So, that’s precisely what I did in the morning of my second day in Novi Sad. I took a bus number 61 from a bus stop close to the Petrovaradin Bridge and I was in Sremski Karlovci in 20 minutes. If you choose to do the same, make sure to check the time table because there is approximately one bus per hour. But as there are two lines serving this route, 61 and 62, it’s not that bad. Perhaps, the longest that you would have to wait at the bus stop is for half an hour.
HISTORIC SIGNIFICANCE OF SREMSKI KARLOVCI
I didn’t know anything about Sremski Karlovci. As I mentioned in my post on Novi Sad, I never really had the chance to travel across Serbia in the past. That’s why I am doing it now. Several people pointed out to me that if I go to Novi Sad, I should also visit Sremski Karlovci. Prompted by those suggestions, I read about it and discovered why it’s a must see.
Sremski Karlovci was a seat of the Serbian Orthodox Church in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The Metropolitanate of Karlovci became the Patriarchate in 1848.
The Serbian Patriacharte of Sremski Karlovci existed until 1920, when it merged with the Metropolitanate of Belgrade and other Serbian ecclesiastical provinces. The united Serbian Orthodox Church emerged.
That was only possible with the formation of a new state, after Vojvodina had become part of Serbia.
Thus, as soon as you arrive, the historical significance of Sremski Karlovici as a spiritual and cultural centre of the Serbian nation becomes immediately visible. Basically, you would never expect to see such monumental buildings in such a small place, next to each other. Together with churches and other buildings, all in the same square, they form a magical setting for what is clearly still a place of immense importance for the Serbian Orthodox Church.
BRANKO RADIČEVIĆ SQUARE
Almost everything that you would want to see in Sremski Karlovici is in the main Branko Radičević square. What’s not there, it’s only a short walk away. It’s a very small town.
It means that, perhaps, you can see everything in an hour or so. I stayed for approximately two hours, because I also stopped for a coffee in one of the coffee shops that you can find in the square.
You would certainly want to stop and allow yourself to absorb and properly process everything around you, because it’s mind blowing. At least that’s how I felt, I simply didn’t expect Sremski Karlovci to be that spectacular.
ST. ARSENIJE CLERICAL HIGH SCHOOL
The first magnificent building that you see when you arrive to the main square is the St. Arsenije Clerical High School.
The former building of the Clerical-Common Funds that houses the school now was constructed in 1902.
The Stefaneum building is behind the St. Arsenije Clerical High School. Unfortunately, the trees obscured the view and I couldn’t find any other suitable angle from where I could take a clear photo. I couldn’t enter the courtyard, to see it from the other side.
Built in 1903, it’s one more beautiful and important building in Sremski Karlovici. Originally, it accommodated students of the clerical high school. It’s name comes from the name of Metropolitan Stefan Stratimirović who established a fund for financing the accommodation of clerical students.
After the Second World War, the communist government confiscated this building from the church. Apparently, they made significant changes inside of the building. But, the new government returned it to the church in 2008. It is now the Institute of the Serbian People.
I didn’t see it inside, it was closed at the time of my visit. I’m not sure if it’s open to visitors, but I’ll try next time when I go back to Sremski Karlovci.
Luck would have it that two of the most important historical structures in Sremski Karlovci were under restoration. I didn’t know that before my visit, you can imagine my disappointment when I saw the building of the Patriarchate Court covered in scaffolding.
I am of course very glad that they look after these structures. But, it doesn’t change the fact that I’m at the same time unhappy because I can’t see them in their full glory. Although, I’m not too upset, I’ll go back at some point in the future, probably next year. I hope that they will have finished restoring this and the other structure that I’ll mention later.
But, I went behind the building to see the restored rear facade. Clearly, it’s a magnificent building, perhaps the most beautiful in the town. Built in 1895, it was the first residence of the head of the Serbian Orthodox Church.
The Bishop of Srem lives there today. It’s also a summer residence of the Serbian Patriarch. Finally, it houses a museum of the Serbian Orthodox Church.
I didn’t visit the museum because it was closed, probably because of the restoration works. It’s one more reason to go back, to see the building and to visit the museum and treasury.
Immediately next to the Patriarchate Court, in the same square, you will see the Serbian Orthodox and the Roman Catholic churches next to each other. I don’t think that you can see this in any other place, at least not in places that I’ve visited.
Normally, in cities and towns in Vojvodina, Catholic churches are in the main square and Serbian Orthodox churches at some distance from there, although also centrally located.
ST. NICHOLAS SERBIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH
The St. Nicholas church was the second historic site under restoration. As you can see in the photo below, it was also covered in scaffolding. But, there were no works inside of the church, it was open to the public.
This is a cathedral church. Originally built in 1762, it underwent significant restoration and changes, especially after the fire at the end of the 18th century.
With the restoration in 1911, the Neo-Renaissance facade replaced the church’s original Baroque facade. But, I couldn’t see any of that, so I went inside.
I’ve seen many Serbian Orthodox churches during my current stay in Serbia, but I think that this is one the most beautiful of all. Perhaps, the new Saint Sava church in Belgrade will be more beautiful than this one, we will see once it’s finished.
After all, it’s a cathedral church, which means that it’s the most important of all Orthodox churches. Secondly, it’s a Baroque church where two of the most prominent Serbian Baroque painters – Teodor Kračun and Jakov Orfelin – worked on it’s embellishment.
