Serbia’s authorities expect that Russian President Vladimir Putin will take part in the consecration ceremony at the Church of Saint Sava in Belgrade, the Serbian president’s press service said after a phone conversation of the two leaders.
"President [Vladimir] Putin confirmed that he would again visit Serbia to attend a state ceremony of consecration of the Church of Saint Sava and stressed that Russia would maintain Serbia’s interests and also protect the interests of Serbia’s Orthodox church. President [Aleksandar] Vucic said he would be honored to receive Putin, especially on this festive occasion as Russia has made an invaluable contribution to finishing the construction of a major Orthodox church in Serbia, making it one of the symbols of close relations between the two countries and nations," the statement said.
Vucic also welcomed the upcoming visit to Serbia by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov due on June 18. The presidential press service said Putin had expressed confidence that the party led by Vucic would win the June 21 election and wished him personal and political success, TASS reports.
Earlier Serbian mass media reported on many occasions that Putin was due to visit Serbia in October 2020. It is expected that the visit would coincide with celebrating the anniversary of liberating Belgrade from Nazis on October 20. The consecration ceremony at the Church of Saint Sava, the construction of which took nearly 100 years, is also planned on this date. Vucic invited Putin to visit Belgrade at their meeting in Sochi in December 2019.
During his visit to Serbia in January 2019 Putin said Russia would allocate €5 mln for the church’s construction works.
Belgrade’s St. Sava Cathedral is the largest Eastern Orthodox place of worship. The building covers an area of 7,570 square meters and its 35-meter-diameter dome rises to 65 meters in height. The church was dedicated to Saint Sava (1169-1236), the founder of the Serbian Orthodox Church and a Serbian national hero. The cathedral is believed to have been built on the site where the Ottoman authorities burned the remains of Saint Sava in 1594.
The church was designed in 1894 but for many years the construction was stalled due to planning and coordination work and began only in 1935. The outbreak of the Second World War interrupted the process, which restarted in May 1986. The domes were erected in 1989, while regular services began in the church in 2004, although the construction had not been yet complete.
Russia makes contributions to the decoration of the dome and altar. Russian artists helped to ornate the grandiose dome with mosaic. The central mosaic icon of the dome ‘The Ascension of Christ’ was created by 70 Russian and Serbian artists headed by Nikolay Mukhin, a member of the Russian Academy of Arts, who had led the team of artists decorating the Christ the Savior Cathedral in Moscow.