The Church of Saint Sava (Serbian: Храм светог Саве/Hram svetog Save) is a Serbian Orthodox church located on the Vračar plateau in Belgrade. It is one of the largest Orthodox churches in the world and ranks amongst the ten largest church buildings in the world. The church is dedicated to Saint Sava, the founder of the Serbian Orthodox Church and an important figure in medieval Serbia. It is built on the Vračar plateau, on the location where his remains were burned in 1595 by Ottoman Grand Vizier Sinan Pasha.
From its location, it dominates Belgrade’s cityscape, and is perhaps the most monumental building in the city. The building of the church structure is being financed exclusively by donations. The parish home is nearby, as will be the planned patriarchal building.
In 1594, Serbs rose up against Ottoman rule in Banat, during the Long War (1591–1606) which was fought at the Austrian-Ottoman border in the Balkans. The Serbian patriarchate and rebels had established relations with foreign states, and had in a short time captured several towns, including Vršac, Bečkerek, Lipova, Titel and Bečej, though the uprising was quickly suppressed. The rebels had, in the character of a holy war, carried war flags with the icon of Saint Sava. The war banners had been consecrated by Patriarch John I Kantul, whom the Ottoman government later had hanged in Istanbul.
Ottoman Grand Vizier Sinan Pasha ordered that the sarcophagus and relics of Saint Sava located in the Mileševa monastery be brought by military convoy to Belgrade.
Along the way, the Ottoman convoy had people killed in their path so that the rebels in the woods would hear of it. The relics were publicly incinerated by the Ottomans on a pyre on the Vračar plateau, and the ashes scattered, on April 27, 1595.
The church is centrally planned, having the form of a Greek Cross. It has a large central dome supported on four pendentives and buttressed on each side by a lower semi-dome over an apse. Beneath each semi-dome is a gallery supported on an arcade.
The dome is 70 m (230 ft) high, while the main gold plated cross is another 12 m (39 ft) high, which gives a total of 82 m (269 ft) to the height Cathedral of Saint Sava. The peak is 134 m (440 ft) above the sea level (64 m (210 ft) above the Sava river); therefore the church holds a dominant position in Belgrade’s cityscape and is visible from all approaches to the city.
The church is 91 m (299 ft) long from east to west, and 81 m (266 ft) from north to south. It is 70 m (230 ft) tall, with the main gold-plated cross extending for 12 m (39 ft) more. Its domes have 18 more gold-plated crosses of various sizes, while the bell towers have 49 bells of the Austrian Bell Foundry Grassmayr.
It has a surface area of 3,500 m2 (37,674 sq ft) on the ground floor, with three galleries of 1,500 m2 (16,146 sq ft) on the first level, and a 120 m2 (1,292 sq ft) gallery on the second level. The Cathedral can receive 10,000 faithful at any one time. The choir gallery seats 800 singers. The basement contains a crypt, the treasury of Saint Sava, and the grave church of Saint Lazar the Hieromartyr, with a total surface of 1,800 m2 (19,375 sq ft) .
The facade is in white marble and granite and, when finished, the inner decorations will be of mosaics. The central dome will contain a mosaic of Christ Pantocrator. To give a sense of the monumental scale, the eyes will each be about 4 meters wide.