Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Cathedral of St. Nicholas - Sremski Karlovci, Serbia

Sremski Karlovci, Serbia is located on the Danube River about five miles from Novi Sad. From 1698 to 1699 Sremski Karlovci was the site of a negotiation between the Ottoman Empire and the Holy League which was a coalition including the Habsburg Empire, Poland, Venice, and Russia. The negotiation resulted in the Treaty of Karlowitz and the town became part of the Habsburg Empire. Just 13 year later, in 1712, Sremski Karlovci became the patriarchate for the Serbian Orthodox Church in the Habsburg Empire. As a result, many Serbs who had been under Ottoman rule emigrated to this area which transformed it into a strong center for Orthodoxy and the cultural capital of Serbian Vojvodina. The Orthodox Cathedral of St. Nicholas was started in 1758 and completed in 1762 and from the outside it looks pretty ordinary. There is a fun four lion fountain out front, which has become the symbol of Karlovci, made out of red marble. 
Cathedral of St. Nicholas in Sremski Karlovci. Note the four lion fountain in front. 
Closer view of two of the four lions on the fountain.
St. Nicholas adorns the facade between the two front towers. Note his white beard and red vestments. 
Christ above the main entrance.
But on the inside, the iconostasis is the height of Baroque work in Vojvodina and the rest of the interior is full of color, beautiful stained glass and paintings. Even today, the Serbian Orthodox Patriarch retains the title of Metropolitan of Karlovci (look here for more on the Serbian Orthodox Church). 
Amazing floor to ceiling iconostasis. 
The Trinity in the iconostasis: Jesus, the Father and the Holy Ghost as a dove.
Jesus on the cross at the top of the iconostasis. Note that the cross is perched on a skull: Golgotha.
The inside of the dome. The angels remind me of those found in Hagia Sophia. See a close-up of the top-stained glass below which is faded-out in this picture.
The dove in the top stained glass. One of the prettier ones we've seen.
Beautiful and colorful stained glass.
Stained glass.
The chandelier hanging from the dome: emblematic of the crown of thorns. 
Close-up of one of the angels ringing the dome.
Underside of an arch.
Floor tiles.
Wood choir seats.
Beautiful, colorful, fake pillars.
Closer view of the top of a pillar.
With it being the Christmas season, it seemed appropriate to do a church dedicated to St. Nicholas, the basis for the modern Santa Claus (which comes from the Dutch derivation of St. Nicholas, Sinterklaas). St. Nicholas was a fourth century bishop in what is now Turkey. He was a participant in the First Council at Nicaea and one of the bishops that signed the Nicene Creed. He is known for secret gift giving which is where the Santa Claus legend stems from. For example, he became aware of three daughters in a poor family that could not afford a dowry for them. Without a dowry they could not marry and St. Nicholas was concerned they would turn to prostitution. So during the night, St. Nicholas went to the house at night and threw three purses filled with gold coins through the window so that each girl would have a dowry. No red suit, no reindeer and no chimney, apparently those portions of the legend developed later. In iconography, he is portrayed in different ways, sometimes with an omophorion, the vestment of a bishop, which is a band of brocade with four crosses and an eight-pointed star worn about the neck and shoulders. Sometimes he is an old man with a white fluffy beard (more shades of Santa Claus). 
St. Nicholas with his white beard and omophorion around his shoulders.
St. Nicholas again, this time in red.
St. Nicholas in stained glass.

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