BELGRADE, January 17. /TASS/. A crowd of about 150,000 people gathered outside the Church of St. Sava in Belgrade on Thursday to greet the presidents of Russia and Serbia, Vladimir Putin and Aleksandar Vucic.
Putin has also been invited to visit the consecration of the church, being built with Russia’s financial assistance. According to Vucic, the ceremony is expected to take place in September or October.
During the visit, the Russian president announced that additional funds were allocated for the purpose.
"The decision has been made. It will take several days to finalize documents [for] slightly more than $5 million," he said.
The presidents also met with renowned Russian artist Nikolai Mukhin, who leads the art group decorating the church’s interior.
Church of St. Sava
The monumental building, which spans to the area of 7,570 square meters and reaches up to 65 meters in height, is currently being built in Belgrade on the Vracar plateau, where the remains of Serbia’s national hero St. Sava were burned in by Ottoman forces in the late 16th century. According to legends, first plans for the church’s construction were voiced as early as in 1954, but the project was de-facto launched in 1894.
However, finalizing and approval of the project took many years, and construction works began only in 1935. The construction was halted during the World War II to be resumed only in May 1986. The church, which is yet to be finished, opened its doors in 2004.
Since 2015, Russia’s Federal Agency for the Commonwealth of Independent States, Compatriots Living Abroad and International Humanitarian Cooperation (Rossotrudnichestvo) has been the main coordinator of decorative works at the church.
The project is financed through non-budget funds, allocated by Russian companies doing business in Serbia. For example, Gazprom Neft financed installing the main dome’s mosaic, measuring 1,230 square meters. It was created by 70 artists from Russia and Serbia.
As a sign of gratitude for the Russian side’s support, Vucic invited his Russian counterpart to the official opening ceremony, scheduled to take place in 2019 and to coincide with the 800th anniversary of the Serbian Orthodox Church’s autocephaly. The Serbian president expects the church to become a symbol of Russian-Serbian friendship and brotherhood.