By Kelly Wise Valdes

The Serbian Orthodox Church of St. Sava is an iconic landmark in Serbia that rises well above its surroundings. This is one of the largest Orthodox Cathedrals in the world, and much like it’s homeland, Serbia, it has a troubled and complicated past.

The church is built in the location believed to be where the remains of Saint Sava were burned in 1595. The first contest for architectural plans for the church was held in 1905. Construction on the church began in 1935 but abruptly stopped in 1941 during WWII when Belgrade was bombed by Germany. During the war, the unfinished church was used as a parking lot by the Germans and then occupied by the Russians.

Construction did not begin again until 1985 and the 4,000-ton center dome was completed by 1989. The placement of the dome was the greatest achievement during construction and took 40 days to lift into place. The dome brings the total height of the church to more than 24 stories tall.

Unfortunately, construction was halted again after the NATO bombing of Serbia in 1999. Once again, construction resumed in 2001, almost 100 years after it began. As of 2017, the exterior of the church was completed, along with bells, windows and the façade. There are more than 49 bells in the bell towers and over 18 gold plated crosses on its domes. Work on the internal decoration of the building is still in progress but nearing completion.

The largest church in southeastern Europe, it is able to host more than 10,000 people at any time. One of its most spectacular events is the Orthodox New Year celebration where the church welcomes the New Year with impressive fireworks, music and dancing.

The Serbian Orthodox Church of St. Sava is a proud accomplishment for the Serbian people because of its importance in Serbian history and because it symbolizes the faith and freedom of its people. For more information, visit www.serbia.com/church-saint-sava-orthodox-heart-belgrade.