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Nationalism in Construction: The Memorial Church of St. Sava on Vračar Hill in Belgrade
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The role of St. Sava, whom the late Serbian Patriarch German praised as the “Sun of Serbian heaven” in Serbian oral tradition during medieval and Ottoman period was to al-ways watch over Serbian people. In the age of nationalism however, the Serbian cult of St. Sava acquired different tasks representing and reproducing, depending on circumstances, powerful images of national golden age, national reconciliation and unification and/or martyrdom for the Church and the nation. For more than a century now, a church dedicated to this saint is being built in Belgrade, aimed to epitomize and monumentalize these images. After years of oblivion the Serbian Church in mid-1990s drew attention back to the St. Sava Church and began holding services on the plateau in front of the construction site or recently even inside the unfinished church. In the atmosphere of the complete breakdown of the Serbian society, where basic economic and political security could not be provided, not to mention spiritual or cultural revival, “Serbian National Cathedral” was again hailed as a celebration of “victory over the enemy” and the segment of its role as the act of societal repentance for the communist era was lost. In the year 2000, after the overthrow of Milošević and almost a ten-years break, the work has begun again. More than a century after its construction was initiated, the Church on Vračar Hill is still awaiting completion and to assume the monumental and memorial role it was assigned.