Serbian Orthodox Church

The Serbian Orthodox Church (Serbian: Српска православна црква / Srpska pravoslavna crkva) is one of the autocephalous Eastern Orthodox Christian Churches. It is the second-oldest Slavic Orthodox Church in the world (after the Bulgarian Orthodox Church).

The Serbian Orthodox Church comprises the majority of the population in Serbia, Montenegro, and the Republika Srpska entity of Bosnia and Herzegovina. It is organized into metropolises and eparchies located primarily in Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, and Croatia, but also all over the world where Serb diaspora lives.

The Serbian Orthodox Church is an autocephalous, or ecclesiastically independent, member of the Eastern Orthodox communion. Serbian Patriarch serves as first among equals in his church; the current patriarch is Irinej. The Church achieved autocephalous status in 1219 under the leadership of St. Sava, becoming independent Archbishopric of Žiča. Its status was elevated to that of a patriarchate in 1346, and was known afterwards as the Serbian Patriarchate of Peć. This patriarchate was abolished by the Ottoman Turks in 1766. The modern Serbian Orthodox Church was re-established in 1920 after the unification of the Patriarchate of Karlovci, the Metropolitanate of Belgrade and the Metropolitanate of Montenegro.

Serbian Orthodox Church
Српска православна црква
Srpska pravoslavna crkva
Coat of arms of Serbian Orthodox Church
PrimateSerbian Patriarch Irinej
LanguageSerbian and Church Slavonic
HeadquartersBelgrade; traditionally Patriarchal Monastery of Peć
TerritorySoutheastern Europe (Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Croatia, Macedonia, and Slovenia)
PossessionsNorthern, Eastern and Western Europe, Americas, Australia
FounderSaint Sava
Recognition1219 (Autocephaly)
1346 (Patriarchate)
1557 (Patriarchate)
1920 (Patriarchate)
SeparationsMacedonian Orthodox Church – Ohrid Archbishopric (1967)
Montenegrin Orthodox Church (1993)
Serbian True Orthodox Church (1996)
Members8[1] to 12 million[2]

Historical background

Early Christianity

Christianity spread to the Balkans beginning in the 1st century. Florus and Laurus are venerated as Christian martyrs of the 2nd century; they were murdered along with 300 Christians in Lipljan. Constantine the Great (306–337), born in Niš, was the first Christian Roman Emperor. Several bishops seated in what is today Serbia participated in the First Council of Nicaea (325), such as Ursacius of Singidunum. In 380, Eastern Roman Emperor Theodosius decreed that his subjects would be Christians according to the Council of Nicea formula. Greek was used in the Byzantine church, while the Roman church used Latin. With the definite split in 395, the line in Europe ran south along the Drina river. Among old Christian heritage is the Archbishopric of Justiniana Prima, established in 535, which had jurisdiction over the whole of present-day Serbia. However, the Archbishopric did not last, as the Slavs and Avars destroyed the region sometime after 602, when the last mention is made of it. In 731[3] Leo III attached Illyricum and Southern Italy (Sicily and Calabria) to Patriarch Anastasius of Constantinople, transferring the papal authority to the Eastern Church.[4]

Christianization of Serbs

Seal of Strojimir
Seal of prince Strojimir of Serbia, from the late 9th century - the oldest artifact on the Christianization of the Serbs

The history of the early medieval Serbian Principality is recorded in the work De Administrando Imperio (DAI), compiled by the Byzantine Emperor Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus (r 913–959). The DAI drew information on the Serbs from, among others, a Serbian source.[5] The Serbs were said to have received the protection of Emperor Heraclius (r. 610–641), and Porphyrogenitus stressed that the Serbs had always been under Imperial rule.[6] His account on the first Christianization of the Serbs can be dated to 632–638; this might have been Porphyrogenitus' construction, or may have really taken place, encompassing a limited group of chiefs and then very poorly received by the wider layers of the tribe.[7] The establishment of Christianity as state religion dates to the time of Prince Mutimir (r. 851–891) and Byzantine Emperor Basil I (r. 867–886);[8] Porphyrogenitus attests that Croats and Serbs sent delegates asking for baptism, thus Basil "baptized all of them that were unbaptized of the aforesaid nations".[9] The Christianization was due partly to Byzantine and subsequent Bulgarian influence.[8] At least during the rule of Kocel (861–874) in Pannonia, communications between Serbia and Great Moravia, where Methodius was active, must have been possible.[8] This fact, the pope was presumably aware of, when planning Methodius' diocese as well as that of the Dalmatian coast, which was in Byzantine hands as far north as Split.[8] There is a possibility that some Cyrillomethodian pupils reached Serbia in the 870s, perhaps even sent by Methodius himself.[8] Serbia was accounted Christian as of about 870.[8]

