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Belgrade's St. Michael's Cathedral


Two Orthodox icons framed by draped red velour curtains
Icons, Cathedral Church of St. Michael the Archangel, Belgrade, Serbia

Most Belgrade residents simply call it “The Cathedral,” but I discovered the simplicity of the familiar name doesn’t do justice to the grandeur of the city’s Cathedral Church of St. Michael the Archangel.


Corie and I came across the cathedral on our second day in Belgrade while we were out exploring. The baroque-style spire, an unusual feature for Orthodox churches, reaches above the surrounding buildings, making it hard to miss.


Two low-hanging chandeliers illuminate a narrow red carpet that draws one’s view to the gold-plated iconostasis, an ornamented gate separating the nave from the altar.


Unlike many of the Georgian Orthodox churches I have visited, St. Michael’s cathedral isn’t as dark, lit by a soft light from oversized stained-glass windows, allowing worshipers and visitors to appreciate the eighteen wall paintings created by the most famous Serbian painter of his time, Dimitrije Avramović.


Since its 1840 completion, making it the second oldest cathedral in the city, St. Michael’s has been the site of royal weddings and coronations.


In addition to the many monarchs interned in the cathedral, the graves of two of Serbia’s most important men of letters are just outside the cathedral’s front doors.


Light filtering through gold-colored chandelier with a saint icon
Chandelier Detail, Cathedral Church of St. Michael the Archangel, Belgrade, Serbia

One of the two men, Dositej Obradović, was raised as an orphan in Timoșoara, Romania, and became the most significant eighteenth-century representative of Serbian culture. Obradović started training for holy orders in 1757, but never completed the requirements and became a seasoned traveler instead, visiting Croatia, Austria, Greece, Germany, Italy, France and other European cities, attending lectures at universities, taking in the new scientific thought of his day.


He is credited with introducing the Serbs to European Enlightenment.


Wherever Obradović lived, he studied and became fluent in the local language.


Not being blessed with Obradović’s ability to pick up languages wherever he went, I had to rely on my fine-tuned ability to translate my questions into charades.


When I returned to the cathedral the next day, I motioned a series of charades that might have been interpreted in one of two ways: “May I take photos inside the church?” or “Does it appear that I’m suffering from a stroke?”


With the exception of the occasional worshiper or fellow traveler, I had the nave to myself for a good amount of time, and I enjoyed being able to admire the artworks and icons in solitude.


Next week, I’ll take you to a place where solitude isn’t usually an option, the city’s  most popular sight, Belgrade Fortress.


Interior of a Serbian Orthodox Church
Cathedral Church of St. Michael the Archangel, Belgrade, Serbia

 

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