Of course, Oplenac has a monument to Karadorde, who lived from 1768 to 1817. He was the leader of the First Serbian Uprising, and also regarded as the founder of modern Serbia. A big hero, but assassinated by his friend and fellow rebel leader, Prince Milos Obrenovic, who sent Karadorde's head to Istanbul – and founded the Obrenovic dynasty!
The Royal Vineyards is located on the eastern side of Oplenac. It was established by King Petar I, and was extended during the reign of King Aleksandar who had a strong interest in wine production. After World War II, the Royal Vineyards of Oplenac were neglected until the beginning of the 2000s, but now the wine production is going on again.
The visit starts with a guided tour of the vineyard; see the wine cellars and learn about the process of creating the royal wines. There is also a small museum with old equipment used in the production. And of course you can also taste (and buy) the wines... The tour of the vineyard is followed by a wine tasting, giving you the opportunity to try the wines...
The Church of St. George was built between 1910 to 1912, on the orders of King Petar I who decided to build a church and a mausoleum for the Karadorde Dynasty. The tombs of Karadorde and King Peter I (himself) is located inside the church, and the crypt contains the tombs of more than 20 other members (six generations) of the Royal Family.
The white marble church/mausoleum is beautiful on the outside, but inside it is truly stunning! The length is 30 meters, the height is 27 meters, the floor made of multicoloured polished marble, and walls and ceiling decorated with 40 million (!) mosaic tiles in 15,000 shades. The entire area of the mosaic is 3,500 square metres! Absolute amazing...
The Church of St. George was declared an exceptional cultural monument in 1947.
The Church of Holy Mother (or more commonly known as Karadorde's Church) was originally built in 1811. A couple of years later, it was destroyed by the Turks, but has been rebuilt since.
The church has a single nave, and is laid out in the shape of a cross. The rustic bell-tower is made of stone, and was also used as a defensive tower during the war against the Ottoman Empire. The church is painted white inside, quite plain, but has a beautiful wood carved altarpiece. Some of the originally frescos were painted by Petar Nikolajevic Moler, who later became President of the Government of Serbia from 1815 to 1816, but I'm not sure if they survived the fire in 1813?
The historical two floors stone building known as Karadjordje's barracks is located near the entrance to Karadjordjev grad – Karadjordje's town. It was built during the mid 19th century by Karadjordje’s son Knez Aleksandar – Alexander Karadjordjevic, Prince of Serbia, probably on the foundations of an older building – the old barracks from the late 18th or the first decade of the 19th century. Ground floor of the barracks used to be a stable, while the on the upper floor were dormitories and the other rooms for soldiers.
Since the late 19th century the building had been used as workshop for repairing cars, bus station, restaurant. Nowadays the building is cultural heritage under the state protection and it is used for different cultural events.
Inside the walls of Karadjordjev grad, dominating the nicely landscaped surrounding with historical buildings – the Church of Holy Mother of God, the residence and the old school – stands the bronze Monument of Karadjordje. This sculpture, erected in 1938 is the artwork of Petar Pallavicini, Croatian sculptor of Italian origin, born on the island of Korcula in Dalmatia. He was educated in Prague, and spent the most of his life in Belgrade, working as the Professor of Sculpture at the Academy of Fine Arts.
[…] The primary idea of King Petar I Karadjordjevic, concerning the interior decoration of the Church of Saint George, was to carve into the walls the names of all soldiers and officers who lost their lives in the Balkan Wars of 1912 and 1913. But, after WWI in which Serbia had about 1,300,000 perished and lost over 30% of the population, this idea had to be abandoned.
The decision was made to decorate the interior of the temple with reproductions of some of the greatest Serbian medieval paintings, executed, unlike the fresco technique of originals, in mosaic technique. So, "copies from 60 Serbian medieval churches and monasteries had been brought to the Church of Saint George. The entire mosaic has 725 painted compositions (513 in the temple and 212 in the crypt), on which there are 1500 figures. The entire area of the mosaic is about 3,500 square meters, with circa 40,000,000 various coloured pieces of nearly 15,000 different varieties of colour." Interior mosaics were made in Germany, by Puhl & Wagner, the leading mosaic glass company of the time.
Probably the most impressive is the mosaic of Christ Pantocrator, copy of the fresco from Church of Holy Virgin of Gracanica monastery. The diameter of this dome painting is 9 m, the finger of Christ is 1.5 m and the nose is 1.2 m.
Another very interesting composition stands in the southern apse. It is the Gallery of the Serbian Medieval Rulers with portraits of the thirteen Serbian rulers.