The first Serbian bishopric was founded at Ras, near modern Novi Pazar on the Ibar river.[8] According to Vlasto, the initial affiliation is uncertain; it may have been under the subordination of either Split or Durazzo, both then Byzantine.[8] The early Ras church can be dated to the 9th–10th century, with the rotunda plan characteristic of first court chapels.[8] The bishopric was established shortly after 871, during the rule of Mutimir, and was part of the general plan of establishing bishoprics in the Slav lands of the empire, confirmed by the Council of Constantinople in 879–880.[8] The names of Serbian rulers through Mutimir (r. 851–891) are Slavic dithematic names, per the Old Slavic tradition. With Christianization in the 9th century, Christian names appear.[10] The next generations of Serbian royalty had Christian names (Petar, Stefan, Pavle, Zaharije, etc.), evident of strong Byzantine missions in the 870s.[8] Petar Gojniković (r. 892–917) was evidently a Christian prince,[8] and Christianity presumably was spreading in his time;[11] also since Serbia bordered Bulgaria, Christian influences and perhaps missionaries came from there, increasing during the twenty-year peace.[12] The Bulgarian annexation of Serbia in 924 was important for the future direction of the Serbian church, and by then, at latest, Serbia must have received the Cyrillic alphabet and Slavic religious text, already familiar but perhaps not yet preferred to Greek.[13]

Archbishopric of Ohrid (1018–1219)

In 1018–19, the Archbishopric of Ohrid was established after the Byzantines conquered Bulgaria. Greek replaced Bulgarian Slavic as the liturgical language. Serbia was ecclesiastically administered into several bishoprics: the bishopric of Ras, mentioned in the first charter of Basil II (r. 976–1025), became part of the Ohrid archbishopric and encompassed the areas of southern Serbia, by the rivers Raška, Ibar and Lim, evident in the second charter of Basil II. In the chrysobulls of Basil II dated to 1020, the Ras bishopric is mentioned as serving the whole of Serbia, with the seat at the Church of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, Ras. Among the first bishops were Leontius (fl. 1123-1126), Cyril (fl. 1141–1143), Euthemius (fl. 1170) and Kalinik (fl. 1196). It later joined the autocephalous Archbishopric of Žiča in 1219, at the time of Saint Sava.

The 10th- or 11th-century Gospel Book Codex Marianus, written in Old Church Slavonic in the Glagolithic script, is one of the oldest known Slavic manuscripts and was partly written in the Serbian redaction of Old Church Slavonic.[14] Other early manuscripts include 11th-century Grškovićev odlomak Apostola and Mihanovićev odlomak.


Autocephalous Archbishopric (1219–1346)

Sveti Sava Kraljeva Crkva
Saint Sava, first Serbian archbishop

Serbian prince Rastko Nemanjić, the son of Stefan Nemanja, took monastic vows at Mount Athos as Sava (Sabbas) in 1192.[15][16] Three years later, his father joined him, taking monastic vows as Simeon. Father and son asked of the Holy Community that the Serbian religious centre be founded at the abandoned site of Hilandar, which they renovated, marking the beginning of a renaissance (in arts, literature and religion). Sava's father died at Hilandar in 1199, and was canonised as St. Simeon.[16] Sava stayed for some years, rising in rank,[16] then returned to Serbia in 1207, taking with him the remains of his father, which he interred at the Studenica monastery, after reconciling his two quarreling brothers Stefan II with Vukan. Stefan II asked him to remain in Serbia with his clerics, which he did, providing widespread pastoral care and education to the people of Serbia. He founded several churches and monasteries, among them the Žiča monastery.[16] Sava brought the regal crown from Rome, crowning his older brother "King of All Serbia" in the Žiča monastery in 1217.[17]

Sava returned to the Holy Mountain in 1217/18, marking the beginning of the real formation of the Serbian Church. He was consecrated in 1219 as the first Archbishop of the Serbian church, and was given autocephaly by Patriarch Manuel I of Constantinople, who was then in exile at Nicaea. In the same year Sava published Zakonopravilo (St. Sava's Nomocanon). Thus the Serbs acquired both forms of independence: political and religious.[16] After this, in Serbia, he stayed in Studenica and continued to educate the Serbian people in their faith, and later he called for a council outlawing the Bogomils, who were regarded heretics.[16] Sava appointed protobishops, sending them over all of Serbia to conduct baptisms, marriages etc.. To maintain his standing as the religious and social leader, he continued to travel among the monasteries and lands to educate the people.[16] In 1221 a synod was held in the Žiča monastery, condemning Bogomilism.[18]

The following seats were newly created in the time of Saint Sava:

Older eparchies under the jurisdiction of Serbian Archbishop were:

In 1229/1233, Saint Sava went on a pilgrimage to Palestine and in Jerusalem he met with Patriarch Athanasios II. Sava saw Bethlehem where Jesus was born, the Jordan River where Christ was baptised, and the Great Lavra of Saint Sabbas the Sanctified (Mar Saba monastery). Sava asked Athanasios II, his host, and the Great Lavra fraternity, led by hegoumenos Nicolas, if he could purchase two monasteries in the Holy Land. His request was accepted and he was offered the monasteries of Saint John the Theologian on Mount Sion and St. George's Monastery on Akona, both to be inhabited by Serbian monks. The icon Trojerucica (Three-handed Theotokos), a gift to the Great Lavra from St. John Damascene, was given to Sava and he, in turn, bequeathed it to Hilandar.

Sava died in Trnovo, capital of the Second Bulgarian Empire, during the reign of Ivan Asen II of Bulgaria. According to his Biography, he fell ill following the Divine Liturgy on the Feast of the Epiphany, 12 January 1235. Sava was visiting Trnovo on his way back from the Holy Land, where he had founded a hospice for Syrian pilgrims in Jerusalem and arranged for Serbian monks to be welcomed in the established monasteries there. He died of pneumonia in the night between Saturday and Sunday, January 14, 1235, and was buried at the Cathedral of the Holy Forty Martyrs in Trnovo where his body remained until May 6, 1237, when his sacred bones were moved to the monastery Mileševa in southern Serbia.

