As the number of Orthodox Christians in Sarajevo increased, there was a need for the construction of a new church, as the old Orthodox Church became inadequate. The construction of the new church in the center of Sarajevo lasted about 11 years, and it was finally completed in 1874, before the departure of the Ottomans.
To raise this church, dedicated to the birth of Mary, the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire Abdul Aziz and Serbian Prince Mihailo Obrenovic personally gave 500 dukes each. The building is made of stone, and the construction would be temporarily suspended so the material could sink into the ground because of the size of the object.
The church was made as a three-necked basilica with five domes and inscribed with a cross, while the church tower was made in the Baroque style with an imposing height, then the highest in the city. As it was larger than the minaret of the Gazi Husrev Bey’s mosque, the Ottoman authorities allowed it, but at the same time they gave the money to increase the minaret of the Mosque slightly so it would be the highest again.
The original color of the church facade was white, and the church visually dominated the entire space. It is 37 metrs long and 22.5 meters wide. The middle dome is 34 meters high and the belfry 45 meters. Until today it has remained one of the largest Orthodox churches in the Balkans. It is also interesting to see that there are three more monuments of different monotheistic religions in the circle of about 100 meters: the Ferhadija mosque, the Jewish synagogue and the Catholic Cathedral of the Heart of Jesus. Thus, today it forms an integral part of Sarajevo’s multicultural and multireligious composition.
Women donated ducats and necklaces to build the church
Neimar Andria Damjanovic – Zografski, a Macedonian native, who did not await for its completion, was in charge of the construction of this project. In one of the pauses in construction he went home, got sick, and died. The work was continued and completed by his students. They would remember that Andria applied to the contest without an architectural plan, but told the municipal councilors: “There is no plan, but look at the churches in Nis and Smederevo. Such, and even more beautiful, I will build in Sarajevo.” This comment left them astounded and made the decision to etrust the construction to him earier.
The church cost 38,000 ducats and gold-plated iconostasis were made by masters from Russia. It was covered with lead, and later it was removed by the Austro-Hungarians for the purposes of the First World War, and in its place they put a sheet of metal. Then they took a hard lead bell, weighing about 33 tons. It is interesting that the donations for the construction of this church were collected throughout the Orthodox world, and there were sufficient funds to place a golden cross on the tower of the church.
The extent to which the construction of this church was important to Orthodox Christians in Sarajevo, Bosnia and the whole region, is best shown by the strong contributions that they were raising. Descriptions of the family Despic, who was the pioneer of theater art in Sarajevo, are highlighted. Even women of wealthy merchants took away ducats from necklaces and donated them for the cross and apples at the belfry. The performance of Manojlo Jeftanovic was also mentioned, who in one of the choirs of citizens said that he would personally donate one-third of what all other merchants together collect for the lead cover of the church. Thus, Manojlo donated as many as 2,000 ducats, twice as much as the Ottoman sultan and the Russian emperor together.
The Cathedral is today under the national protection of Bosnia and Herzegovina. For years, it has changed its look, especially the color and yard along with the fence. The main entrance was from the park to the tower, and along the church itself was built a large complex of buildings where the Dabrobosan metropolis and other elements of the church complex including the Orthodox theology were located.
(Source: Mufid Garibija, nap.ba / photo: sarajevo.travel)