Another Serbian ruler is depicted in the church – King Petar I Karadjordjevic led by Saint George presenting the model of the Church of Saint George to the Virgin with baby Christ. It is the only original composition in the church executed according to the drawing of famous Serbian artist Paja Jovanovic. The only other original composition, also created by Paja Jovanovic, decorates the church exterior – it is above the portal of the church. This semi-circular mosaic icon depicting Saint George Killing the Dragon was made in Venice. Saint George on this painting indubitably resembling Karadjordje and having symbols of Serbia on his shield – symbolizes the victory of the Serbian people over its enemies.
Iconostasis paintings were created between 1927 and 1932 by five artists: Nikola Meyendorf, Vladimir Predojevic (or Predajevic), Ivan Diki, Victor Sevtsov and Boris Obraztsov.
Very noticeable is huge, massive bronze chandelier, measuring 9 m in diameter and weighing 1500 kg. It hangs underneath the main dome. In the chandelier is a Crown set upside-down, symbolising the lost Serbian Empire in Kosovo battle in 1389. Icons for the chandelier were painted by Victor Sevtsov.
Church of Saint George is visible from the distance of more than 10 km from Topola. Today it is the place of worship, part of Topola museum complex and Mausoleum of Karadjordjevic Royal Family.
To be continued in "Crkva Svetog Djordja – the Royal Mausoleum"…
Crkva Presvete Bogorodice – the Church of Holy Mother of God, mostly known as Karadjordjeva crkva – Karadjordje's Church, is endowment of Karadjordje Petrovic, leader of the First Serbian Uprising. This modest single nave church was erected in 1811 and the works of decorating it were completed in 1813. The fresco paintings in the church were executed by Petar Nikolajevic Moler, trained painter, military commander and the president of Serbian Government during 1815 and 1816. Iconostasis was the artwork of Jeremija Mihailovic.
Almost immediately after the completion, in 1813, the church was set on fire by Turks. The iconostasis was destroyed. The frescoes were severely damaged, and just a fragments remained to the present days. The church was restored just a year later, in 1814, and then again, in 1840s, by Karadjordje's son Aleksandar Karadjordjevic, after being elected as the Prince of Serbia in 1842. The new iconostasis, artwork of Dimitrije Avramovic was set, but after WWI it was moved to the church in nearby village of Gornja Tresnjevica, and replaced with iconostasis carved by Debar woodcarving masters, brothers Lazar and Nestor Aleksijevic, and Nestor's son Miha. This marvelous artwork is one of the last masterpieces of Debar famous woodcarving school. It is very well preserved and it can be seen in the church. There is one unusual detail about the iconostasis and the additional reason to examine it with special care – the artists "signed" it in the very special way – they had carved tiny self portraits on the left side of iconostasis, presenting themselves with a carving tools.
Inside the church, on right side, was Karadjordje's burial place. After being moved from Radovanjski Lug, the site of his beheading, Karadjordje's remains rested in the Church of Holy Mother of God until the 9th of September 1930, when they were transferred to the Church of Saint George, on Oplenac.
Crkva Svetog Djordja – the Church of Staint George is the endowment of King Petar I Karadjordjevic. This beautiful five-domed church covered in white marble from nearby Vencac quarry stands on Oplenac hill, near Topola. In may of 1903, immediately upon the arrival on the throne after coup d'etat in which King Alexander I Obrenovic was assassinated, King Peter I chose the location for dynastic foundation.
A year later, in 1904, the exact spot of the church was determined and measured by geodesy experts so the altar would face east according to Orthodox tradition. In 1907 the cornerstone was laid. On the 1st May 1910 the construction started following the plan of young architect Kosta J. Jovanovic, awarded on the repeated competition. The first competition, on which a plan of Nikola Nestorovic was chosen, was canceled due to King's displeasure and discordance of the plan with his demands for the church.
In the autumn of 1912 the church was generally complete and ready for consecration – the Serbian Archbishop Dimitrije consecrated the church on 23rd of September 1912. But less than three weeks after the consecration the First Balkan War started… It was followed by the Second Balkan War and WWI… The first two produced only a pause in construction and decorating, but during the last one – the church was looted and brutally devastated by troops of Austro-Hungarian Empire.