In 1253 the see was transferred to the Monastery of Peć by archbishop Arsenije.[19] The Serbian primates had since moved between the two.[20] Sometime between 1276-1292 the Cumans burned the Žiča monastery, and King Stefan Milutin renovated it in 1292-1309, during the office of Jevstatije II.[19] In 1289-1290, the chief treasures of the ruined monastery, including the remains of Saint Jevstatije I, were transferred to Peć.[21]

Medieval Patriarchate (1346–1463)

Pecka apside
Patriarchate of Peć in Kosovo, the seat of the Serbian Orthodox Church from the 14th century when its status was upgraded into a patriarchate

The status of the Serbian Orthodox Church grew along with the expansion and heightened prestige of the Serbian kingdom. After King Stefan Dušan assumed the imperial title of tsar, the Serbian Archbishopric was correspondingly raised to the rank of Patriarchate in 1346. In the century that followed, the Serbian Church achieved its greatest power and prestige. In the 14th century Serbian Orthodox clergy had the title of Protos at Mount Athos.

On April 16, 1346 (Easter), Stefan Dušan convoked a grand assembly at Skopje, attended by the Serbian Archbishop Joanikije II, Archbishop Nicholas I of Ohrid, Patriarch Simeon of Bulgaria and various religious leaders of Mount Athos. The assembly and clergy agreed on, and then ceremonially performed the raising of the autocephalous Serbian Archbishopric to the status of Patriarchate. The Archbishop was from now on titled Serbian Patriarch, although some documents called him Patriarch of Serbs and Greeks, with the seat at Patriarchal Monastery of Peć. The new Patriarch Joanikije II now solemnly crowned Stefan Dušan as "Emperor and autocrat of Serbs and Romans" (see Emperor of Serbs). The Patriarchal status resulted in raising bishoprics to metropolitanates, as for example the Metropolitanate of Skopje. The Patriarchate took over sovereignty on Mt. Athos and the Greek archbishoprics under the jurisdiction of the Patriarchate of Constantinople (the Archbishopric of Ohrid remained autocephalous), which resulted in Dušan's excommunication by Patriarch Callistus I of Constantinople in 1350.[22]

Renewed Patriarchate (1557–1766)

Patriarchate of Peć in the 16th and 17th century
Serbian Patriarchate of Peć (16th-17th century).

The Ottoman Empire finally conquered the Serbian Despotate in 1459, the Bosnian Kingdom in 1463, Herzegovina in 1482 and Montenegro in 1499. All of the conquered lands were divided into sanjaks. Although some Serbs converted to Islam, most continued their adherence to the Serbian Orthodox Church. The Church itself continued to exist throughout the Ottoman period, though not without some disruption. After the death of Serbian Patriarch Arsenije II in 1463, a successor was not elected. The Patriarchate was thus de facto abolished, and the Serbian Church passed under the jurisdiction of Archbishopric of Ohrid and ultimately the Ecumenical Patriarchate which exercised jurisdiction over all Orthodox of the Ottoman Empire under the millet system.

After several failed attempts, made from c. 1530 up to 1541 by metropolitan Pavle of Smederevo to regain the autocephaly by seizing the throne of Peć and proclaiming himself not only Archbishop of Peć, but also Serbian Patriarch, the Serbian Patriarchate was finally restored in 1557 under the Sultan Suleiman II, thanks to the mediation of pasha Mehmed Sokolović who was Serbian by birth. His cousin, one of the Serbian Orthodox bishops Makarije Sokolović was elected Patriarch in Peć. The restoration of the Patriarchate was of great importance for the Serbs because it helped the spiritual unification of all Serbs in the Ottoman Empire. The Patriarchate of Peć also included some dioceses in western Bulgaria.[23] In the time of Serbian Patriarch Jovan Kantul (1592-1614), the Ottoman Turks took the remains of Saint Sava from monastery Mileševa to the Vračar hill in Belgrade where they were burned by Sinan Pasha on a stake to intimidate the Serb people in case of revolts (see Banat Uprising) (1594). The Temple of Saint Sava was built on the place where his remains were burned.[1]

After consequent Serbian uprisings against the Turkish occupiers in which the Church had a leading role, the Ottomans abolished the Patriarchate once again in 1766. The Church returned once more under the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople. This period of rule by the so-called "Phanariots" was a period of great spiritual decline because the Greek bishops had very little understanding of their Serbian flock.

Church in the Habsburg Monarchy

The Great Serb Migrations, led by Patriarch Arsenije III Carnojevic, 17th century.

During this period, many Christians across the Balkans converted to Islam to avoid severe taxes imposed by the Turks in retaliation for uprisings and continued resistance. Many Serbs migrated with their hierarchs to the Habsburg Monarchy where they had been granted autonomy. In 1708, an autonomous Serbian Orthodox Metropolitanate of Karlovci was created, that would later become a patriarchate (1848-1920).

