Sunday, October 13, 2013

Cathedral Church of the Nativity of the Theotokos - Sarajevo

The Cathedral Church of the Nativity of the Theotokos is the Serbian Orthodox cathedral in Sarajevo, Bosnia & Herzegovina. Theotokos is the Greek title of Mary, the mother of Jesus, used in the Eastern Orthodox Church.
Serbian Orthodox Cathedral in Sarajevo
It is difficult to get a photo of the entire building because of surrounding structures.
The prominent bell tower is front and center, the central and larges dome is just visible to its right and three of the four corner domes are visible. 
Close-up of the bell tower.
More of a side photo.
Construction started in 1863 when Sarajevo was part of the Ottoman Empire and it lasted for eleven years. Most of the construction cost was paid for by local Serb merchants. Russian Tsar Alexander II sent craftsmen to help with construction of the iconostasis. The iconostasis is not finsished: there are still many empty spaces where icons need to be placed. It has five domes, one central and four on the sides, one on each corner. The central dome is the largest of the domes. However, the tallest part of the cathedral is the belfry, or bell tower, which is over the entrance to the cathedral and is centered at the front of the cathedral. There was unrest among the Muslim population when the church tower rose higher than many of the Sarajevo mosque minarets. Dedication of the church was postponed a year because of security concerns as a result. The dedication took place on July 20, 1872. The original roof was made of lead, but during World War II Austrians removed it and replaced it with sheet metal. Later it was re-roofed with copper. Damage from the Bosnian War was repaired using funds donated by the Greek Republic. 
Judy with the iconostasis behind her. Note the openings still waiting icons. 
Staircase leading to a pulpit.
Looking into the central dome.
The altar behind the iconostasis.
Painted decorations.
Variations in decorations on a corner.
Decorations on the underside of an arch.
More corner decorations. 
Ceiling decorations below the dome. 
Wonderful and varied marble flooring.
Marble flooring.
Marble flooring.
Marble flooring.
Marble flooring.
Marble flooring.
Marble flooring.
An icon on the iconostasis.
Icon on the iconostasis.
Icons on the iconostasis: Jesus and John the Baptist.
Stained glass window
Stained glass window
Stained glass window
Stained glass window - St. George and the dragon.
The history of the Orthodox church in Bosnia & Herzegovina began in 1219 when Saint Sava founded the Serbian Orthodox Church and the Eparchy of Zahumlje and Herzegovina was part of it. The Ottoman Turks abolished the Serbian Orthodox Church in 1463. It was restored again in 1557 by Suleiman the Magnificent and abolished again in 1766. From then until 1880 the Orthodox in Bosnia were under the Patriarchate of Constantinople. At that time, it appears they may have been part of the Patriarchate of Karlovci. Then in 1920, after World War I and the creation of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, it was once again under the Serbian Orthodox Church. 

Sarajevo is a place of convergence of a number of major religions: Islam, Catholicism, and Orthodoxy. Like convergent tectonic plates, which are the centers for earthquakes and volcanoes, Sarajevo has seen its share of civil upheaval over the years. 
A building across the street from the cathedral showing un-repaired bullet holes.
Another building across the street from the cathedral with bullet holes. 
As a result, Sarajevo is sometimes called the "Jerusalem of Europe" or the "Jerusalem of the Balkans," much like Jerusalem in Israel which is also a place of convergence for the same religions, as well as Judaism. For a long time Sarajevo was the only major European city to have a mosque, Catholic church, Orthodox church and synagogue in the same neighborhood, which is the Old Town or Bascarsija. I have done previous posts on Sacred Heart Cathedral and Gazi Husrev-beg Mosque in the Bascarsija area of Sarajevo. We also tried to visit the Jewish synagogue in Sarajevo, but it was the Sabbath and we could not get in. 
Sarajevo Synagogue, across the Miljacka River from the other church buildings mentioned above.
The cultural mix is what makes Sarajevo so fascinating, so varied. 


  1. I like the image of tectonic plates. It's amazing that they do as well as they do, or at least that they co-exist, given the history of religious conflict in the area.

  2. Interesting exterior and gorgeous floors!