Saturday, July 07, 2007

Mosaic Marvel - Oplenac's St. George Church

Continuing onward in the heat, our next destination was Oplenac. The area known as Topola served as Karađorđe’s campaign headquarters during the first National Uprising. After a brief visit of the small museum housed in what was King Peter’s house (built 1910), we walked up the hill to the entryway of the St. George’s Church, treating ourselves to an ice cream. The white marble edifice (with local marble) glistened against the deep blue sky, commanding a presence on top of the hill. Despite its relatively young age (consecrated in 1912 and founded by King Peter I), this 5-domed church didn’t escape damage from wars either. Damaged and desecrated in WWI by the Austro-Hungarians, it was partly rebuilt in the 1920’s. It was during this time that the mosaics were created. Over 40 million mosaic tiles cover the walls of the church and mausoleum (lower level) – the 2nd largest number of tiles in the world. Brilliantly colored, over 15 million shades of color can be found. Motifs are copied from frescoes in over 60 Serbian monasteries. Some of the columns depict the life of St. Sava, one of the founders of the Serbian Orthodox Church.

Following the stairs below the main part of the church is a crypt mausoleum built for the dynasty Karađorđe family. Although rather dark, the bright tiles glistened. The tomb of King Alexander (murdered in Marseilles in 1934), his mother, and other family rulers are here. Most of the tombs are vacant. The arched walls depicting the life of St. Peter. The angels reminded me of those described in the Book of Revelations.

Although some might find the mosaics of St. George’s Church a bit much, I found it to be visually stunning, full of details everywhere I looked. Only 80 km from Belgrade, perhaps I’ll have the chance.

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