Modern history

The church's close association with Serbian resistance to Ottoman rule led to Eastern Orthodoxy becoming inextricably linked with Serbian national identity and the new Serbian monarchy that emerged from 1815 onwards. The Serbian Orthodox Church in the Principality of Serbia gained its autonomy in 1831, and was organized as the Metropolitanate of Belgrade, remaining under the supreme ecclesiastical jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople.[24] Principality of Serbia gained full political independence from the Ottoman Empire in 1878, and soon after that negotiations were initiated with the Ecumenical Patriarchate, resulting in canonical recognition of full ecclesiastical independence (autocephaly) for the Metropolitanate of Belgrade in 1879.[25] At the same time, the Serbian Orthodox eparchies in Bosnia and Herzegovina remained under supreme ecclesiastical jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, but gained internal autonomy.[26] In the southern eparchies, that remained under the Ottoman rule, Serbian metropolitans were appointed by the end of the 19th century.[27] Thus by the beginning of the 20th century several distinctive Serbian ecclesiastical provinces existed, including the Patriarchate of Karlovci in the Habsburg Monarchy, the Metropolitanate of Belgrade in the Kingdom of Serbia, and the Metropolitanate of Montenegro in the Principality of Montenegro.

After World War I all the Orthodox Serbs were united under one ecclesiastical authority, and two Serbian churches were united into the single Serbian Orthodox Church in 1920 with the election of Serbian Patriarch Dimitrije. It gained great political and social influence in the inter-war Kingdom of Yugoslavia, during which time it successfully campaigned against the Yugoslav government's intentions of signing a concordat with the Holy See.

The united Serbian Orthodox Church kept under its jurisdiction the Eparchy of Buda in Hungary. In 1921, the Serbian Orthodox Church created a new eparchy for the Czech lands, headed by bishop Gorazd Pavlik. At the same time, the Serbian Church among the diaspora was reorganized, and the eparchy (diocese) for the United States and Canada was created.[28] In 1931 another diocese was created, called the Eparchy of Mukačevo and Prešov, for the Eastern Orthodox Christians in Slovakia and Carpathian Rusynia.

During the Second World War the Serbian Orthodox Church suffered severely from persecutions by the occupying powers and the rabidly anti-Serbian Ustaše regime of Independent State of Croatia, which sought to create a "Croatian Orthodox Church" which Orthodox Serbs were forced to join. Many Serbs were killed, expelled or forced to convert to Catholicism during the Serbian Genocide; bishops and priests of the Serbian Orthodox Church were singled out for persecution, and many Orthodox churches were damaged or destroyed.

Temple Saint Sava
Cathedral of Saint Sava, one of the largest Orthodox buildings in the world, being built continuously since the end of the 1980s on the site where the relics of Saint Sava were desecrated by the Ottomans

After the war the Church was suppressed by the communist government of Josip Broz Tito, which viewed it with suspicion due to the Church's links with the exiled Serbian monarchy and the nationalist Chetnik movement. Along with other ecclesiastical institutions of all denominations, the Church was subject to strict controls by the Yugoslav state, which prohibited the teaching of religion in schools, confiscated Church property and discouraged religious activity among the population.

In 1963, the Serbian Church among the diaspora was reorganized, and the eparchy for the United States and Canada was divided into three separate eparchies. At the same time, some internal divisions sparked in the Serbian diaspora, leading to the creation of the separate "Free Serbian Orthodox Church". Division was healed in 1991, and Metropolitanate of New Gračanica was created, within the united Serbian Orthodox Church.

The gradual demise of Yugoslav communism and the rise of rival nationalist movements during the 1980s also led to a marked religious revival throughout Yugoslavia, not least in Serbia. The Serbian Patriarch Pavle supported the opposition to Slobodan Milošević in the 1990s.

The Macedonian Orthodox Church was created in 1967, effectively as an offshoot of the Serbian Orthodox Church in what was then the Socialist Republic of Macedonia, as part of the Yugoslav drive to build up a Macedonian national identity. This was strongly resisted by the Serbian Church, which does not recognize the independence of its Macedonian counterpart. Campaigns for an independent Montenegrin Orthodox Church have also gained ground in recent years. The Yugoslav wars gravely impacted several branches of the Serbian Orthodox Church. Many Serbian Orthodox Church clergy supported the war, while others were against it.

Many churches in Croatia were damaged or destroyed during the Croatian War (1991–95). The bishops and priests and most faithful of the eparchies of Zagreb, of Karlovac, of Slavonia and of Dalmatia became refugees. The latter three were almost completely abandoned after the exodus of the Serbs from Croatia in 1995 (Operation Storm). The eparchy of Dalmatia also had its see temporarily moved to Knin after the Republic of Serbian Krajina was established. The eparchy of Slavonia had its see moved from Pakrac to Daruvar. After Operation Storm, two monasteries were particularly damaged, the Krupa monastery built in 1317, and the Krka monastery built in 1345.

The eparchies of Bihać and Petrovac, Dabar-Bosnia and Zvornik and Tuzla were also dislocated due to the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The eparchy see of Dabar-Bosnia was temporarily moved to Sokolac, and the see of Zvornik-Tuzla to Bijeljina. Over a hundred Church-owned objects in the Zvornik-Tuzla eparchy were destroyed or damaged during the war. Many monasteries and churches in the Zahumlje eparchy were also destroyed. Numerous faithful from these eparchies also became refugees.

Left: Destroyed Serbian Orthodox Holy Trinity Church in Petrić village
Right: Devič monastery after it was burned down in 2004 unrest in Kosovo.


By 1998 the situation had stabilized in both countries. Most of the property of the Serbian Orthodox Church was returned to normal use, the bishops and priests returned, and that which was destroyed, damaged or vandalized was restored. The process of rebuilding several churches is still under way, notably the cathedral of the Eparchy of Upper Karlovac in Karlovac. The return of the Serbian Orthodox Church faithful also started, but they are not nearly close to their pre-war numbers, as of 2004.