You can see a magnificent Baroque iconostasis in photos in this post. It represents the culmination of the Baroque artistic expression in Serbian art.
It is of course impossible to see each and every icon in detail, although I took photos of some of them.
Teodor Kračun painted the icons of the iconostasis, while Jakov Orfelin painted some of the icons of the iconostasis plus the throne icons. I don’t think that it’s really necessary to know which artists painted which icon. They are all very beautiful.
If you are interested in the history of the Serbian art, there is no better place than this church. It’s where you can see best examples of the Serbian Baroque painting.
You can see the altar in the photo below. The door was open, so I took this photo, otherwise I couldn’t see the altar in other churches that I visited.
But, this is not where the artistic value of the St. Nicholas church finishes.
Undoubtedly, it’s omnipresent immense religious significance, combined with its cultural and artistic aspects, makes it a very special place for the Serbian people.
Something that I didn’t know at the time of my visit was that there are nine Paja Jovanović’s paintings in this church. Most probably created between 1906 and 1912, these paintings were added at the beginning of the 20th century.
You can see these painting in the photos, I saw them too when I was in the church. But, I was so mesmerised with the iconostasis and the church’s overall interior decoration that I didn’t pay too much attention to them.
Apparently, these Paja Jovanović’s paintings are not very well known. In fact, I read a lot about him at the time when I wrote a post about his house-museum in Belgrade, but I never came across any reference to these paintings in the church in Sremski Karlovci.
I could’ve perhaps taken photos of all of them. I’m sure that a lot of people would be interested in seeing them, especially his admirers and lovers of his art. Anyway, you can see some of them in this post.
Also, I could’ve read a bit about the church before going there, although with so many new churches and other historic structures that I saw during my stay in Novi Sad and Sremski Karlovci, it was hard to read in advance about everything that I was going to see.
It’s one more reason for me to go back to this town. Paja Jovanović is one of my favourite Serbian painters and I’d certainly like to see all nine paintings in the St. Nicholas church in detail.
ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH OF THE HOLY TRINITY
Built in 1768, this Baroque Roman Catholic church of the Holy Trinity stands immediately next to the St. Nicholas church.
It’s quite amazing for two churches of the opposing Christian religion to be constructed so close to each other, although it’s not surprising. At the time of construction of both churches, Sremski Karlovci was in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Thus, the Roman Catholic church had to be in the main square, the same as in every other city and town in Vojvodina, despite the fact that this particular place was the seat of the Serbian Orthodox church. It’s actually the only place where the Serbian Orthodox church is in the main square.
The church was closed and I couldn’t visit it. Maybe next time!
One more beautiful building in the square is the Karlovci gymnasium, founded in 1791. However, a building that houses the gymnasium today and which you can see below was constructed in 1891, by the Hungarian architect Gyula Pártos.
In a way, it’s a pity when they put trees in front of buildings and then you can’t see them properly. But, I’m sure that you can see that it’s a spectacular construction.
SREMSKI KARLOVCI CITY HALL
The City Hall building completes the square in Sremski Karlovci.
In May 1848, the Metropolitan of Karlovci and later Serbian Patriarch Josif Rajačić proclaimed Serbian Vojvodina, during the 1848 revolution in the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
Built in 1811 in the Neo-Classicist style, it was originally a garrison of the Petrovaradin Fortress in Novi Sad.
FOUR LIONS FOUNTAIN
The Baroque red marble Four Lions fountain, constructed in 1799, is in the middle of the square.
THE REST OF SREMSKI KARLOVCI
Once you’ve seen everything that I’ve described in this post until now, there isn’t much more left to see in Sremski Karlovci.
But, that’s already a lot for such a small town. Moreover, as everything is in the same square, it leaves you completely overwhelmed.
From the square, I went to Patrijarha Rajačića street, to see two more important historic buildings.
One of them was the City Museum, located in the Ilion Palace, a former residence of the baronial Rajačić family. Although the building is much older, its current appearance is from 1920.
I visited this small museum. It was interesting and it taught me a bit of history which I didn’t know before. As I was the only person in the museum, the curator took me around and explained everything in detail.
The same happened to me in Paja Jovanović museum in Belgrade. While I was very happy to have a private tour of the museum, at the same time I felt a bit sad that no one else was interested in this museum and it’s collection. Perhaps, it was just in that particular moment that there were no other visitors, otherwise I hope that many other people visit it.
MONASTERY OF THE PRESENTATION OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY
Finally, I finished my tour of Sremski Karlovci by visiting the Monastery of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Formerly known as the Upper Church, it became a monastery in 2016.
Constructed in 1746, it underwent many restorations. Unfortunately, I couldn’t take any photo inside of the church.
Another unfortunate thing is that they erected the electricity mast right in front of the monastery’s main entrance, as you can see in the photo above. It ruins the appearance of this sacred structure. Normally, it should be kept in pristine surroundings.
Otherwise, the spiritual, architectural, cultural and artistic value of the structure becomes significantly reduced.
Perhaps, they will remove it at some point in the future and they will also restore the gate and the wall that surrounds the monastery. You can clearly see that it’s in a very bad state at the moment.
I missed several important historic structures, but I am not too bothered. I want to go back to Sremski Karlovci, to see the Patriarchate Court and its museum, plus the St. Nicholas Church.
Then, I will also complete my tour of the city. But, that’ll have to be some time next year, I need to make sure that they’ll finish the works on two structures that they were restoring when I was there.
I already look forward to my next visit!