arc in front of the altar.
When I go to see this church again, I’ll make sure to pay attention to Arsenije Teodorović’s work in greater detail. Amazingly, the Russian painter Andrej Bicenko also painted the frescoes in this church. They are beautiful.
The photo below is the rear part of the church and the main entrance. In short, it’s a magnificent temple.
SAINT NICHOLAS CHURCH
I’ve left this church for the end. That’s because it was the last church that I saw during my visit to Zemun that day. But more importantly, I’ve left it for the end because the Saint Nicholas church is the oldest church within Belgrade’s urban territory.
This 18th century Baroque church, built in 1752, is a precious gem. Now that it’s been fully restored, I hope that it will be on everyone’s list to visit. It’s unmissable, despite the fact that it is far from central Belgrade.
The church is surrounded by other buildings on all sides, plus the trees further obscure the view. It was almost impossible to take a photo of the whole church.
But, that’s not so important, you should really go there and see it with your own eyes.
Aksentije Marković also carved the magnificent Baroque iconostasis in this church.
It is the most important and the most beautiful iconostasis of the 18th century Serbian art, with all characteristics of the transitional period from the classical Serbo-Byzantine to the Baroque style.
Dimitrije Bačević, one of the most famous Serbian Baroque painters from the second half of the 18th century, painted the icons of the iconostasis.
There are also other beautiful 18th century ornaments in the church.
I will certainly go back to this church while I am in Belgrade. With so many beautiful details, especially with so many icons, it’s impossible to properly process everything that we see for the first time. Each and every icon is a masterpiece. On their own, they would all be museum artefacts.
A poster in the photo below informs that the church is under renovation. But, I understand that all works have nearly been completed. The church looks magnificent now.
I hope that this and my previous post will inspire you to visit these religious temples. Some of them are easily accessible simply because they are close to the most visited touristic spots.
To see the other ones – you will have to make a bit of an effort.
But, as you have seen with the two Zemun churches, they are architectural and artistic marvels, in addition to their primary role as religious temples.
You wouldn’t want to miss them!