Due to the Kosovo War, after 1999 numerous Serbian Orthodox holy sites in the province were left occupied only by clergy. Since the arrival of NATO troops in June 1999, 156 Serbian Orthodox churches and monasteries have been damaged or destroyed and several priests have been killed. During the few days of the 2004 unrest in Kosovo, 35 Serbian Orthodox churches and monasteries were damaged and some destroyed by Albanian mobs. Thousands of Serbs were forced to move from Kosovo due to the numerous attacks of Kosovo Albanians on Serbian churches and Serbs.

The process of church reorganization among the diaspora and full reintegration of the Metropolitanate of New Gračanica was completed from 2009 to 2011. By that, full structural unity of Serbian church institutions in the diaspora was achieved.


Based on the official census results in countries which encompass territorial canonic jurisdiction of the Serbian Orthodox Church (Serb autochthonous region of Western Balkans), there are more than 8 million adherents of the church. Orthodoxy is the largest single religious faith in Serbia with 6,079,296 adherents (84.5% of the population belonging to it) according to the 2011 census,[29] and in Montenegro with 460,383 (74%). It is the second largest faith in Bosnia and Herzegovina with 31.2% of adherents, and in Croatia with 4.4% of adherents. Figures for eparchies abroad (Western Europe, North America, and Australia) is unknown although some estimates can be reached based on the size of Serb diaspora, which numbers over 2 million people.


The head of the Serbian Orthodox Church, the patriarch, also serves as the head (metropolitan) of the Metropolitanate of Belgrade and Karlovci. Irinej became patriarch on 22 January 2010. Serbian Orthodox patriarchs use the style His Holiness the Archbishop of Peć, Metropolitan of Belgrade and Karlovci, Serbian Patriarch.

The highest body of the Church is the Holy assembly of Bishops (Serbian: Sveti arhijerejski sabor, Свети архијерејски сабор). It consists of the Patriarch, the Metropolitans, Bishops, Archbishop of Ohrid and Vicar Bishops. It meets twice a year - in spring and in autumn. The Holy assembly of Bishops makes important decisions for the church and elects the patriarch.

The executive body of the Serbian Orthodox Church is the Holy Synod. It has five members: four bishops and the patriarch.[30] The Holy Synod takes care of the everyday operation of the Church, holding meetings on regular basis.

Map of Eparchies of Serbian Orthodox Church (including Orthodox Ohrid Archbishopric)-en
Eparchies of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Serbian autochthonous region of Western Balkans

Territorial organisation

The territory of the Serbian Orthodox Church is divided into:[31][32]

Dioceses are further divided into episcopal deaneries, each consisting of several church congregations or parishes. Church congregations consist of one or more parishes. A parish is the smallest Church unit - a communion of Orthodox faithful congregating at the Holy Eucharist with the parish priest at their head.

Autonomous Archbishopric of Ohrid

The Autonomous Archbishopric of Ohrid or Orthodox Ohrid Archbishopric is an autonomous archbishopric in the Republic of Macedonia under the jurisdiction of the Serbian Orthodox Church. It was formed in 2002 in opposition to the Macedonian Orthodox Church, which had had a similar relationship with the Serbian Orthodox Church prior to 1967, when it unilaterally declared itself autocephalous. This archbishopric is divided into one metropolitanate, Skopje, and the six eparchies of Bregalnica, Debar and Kičevo, Polog and Kumanovo, Prespa and Pelagonija, Strumica and Veles and Povardarje.

Worship, liturgy and doctrine

Services cannot properly be conducted by a single person, but must have at least one other person present. Usually, all of the services are conducted on a daily basis only in monasteries and cathedrals, while parish churches might only do the services on the weekend and major feast days. The Divine Liturgy is the celebration of the Eucharist. The Divine Liturgy is not celebrated on weekdays during the preparatory season of Great Lent. Communion is consecrated on Sundays and distributed during the week at the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts. Services, especially the Divine Liturgy, can only be performed once a day on any particular altar.

The Serbian Orthodox Church is characterized by monotheistic Trinitarianism, a belief in the Incarnation of the Logos (Son of God), a balancing of cataphatic theology with apophatic theology, a hermeneutic defined by Sacred Tradition, a concrete ecclesiology, a robust theology of the person, and a therapeutic soteriology.

A key part of the Serbian Orthodox religion is the Slava, a celebration of the Clan Patron Saint, placed into Serb Orthodox religious canon by the first Serb archbishop Saint Sava.

Inter-Christian relations

The Serbian Orthodox Church is in full communion with the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople (which holds a special place of honour within Orthodoxy and serves as the seat for the Ecumenical Patriarch, who enjoys the status of first-among-equals) and all of the autocephalous Eastern Orthodox church bodies. It has been a member of the World Council of Churches since 1965,[33] and of the Conference of European Churches. However, the church is currently in conflict with the non-canonical Macedonian Orthodox Church and the Montenegrin Orthodox Church.

Gračanica Monastery, Kosovo
An example of the Serbo-Byzantine style in the Gračanica monastery (World Heritage Site).



Radoslav gospel - Saint John (fragment)
"A Portrait of the Evangelist", a miniature from the Radoslav Gospel (1429).

