If you’re visiting Belgrade, you’ve most likely heard of Kalemegdan Park and the Belgrade Fortress.
I mean, surely you’ve heard of the Belgrade Fortress being that it is the most visited tourist attraction in Belgrade next to Skadarlija. Maybe you only ever walked through the outskirts of Kalemegdan Park near the main pedestrian walking street Knez Mihailova without realizing all that existed on the opposite end. For centuries, Belgrade’s population existed only within the fortress walls so what lies there equals the history of Belgrade itself until recent times. Outside of the Belgrade Fortress the city almost gives the impression of being completely new but it is indeed one of the oldest in this part of Europe. The first mention of the city dates back to the 3rd century BC as “Singidunum”.
While I could go on forever discussing the history of Belgrade, from classical antiquity through The Middle Ages to modern times, reveling in all of this history is vividly detailed in other places. The hidden gem for me was to be discovered inside the Ružica Church.
As I was hiking up towards the top of the Belgrade Fortress I encountered Ružica (Little Rose) Church but was unsure if I was allowed to enter. I went to open the door to find that it was unlocked so I wandered inside to be instantly enamored by the detail of it’s unique interior. The chandeliers aren’t even what I noticed first but once I got closer I had to do a double take and ask myself, ” are those bullet casings”? Yes. Those are bullet casings. And Swords. And Cannon parts.
Considering how the church plays into Serbia’s turbulent history it actually seems fitting. Not knowing the history of these chandeliers or the church initially I wondered how exactly they fit into everything. The invading Ottoman Turks demolished the church in 1521, it was used as a gunpowder magazine in the 18th century, and then was converted into a military church between 1867 and 1869. Around 50 years later it would be heavily damaged during WWI (1914) and redesigned by Russian Architect Nikolay Krasnov in 1925.
So from what point in time and who did these chandeliers come from? Serbian soldiers built them on the front lines of Thessaloniki during WWI. They are a prime example of trench art: decorative items made by soldiers, prisoners of war, or civilians where the manufacture is directly linked to armed conflict or its consequences. The term comes from a World War I French Newspaper which held a competition that awarded prizes for the most creative objects crafted from battlefield debri. However, for as long as there has been large scale war some form of “trench art” has existed.
For me these chandeliers are quite captivating as I see them to symbolize how even in the wartime trenches human ingenuity and creativity can still shine through to create something beautiful from the detritus.
When visiting Belgrade don’t forget to visit Ruzica Church. And when visiting Ruzica Church don’t forget to take a closer look at it’s chandeliers. Google Maps link below:
Address: Belgrade, Serbia