The Blessed Virgin Mary – cathedral of the Archdiocese of Belgrade
Parish of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary is located in a part of town called Neimar, and the parish church is in 75 Hadži Milentijeva Street. Besides that part of town, the parish includes Voždovac, Braće Jerković, Medaković… The borders of the parish have changed frequently and intersected with the borders of the neighbouring parishes. At the time of establishment it was entrusted to the monks Assumptionists. They asked the Arcbishop at the time, Rodić, on 8 December 1924 to establish their own convent and a separate convent for sisters Assumptionists. They repeated their plea on 2 January 1925. The Archbishop gives his consent on 6 January 1925 (no. 12/1925). The monks pleaded their administration for building a small chapel for the believers, as well as for administrative building for the new parish which was to be established. Ministry of Religious Affairs accepted the establishment of the parish by the act VK no. 507/28 II 1927, although it had declared on it with the ct VK no. 6579/26 dating 3 January 1927. The difficulty was appointing the pastor, because the parish was given to the French Assumptionists. But even though they were foreign citizens, everything was quickly settled. The Archbishop appointed Privat Bellard the first pastor on 15 February 1927 (no. 81), and Christim Monnier the first chaplain. The borders of the parish had been determined earlier by decree no. 636 dating 12 December 1926. The Holy See hands permanent administration of the parish to the Assumptionists according to the royal edict no. 2209 of 18 October 1929. Building of the temporary church, pastoral office and a convent began in 1924. The church was built in 1925. Its foundations were blessed by the first Apostolic Nuncio in Belgrade, Hermengildo Pellegrinetti. The same year, the church was blessed by Apostolic Delegate in Bulgaria Roncalli, future Pope John XXIII, during his visit to Belgrade on 25 September. Because of the presence of the French Assumptionists, the new church was called “French” church.
The first birth was enterd in thebooks on 15 February 1927. After that, there were between 150 and 200 baptisms from 1928 to 1938. The old bell tower was built in 1930 and a year later Archbishop Rodić blessed three bells cast in Savoy in Paccard factory, where the bells of Sacred Heart of Jesus church in Montmartre were cast, as well as the bells of the Endowment of King Peter in Oplenac. The biggest bell bears the name of St. Mary and is a gift from King Alexander, the second largest has the name of St. Peter and is a gift from the Holy See, and the least is named after St. Ana and the is a gift of the parishioners of this parish.
In 1938, the construction of a new church, conceived as a “memorial church” to French and Serbian soldiers fallen on the Salonika front started. Due to the World War II and its consequences, the construction work lasted more than forty years. During that time, due to its good acoustics, the church was used to record programs of Radio Belgrade. Later it served as a medicine warehouse.
After the Assumptionists left in 1982, the care of the believers and further construction of the church was taken by Anton Hočevar, who ws the pastor of the Christ the King parish, along with his chaplains Antun Pečar and Zvonko Blaško.
Upon the arrival of a new pastor, Jože Hauptman, planning and completion of the interior and exterior part of the church according to the designs of Slovenian architect Kvaternik was initiated.
The wall behind the altar was painted by Slovenian painters Čemažar and Lucijan in 1987. The frescoes are inspired by the idea of interweaving the East and West in our region. The central, spherical part is occupied by the Virgin who is depicted two times in this space. In the lower part she is represented on catafalque as if asleep, traditionally for the Eastern Church (Dormitio), surrounded by the twelve apostles, while in the upper part of the same fresco, in the manner of Western European Marian iconography, her Assumption (Assumptione) is shown, based on the belief in the Virgin Immaculate Conception, where she was crowned with twelve stars. This central fresco of the patron of the parish and the church is surrounded by frescoes of saints. On the left (north) side: St. John Capistrano, St. Nikola Flue and St. Cyril of Alexandria, and on the right (south) side: St. Cyril and Methodius and Orthodox saint St. Sava. In the upper zone above the Mother of God is the scene of Christ Pantocrator who is blessing the Holy Spirit presented in the form of a dove, and they are surrounded by a heavenly host of angel musicians who are welcoming the Queen of Heaven. The scenes in the lower zone remind of war sufferings: on the left there is as a mother who is bending over the wounded child, and on the right two women who are praying for peace.
Stained glass windows show the Mysteries of the Rosary.
On Sunday, 14 August 1988 the new church was consecrated, now as a cathedral in honour of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. With this Belgrade Archdiocese got a new worthy place instead of the old cathedral – Christ the King. Consecration was done Franc Perko, Archbishop of Belgrade.
The monastery, which is located in the courtyard of the parish, parish office and hall were renovated in 1989 for spiritual exercises and were given a new name – Home of St. Ivan Capistrano, after the saint who is credited a lot in the liberation of Belgrade from the Turks. And his character is now in the presbytery of the new cathedral.
Below the cathedral there is a crypt which has been used as a small chapel for everyday liturgical ceremonies since 1986.
The old church was remodeled as a space for pastoral encounters in 1994.
Frnc Perko blessed a new organ on 24 September 2000 which was obtained mostly thanks to Anton Hočevar who was the pastor of the Christ the King church at the time. “New organ has an excellent basis for making sound combinations with which this instrument can gloriously to participate accompanying Liturgy, choir, soloists, solo instruments, and it is adequate for concert performance of the old, baroque, and the music of the new century” said Prof. Mr. Andrija Galun. The instrument was made by a famous Italian company Francesco Zanin from Kodroip near Udin and it has 49 registries, three manuals, pedal, crescendo for the whole organ, mechanical tracker with electronic memory for registration…
The first deacon’s laying on of hands in the Cathedral, granted on 8 September 2000 to Goran Avramov from Belgrade, who was ordained a priest a year later.
This parish and the cathedral are venues of all major liturgical gatherings and events: pilgrimages, laying on of hands, concerts…
These are the words of the Jože Hauptman, who was the pastor up to recently: “… Therefore, it’s been a great joy to have the opportunity to take part in the design of the interior decoration of our Belgrade Cathedral. I’m glad when I hear some of the believers tthat the cathedral is seen as a sign of communion that through the Archdiocese comes true with the whole Church. Many old and sick have repeatedly entrusted me that they show their frailty and illness to meet the needs of our cathedral celebration. I see that this awareness of belonging to the Church as a family, and symbolically the cathedral mostly points to that, is growing from year to year.
The cathedral actually gives us this possibility: to be open towards everyone! We have arranged the cooperation and organization of the organ concerts and organ school. I am glad to see many people from the brotherly Orthodox church and other cultures fill the church. …Kindergarten has its history, and the more years go by, the more I see the golden thread of God’s providence which leads and directs us.
I see the future of the parish not as a community which was established by a decree, but as Jesus’ live presence, the one which He promises where two or three are gathered in His name. This presence of his specifies the inscription on one of the bells: Vocem meam audient et Fiat unum ovile et unus pastor (’My voice shall be heard, and there shall be one flock and one pasor’). I partly already feel that many of those who are not ’ours’ feel at home in our cathedral.”