THE CATHEDRAL OF THE NATIVITY OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY (1834)


WOODEN CHURCH WAS BUILT

WOODEN CHURCH WAS BUILT

A small wooden church was built next to the elm tree, used previously as zapis - sacred tree for major celebrations. Until the church was built, the main monastery church at Grlište was used by the clergy for all major events.

1830
THE CHURCH WAS BUILT

THE CHURCH WAS BUILT

On an initiative by Prince Miloš, the Timok Episcopacy was founded and the works on the new church begun in April. It was finished within six months, the end of October, and was dedicated to the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Merry.

1834
EPISCOPACY MOVED TO NEGOTIN

EPISCOPACY MOVED TO NEGOTIN

Newly appointed bishop Dositej had decided to move his residency and the seat of the episcopacy to Negotin due to low church attendance by the locals.

1839
THE INITIAL ICONS WERE PAINTED

THE INITIAL ICONS WERE PAINTED

The icons were initially painted by Georgije Bakalović of Karlovac.

1840
THE ICONS WERE BURNED

THE ICONS WERE BURNED

The icons were destroyed in Serbian-Turkish War.

1876
THE NEW ICONS WERE PAINTED

THE NEW ICONS WERE PAINTED

The new icons were painted by Nikola Marković and Stevan Todorović.

1880
EPISCOPACY RETURNED TO ZAJEČAR

EPISCOPACY RETURNED TO ZAJEČAR

The episcopacy was returned to Zaječar

1890
NEW NARTEX BUILT WITH CHOIR

NEW NARTEX BUILT WITH CHOIR

A new narthex was built, as well as the choir and bell tower with five bells made in 1899 in Kragujevac (of which one was the gift by the businessman Jota Pašić, and the remaining four by the Municipality of Zaječar).

1898
FRESCOES PAINTED

FRESCOES PAINTED

The images from the Life of Christ were painted on walls by Mihajlo Vrbica, a professor at Zaječar Gymnasium.

1906
IMAGES OF SAINTS WERE PAINTED

IMAGES OF SAINTS WERE PAINTED

The images of saints were painted by a Belgrade professional painter Vladimir Predojević between two world wars.

1920
NEW FRESCOES PAINTED

NEW FRESCOES PAINTED

Frescoes were restored and repainted by the Ukrainian masters.

1990
THE CHURCH BOUGHT NEW BELLS

THE CHURCH BOUGHT NEW BELLS

In first decade of the 21st century the church got a new fence, new bells, the new entrance was built, and the park around the church was renovated.

2000
THE CHURCH SHOP WAS BUILT

THE CHURCH SHOP WAS BUILT

The church shop built with the support of Zaječar Municipality.

2019

At the beginning of the 19th century there were no religious buildings in Zaječar. Instead, at the land between the present-day cathedral and primary school “Ljuba Nešić” there was a water well with an old elm tree (zapis – sacred tree) which had a carved in cross on its western side. Around it, the citizens would gather for all major church holidays. Stojan Simić writes in his memoirs that around this tree, “the inscribed elm, people created a structure made of wooden beams covered by carpets, leaving small “doors” at the western side for the people to enter for a confession”. In 1830 a small wooden church was made next to the elm tree, used for a brief period of time for the major celebrations, and which was replaced by a “real” building a few years later. That same year, the schooling of children begun as well. Namely, at the initiative of duke Sima Nikolić, the first primary school in Zaječar has been opened and it was located in the “grandpa-Jovan’s yard” (today’s church yard). 

Due to its position next to the state border, Timok Episcopacy was constantly hit by war adversities that reached Serbia from the east. In almost all wars, first led against the Turks and later against the Bulgarians, all churches and church items were destroyed, while the priests were killed or expelled. Therefore, it was not possible or advisable to build large and expensive church buildings in Timok Episcopacy. Apart from the old monasteries and church ruins, the oldest church buildings in this region originate from the 18th century. They are mostly small in size, erected on hidden places, from weak building materials, clay and wood. The lack of churches was substituted by the people who practiced rituals at sacred places, on the “inscribed” land, trees or buildings.

Since Zaječar didn’t have a church until 1830, the main monastery church at Grlište was used for all major events. After the liberation from the Ottomans, on an initiative by Prince Miloš, the Timok Episcopacy was founded and the works on the new church begun in April 1834. It was finished within six months, thanks to the free work by the surrounding villagers. After it was completed, Prince Miloš personally sent precise instructions how and where the text of his message should be inscribed. This inscription was lost during some of the later renovations. The church was finished at the end of October 1834 and it was dedicated to the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Merry. The main architect still remains unknown.

The letter of Prince Miloš Obrenović addressed to Mr. Stefan Stojanović, the administrative leader of the region located in Negotin, that reads, “Regarding the erection of the churches in Mihailovac and Zaechar, do your best to start the works as soon as possible.” In Požarevac, March 31, 1834. The collection of Historical Archives “Timok Region” Zaječar
The text of the inscription written by Prince Miloš and which used to be placed on the building, but was lost in the meantime. The collection of Historical Archives “Timok Region” Zaječar

The icons were made by Georgije Bakalović of Karlovac in 1840 but were unfortunately burned during a Serbian-Turkish War in 1876. The destroyed icons were replaced by the new ones in 1880, painted by Nikola Marković and his student and collaborator Stevan Todorović

In 1839 the newly appointed bishop Dositej had decided to move his residency and the seat of the episcopacy to Negotin due to low church attendance by the locals. The bishop had had enough of an empty church, and the seat of the episcopacy was returned to Zaječar only half a century later, in 1890.

One of the earliest photographs of the church. The collection of the Historical Archives "Timok Region" Zaječar

In 1898 a new narthex was built, as well as the choir and bell tower with five bells made in 1899 in Kragujevac (of which one was the gift by the businessman Jota Pašić, and the remaining four by the Municipality of Zaječar). Most likely, the inscription by Prince Miloš has been removed during those works and replaced by the one still in place. Several years later, the church walls were decorated: in 1906 the images from the Life of Christ were painted by Mihajlo Vrbica, a professor at Zaječar Gymnasium, while the images of saints were painted by a Belgrade professional painter Vladimir Predojević between two world wars. In early 1990s those paintings were restored and repainted by the Ukrainian masters

During the first decade of the 21st century the church got a new fence, new bells, the new entrance was built, and the park around the church was renovated. In 2019 the church shop opened with the support of Zaječar Municipality. Around the church, several graves are still to be found with preserved inscriptions. To the west, across the main entrance to the church, the seat of the Timok Bishop is located today.

SOURCES: 

Spomenica Timočke eparhije 1834-1934. Timočka eparhija, Zaječar, 1934.

Suzana Antić, Jelica Ilić, Nina Pogarčić: Zaječar čudesna priča – Iz života u Zaječaru 1466-2006. godine. Narodni muzej, Zaječar, 2013.

dr Miodrag Velojić: Zaječarske javne česme. Zaječar, 2015.

Church Official Web-page: http://eparhija-timocka.org/

The poster announcing the celebrations of hundred years of the founding of the Episcopacy and the erection of the church. The collection of the Historical Archives "Timok Region" Zaječar
Episcop Emilian Piperković with officials. The collection of the Historical Archives "Timok Region" Zaječar
Episcop Emilian Piperković with officials. The collection of the Historical Archives "Timok Region" Zaječar
Church Procession through Zaječar. The collection of the Historical Archives "Timok Region" Zaječar
The photograph from the collection of Historical Archives "Timok Region" Zaječar

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