Three years after the end of WWI King Petar died. He has not lived to see his endowment completed. King Petar's successor King Aleksandar I Karadjordjevic took over its completion. Church bells, cast by Freres Piccard from Annecy le Vieux in France, were acquired and installed in 1921. Based in the slightly altered plans, the church was completed and once again consecrated on the 1st of September 1930, but the decoration works continued for several more years. The crypt was consecrated on the 12th of July 1934. Less than three months after the consecration of the crypt, King Aleksandar I found his final resting place in it – he was assasinated in Marseille, on the 9th of October, and that influenced not only the history of Balkans, but of Europe in general…
To be continued in PART II…
House called Petrova kuca – Petar's house – house of King Petar I Karadjordjevic is modest but beautiful edifice designed by Kosta J. Jovanovic, the very same architect who designed Church of St George. The house had been building between 1910 and 1912, along with the church and it had been supposed to be house for the priest serving in it. But King Petar I liked it so much that he settled in it as soon as it had been finished. He even called it the Royal Palace.
After his death in 1921 the house used as the main administrative building of the Endowment. Since 1935, a year after assassination of King Petar's successor King Aleksandar I, the house become the "Museum of Wreaths and the Relics Placed on the Graves of King Petar I and King Aleksandar I". After the WWII the valuable collection disappeared.
Today the house is the part of Endowment Museum, exhibiting Karadjordjevic memorabilia.
Vinogradareva kuca – Winegrower’s house is located by the north gate of Oplenac park. It was built in 1911 and enlarged and restored many times after that. It was housing building and it owes its name to the winegrower of Karadjordjevic’s vineyards in Topola – Sava Brkic. The house was restored in 1975 and turned into Museum of Yugoslav People's Liberation War with the exhibition Topola in Yugoslav People's Liberation War. Such museum could not exist for a long time.
Today Winegrower’s house is an art gallery. The paintings – legacy of the famous Serbian artist Nikola Graovac (1907 – 2000) who lived in Topola for about 20 years, are exhibited in it.
Oplenac, hill covered with oak forest, overlooks the town of Topola.
"Cutting wood was done without restrictions in the 18th century. This area was surrounded by oak trees, and these tree trunks, all branched and curved, were very suitable to make oplen, wooden parts of ox cars, and hence the name Oplenac. During the First Serbian Uprising against the Ottomans in 1804 initiated by the Supreme Leader Karadjordje, founder of the Karadjordjevic dynasty, this area was used for troop manoeuvres and as defense of the nearby town Topola. The rival Obrenovic dynasty neglected this stronghold of the Karadjordjevic's. Karadjordje's son Prince Alexander, who reigned from 1842 to 1858 replanted his father's vineyards and built a house and another one probably for servants. The rival Obrenovic dynasty again neglected Oplenac and Topola suffered damage. In 1903, Karadjordje's grandson King Peter I started to improve the devastated town of Topola. The King decided to make an Endowment, a place (mausoleum) where members of the Karadjordjevic dynasty lie in eternal peace. […] It became an important historical place in the heart of Serbia. Thousands of tourists and admirers the Karadjordjevic dynasty come every year."
Oplenac lend had been selling by Obrenovic Royal Family since 1868, and King Petar I started regaining the land since 1903, and that lasted for more than 30 years.
Nowadays, Oplenac is commonly used as the synomim for "Endowment of King Petar I Karadjordjevic" as well as for the Church of Saint George, Mausoleum of Karadjordjevic Royal Family.
Karadjordjev grad – Karadjordje's fortified town was built by Karadjordje Petrovic, leader of the First Serbian Uprising, between 1805 and 1813. Karadjordje himself took part in the construction of the fortress carrying the building material together with the builders. Today only parts of the wall, Crkva Presvete Bogorodice – the Church of Holy Mother of God, Karadjordjev konak – the residence (literally translated – the inn) and the old school are preserved.
In 1932 Karadjordjev grad was arranged by the project of arhitect Branislav Kojic. In 1938 the Monument of Karadjordje, artwork of Petar Pallavicini was erected. Since then Karadjordjev grad has not changed a lot – it is small, nicely landscaped and maintained area. All of the historical buildings are restored and open to the public – the church serves as the place of worship, the residence is the Museum of the Uprising and the old school is the town library.
"Those "balls" as you say, are heads of local heroes from the world war 2. Also, in comunist time, art gallery was the museum from world war 2."
Comment by Topolac, 15th January 2006. Thanks Nikola!
Memorial home, today a hotel "Oplenac" was built and dedicated in 1934. Internal decoration of the hotel was done in a simple, modern way with a good taste. It has a shape of Byzantine castle with a style characteristics of typical Sumadija,s houses. Heating and installation of electrical energy were done as well as water supply system and sewerage.
Right after the liberation of Topola, the hotel served as hospital. Later, it was private type of the hotel, only visitors were state officials and political leaders.
Today, this nice building serves as a hotel for all kind of guests. It perfectly fits in an endless greeness of this region landscape.