Serbian medieval churches were built in the Byzantine spirit. The Raška style refers to the Serbian architecture from the 12th to the end of the 14th century (Studenica, Hilandar, Žiča). The Vardal style, which is the typical one, was developed in the late 13th century combining Byzantine and Serbian influences to form a new architectural style (Gračanica, Patriarchal Monastery of Peć). By the time of the Serbian Empire, the Serbian state had enlarged itself over Macedonia, Epirus and Thessaly all the way to the Aegean Sea, which resulted in stronger influences from Byzantine art tradition. The Morava style refers to the period of the fall of Serbia under the Ottoman Empire, from 1371 to 1459 (Ravanica, Ljubostinja, Kalenić, Resava).

During the 17th century many of the Serbian Orthodox churches that were built in Belgrade took all the characteristics of baroque churches built in the Habsburg-occupied regions where Serbs lived. The churches usually had a bell tower, and a single nave building with the iconostasis inside the church covered with Renaissance-style paintings. These churches can be found in Belgrade and Vojvodina, which were occupied by the Austrian Empire from 1717 to 1739, and on the border with Austrian (later Austria-Hungary) across the Sava and Danube rivers from 1804 when Serbian statehood was re-established.


Icons are replete with symbolism meant to convey far more meaning than simply the identity of the person depicted, and it is for this reason that Orthodox iconography has become an exacting science of copying older icons rather than an opportunity for artistic expression. The personal, idiosyncratic and creative traditions of Western European religious art are largely lacking in Orthodox iconography before the 17th century, when Russian and Serbian icon painting was influenced by religious paintings and engravings from Europe.

Large icons can be found adorning the walls of churches and often cover the inside structure completely. Orthodox homes often likewise have icons hanging on the wall, usually together on an eastern facing wall, and in a central location where the family can pray together.


Flag of the Serbian Orthodox Church
Flag of the Serbian Orthodox Church

The Serbian tricolour with a Serbian cross is used as the official flag of the Serbian Orthodox Church.[34]

A number of other unofficial variant flags, some with variations of the cross, coat of arms, or both, exist.

See also


  1. ^ Archived February 8, 2013, at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ Johnston & Sampson 1995, p. 330.
  3. ^ Fine 1991, p. 116.
  4. ^ Treadgold 1997, p. 354–355.
  5. ^ Живковић 2006, p. 23.
  6. ^ Живковић 2006, p. 15.
  7. ^ Живковић 2002, pp. 207–209.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Vlasto 1970, p. 208.
  9. ^ Moravcsik 1967.
  10. ^ SANU (1995). Glas. 377–381. SANU. p. 37.
  11. ^ Fine 1991, p. 141.
  12. ^ Fine 1991, pp. 141–142.
  13. ^ Vlasto 1970, p. 209.
  14. ^ Jagić 1883.
  15. ^ Vlasto 1970, p. 218.
  16. ^ a b c d e f g Radić 2010.
  17. ^ Ferrari, Durham & Sewell 2003, p. 295.
  18. ^ Vlasto 1970, pp. 222, 233.
  19. ^ a b Vásáry 2005, p. 100-101.
  20. ^ Pavlowitch 2002, p. 11.
  21. ^ Ljubinković 1975, p. VIII.
  22. ^ Fine 1994, pp. 309–310.
  23. ^ Daskalov & Marinov 2013, p. 29.
  24. ^ Ćirković 2004, p. 192-193.
  25. ^ Kiminas 2009, p. 20-21.
  26. ^ Ćirković 2004, p. 231.
  27. ^ Ćirković 2004, p. 244.
  28. ^ Vuković 1998.
  29. ^ Branka Pantic; Arsic Aleksandar; Miroslav Ivkovic; Milojkovic Jelena. "Republicki zavod za statistiku Srbije". Retrieved 5 March 2015.
  30. ^ Constitution of the Serbian Orthodox Church
  31. ^ See: List of Eparchies of the Serbian Orthodox Church
  32. ^ Official SPC site: Eparchies Links (in Serbian)
  33. ^ Николић 2011, p. 50.
  34. ^ Пржић 1939, p. 21.


External links

Church of St. George, Lukovo

The Church of St. George, also known as the Lukovo Church, is a Serbian Orthodox church in the village of Lukovo, southern Serbia. It was built during the reign of king Milutin (1282-1321) near mines of lead, copper and gold. It was damaged in the end of the 14th century and reconstructed in 1871, destroyed again in 1871 and rebuilt 1895. It is located on Nenad's Stone (a hill 975 m above sea level) at the eastern slopes of Kopaonik. According to legend, Saint Sava raised a wooden cross on Nenad's Stone and declared it holy.

Church of the Holy Archangels Michael and Gabriel, Sarajevo

The Church of the Holy Archangels Michael and Gabriel (Serbian: црква св. Арханђела Михаила и Гаврила - crkva sv. Arhanđela Mihaila i Gavrila), also known as the Old Orthodox Church, is a Serbian Orthodox church in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina. It was first mentioned in Ottoman sources dating to 1539. The Church was, however, built on older foundations).

Church of the Holy Prince Lazar, Birmingham

The Church of the Holy Prince Lazar, also known as Lazarica Church, is a Serbian Orthodox church located at Cob Lane in Bournville, Birmingham, England, and was built for political refugees from Yugoslavia after World War II, with the support of the exiled Prince Tomislav of Yugoslavia.Serbs have been associated with Bournville since Dame Elizabeth Cadbury sponsored thirteen Serbian refugee children of World War I.

