Read, Write, Run, Roam

Church on Sunday: Cathedral of Saint Nicholas, Sremski Karlovci


I’m continuing my Vojvodina trend with the lovely Church of St. Nicholas (Crkva Sveti Nikola) in Sremski Karlovci, a few kilometers away from Novi Sad. It’s a small town, but what it lacks in size it makes up for in history.

The town boasts of holding the first international treaty at a round table. (“At a round table” is quite a modifier, but think of how common that is today.) The treaty determined how Serbia would be handled, i.e., carved up, by the Ottoman and Hapsburg Empires in 1699. Sremski Karlovci and many other areas of northern Serbia became part of the Hapsburg Empire.

In 1712, Sremski Karlovci became the seat (patriarchate) for Orthodox Serbs in the Hapsburg Empire. Around this time, thousands of Serbians under Ottoman Rule emigrated to this area, now known as Vojvodina. The result was a powerful Serbian and Orthodox religious center. The oldest Serbian seminary was established there in 1794, and the Cathedral of Saint Nicholas was completed in 1762.

The amazing iconostasis (below, left) was painted in 1780 by two famous Serbian painters, Teodor Kracun and Jakov Orfelin. The paintings were the most impressive I’ve seen in an Orthodox church to date.

After we toured the church, we walked to the archives building next door. It’s a pretty building with a courtyard in the rear and a slightly hidden museum off to one side. The museum houses religious artifacts from orthodox churches. (If you were walking by this building, you’d have no idea what was inside. It’s basically screaming to be featured in a Serbian version of National Treasure.) Even if you have no interest in religious history or art, you can’t argue that it takes serious skill to make some of the objects we saw.

After seeing the church, we visited the local school (Serbia’s oldest/second oldest if you’re from Kragujevac) and walked around Sremski Karlovci’s quaint streets. Before we left, we threw coins in the main square fountain, making wishes for a return during sunny weather. Since it was only about an hours’ drive from Belgrade, I’m pretty confident my wish will come true.

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