Built in traditional 14th-century Byzantine form by Yugoslavian architect Dr Dragomir Tadic and Bournville Village Trust, it is a replica of a church in Serbia using stone from the same quarries. Completed in 1968, it is of brick and stone with three sets of bronze doors and a candelabrum from Serbia. It has no seats, which is the usual thing for traditional Orthodox churches. Moreover, the interior has a full scheme of traditional Byzantine decoration. The dome contains the image of Christ Pantocrator, and the hemi-dome of the apse contains that of the Virgin Mary. At the bottom of the walls are the warrior saints, above these are patriarchs and priestly saints, and at the top are the apostles and scenes from the twelve major Christian feasts. Not only have these murals been executed in a perfect Byzantine style, but they are painted fresco, meaning that the paint was applied meticulously to wet walls.

The priest serving in the church today is Nenad Popovic.

The cultural centre is a Grade C locally listed building.

Church of the Holy Transfiguration, Sarajevo

The Church of the Holy Transfiguration (Serbian: Црква Светог Преображења / Crkva Svetog Preobraženja) is a Serbian Orthodox church in Novo Sarajevo, Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Originally planned for Split in Croatia, it was built in 1940 by Aleksandar Deroko and consecrated by Serbian Patriarch Gavrilo V. It was the place of worship for 50,000 adherents in the region. It is the only Orthodox church in Novo Sarajevo.

During the Yugoslav Wars, the Church was heavily damaged, and after the war it was renovated. Reworking of frescoes began in 2004.

Eparchy of Mileševa

Eparchy of Mileševa is the one of eparchies of the Serbian Orthodox Church, and is seated in Prijepolje, in the Mileševa monastery. Since 2015, the administrator of eparchy is Joanikije Mićović, bishop of Budimlja and Nikšić.

Eparchy of Srem

The Eparchy of Srem (Serbian: Сремска епархија or Sremska eparhija) is an eparchy (diocese) of the Serbian Orthodox Church in the Syrmia (Srem) region, Serbia. Most of the eparchy is in the autonomous province of Vojvodina, and it also includes a small south-eastern part of Syrmia within the city limits of Belgrade, as well as some West Syrmian parishes in the border region of Croatia. The seat of the eparchy is at Sremski Karlovci. Since 1986, the diocesan bishop is Vasilije Vadić.

List of eparchies of the Serbian Orthodox Church

This is the list of eparchies (dioceses) of the Serbian Orthodox Church, based on the Article No. 14 of the Constitution of Serbian Orthodox Church and subsequent decisions of the Holy assembly of SOC (see: Official text of the Constitution of Serbian Orthodox Church, in English language).

List of heads of the Serbian Orthodox Church

This article lists the heads of the Serbian Orthodox Church, since the establishment of the church as an autocephalous Archbishopric in 1219 to today's Patriarchate. The list includes all the Archbishops and Patriarchs that led the Serbian Orthodox Church under the Serbian Archbishopric and Serbian Patriarchate of Peć. Today, the church is unified under a Patriarch who is officially styled as Archbishop of Peć, Metropolitan of Belgrade and Karlovci, and Serbian Patriarch. Patriarch Irinej acceded to this position on 23 January 2010.

The autocephalous Serbian Archbishopric was founded in 1219 by Sava, under the authority of the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople. In 1346, when Stefan Dušan proclaimed himself Emperor, he also elevated the Archiepiscopal see of Peć to the rank of a patriarchate, creating the Serbian Patriarchate of Peć. This was only recognized by the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople in 1375.

After the Ottoman conquest of the Serbian Despotate in 1459, the Patriarchate gradually lost its importance. At times the church was forced by the Ottoman government to install Greeks in the office. From 1766 to 1920 the patriarchate was abolished and all ecclesiastical jurisdiction was given to the Patriarch of Constantinople. A metropolitan see was maintained in Belgrade from 1766 afterwards. There were also independent Serbian Orthodox sees based in Karlovci and in Montenegro.

In 1920, the church was reunified and the Patriarchy was reestablished with the see moving to Belgrade, but retaining the lineage of the throne of Saint Sava in Peć. The Patriarch holds ecclesiastical authority over the Orthodox Church in the territory of the former Yugoslavia, and also over the Serbian Orthodox diaspora in Western Europe, Australia, North America, and South America.


The Odžaklija church (Serbian: Оџаклија, Chimney church also known as the Old church, Стара црква) is an early 19th-century Serbian Orthodox church located in Leskovac, Serbia.

It was built during the First Serbian Uprising of the Serbian revolution. The Ottoman Empire forbade the locals to build a church, so the people announced the building of a home to the town priest, adding a nonfunctioning chimney to fool the Turkish lords.

Saint Sava Serbian Orthodox Church, Stockholm

The Saint Sava Serbian Orthodox Church (Swedish: Sankt Sava serbisk-ortodoxa kyrka; Serbian: Црква светог Саве, Crkva svetog Save) is a church building in Enskede gård in Stockholm, Sweden. It was taken into use in 1991 but not officially inaugurated until 5 October 2014. It is the cathedral church of the Serbian Orthodox Eparchy of Britain and Scandinavia.

Saint Sava Serbian Orthodox Church (Jackson, California)

Saint Sava Serbian Orthodox Church (Serbian: Црква светог Саве; Crkva svetog Save) is a Serbian Orthodox church in Jackson, California. Built in 1894, the church was the first Serbian Orthodox church in America. Amador County had a large Serbian-American population in the late 1800s due to the California Gold Rush, and the county's Serbs established the St. Sava Church Organization of Amador County in 1886–87; the organization was responsible for purchasing land for and building the church. The church's original design had an Eastern Orthodox influence, complete with an onion dome; while the dome was later replaced by a bell tower, the church's stained glass windows and use of icons still give it a distinctive Eastern Orthodox character. The church has been used for Serbian-American religious and social activities since its opening and is now part of the Serbian Orthodox Eparchy of Western America.The church was added to the National Register of Historic Places on March 6, 1986.

Serbian Orthodox Eparchy of Britain and Scandinavia

The Serbian Orthodox Eparchy of Britain and Scandinavia or Serbian Orthodox Diocese of Britain and Scandinavia (Serbian: Српска православна епархија британско-скандинавска) is a Serbian Orthodox Church diocese in Western Europe. Its headquarters are in Enskede gård, Stockholm, Sweden. It operates churches in Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, and the United Kingdom. Missionary parishes in the Republic of Ireland and Malta have priests from England.

Serbian Orthodox Eparchy of Canada

The Serbian Orthodox Diocese of Canada (Serbian: Српска православна епархија канадска, Srpska pravoslavna eparhija kanadska) is a Serbian Orthodox Church diocese located in Canada. Its headquarters are in Campbellville, Milton, Ontario. Its current primate is Bishop Mitrophan (Kodić) of Canada. The Holy Transfiguration Serbian Orthodox Monastery is located on the grounds of the diocese.

Serbian Orthodox Eparchy of Düsseldorf and all of Germany

The Serbian Orthodox Eparchy of Düsseldorf and all of Germany (Serbian: Српска православна епархија Диселдорфска и све Немачке, German: Serbische Orthodoxe Diözese von Düsseldorf und ganz Deutschland), officially renamed in 2018, and formerly known as Serbian Orthodox Eparchy of Central Europe (Serbian: Српска православна епархија средњоевропска, German: Serbische Orthodoxe Diözese für Mitteleuropa), is a Serbian Orthodox Church diocese in Germany. It has its headquarters in Düsseldorf, Germany.

Serbian Orthodox Eparchy of Western Europe

The Serbian Orthodox Eparchy of Western Europe (Serbian: Српска православна епархија западноевропска / Srpska pravoslavna eparhija zapadnoevropska, French: Diocèse d'Europe occidentale) is a Serbian Orthodox Church diocese in Western Europe. It has its headquarters in the 18th arrondissement of Paris. The church has parishes in Belgium, France, the Netherlands, and Spain. It also has a missionary parish in Portugal. Since 1997, diocesan bishop is Luka Kovačević.

Sts. Constantine and Helen Serbian Orthodox Church

The Saints Constantine and Helen Serbian Orthodox Church is a Serbian Orthodox church located in Galveston, Texas, United States. It is a parish of the Serbian Orthodox Diocese of New Gracanica - Midwestern America.

Sts. Cyril and Methodius Church (Ljubljana)

Sts. Cyril and Methodius Church (Serbian: Храм светих Кирила и Методија/Hram svetih Kirila i Metodija, Slovene: Cerkev sv. Cirila in Metoda), commonly known as the Orthodox Church (Slovene: Pravoslavna cerkev, Serbian: Pravoslavna crkva), is an Eastern Orthodox church building located in Trubar Park (Slovene: Trubarjev park), between Bleiweis Street (Bleiweisova cesta) and Prešeren Street (Prešernova cesta), north of the Museum of Modern Art and west of the National Gallery of Slovenia. It belongs to the Metropolitanate of Zagreb and Ljubljana of the Serbian Orthodox Church.

The church has five domes with golden crosses at their top. It was built from 1932 to 1936 by Ivan Bricelj based on plans by the architect Momir Korunović. The frescoes in the interior were painted by the Serbian painters Dragomir Jašović, Miša Mladenović, and Danica Mladenovič from 1986 until 1997. The iconostasis is work of a prominent woodcarver workshop from Debar (Macedonia) and has been decorated with icons by the Slovene painter Mirko Šubic, who created them in 1940.The foundation was blessed by Serbian Patriarch Varnava in 1932. The church was blessed on 23 October 2005 by the Serbian Patriarch Pavle in the presence of President Janez Drnovšek and Ljubljana's Roman Catholic metropolite Alojz Uran. This is also the date of official opening of the church. At the blessing they installed the relics of Saint Athanasius, which were brought from the Vatican by Tomáš Špidlík and symbolised the integration of one Christian unity (Orthodox and Catholic). In 2009, the church was visited by Serbian President Boris Tadić. Since 10 April 2010, the church has the status of a cultural monument of local significance.

Vlah Church

The Vlah Church (Serbian: Влашка Црква) is a Serbian Orthodox church built in 1450 in the village, Donji Kraj (on Cetinje field), Zeta, Serbian Despotate (modern day Montenegro).

Štava Church

The Church of St. Mina or Štava church is a 17th-century Serbian Orthodox Church situated in the village of Štava, 5,5 km south from Lukovska Banja, Toplica District, Serbia. It was built between 1614-1647.

Serbian Orthodox Church
Autocephalous churches
Autonomous churches
Apostolic sees
(five ancient sees
ordered by the
Council of Ephesus
in 431)

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