Sunday, December 26, 2010

The delightful little Church of Saint Petka at Kalemegdan, Belgrade

The Church of Saint Petka - Belgrade, Serbia

Visitors to the battle fortress of Kalemegdan in Belgrade will see a gold cross over the north wall. By all means, follow that cross, because below it sits one of the prettiest little chapels you’ll ever see: the church of Saint Petka.

Church of Saint Petka - Kalemegdan, Belgrade

Petka, or Parascheva (Greek for Friday; kind of cute in a Robinson Crusoe kind of way) was born in the 11th century, in Epibatos, a town in Turkey, just west of Constantinople. Like Saint Martin, she too gave her clothes away to beggars. She lived as an ascetic in Jerusalem for a few years but then went home. She died anonymously at age 27 and was interred in an unmarked grave.

Some years later a dead sailor washed ashore and he was buried next to Petka. But his corpse gave off such a pungent smell that saint Petka felt compelled to appear to a local monk, with the request to move her body away from the stinking sailor. When the villagers dug up the body of Petka, it was found to be in tact, and she was recognized as a saint. The body was transferred to a more worthy place.

The Woman at the Well
Church of Saint Petka - Kalemegdan, Belgrade, Serbia
 “But we have her finger,” says Ilija Jovicic, the friendly young priest. Taking pictures in the chapel is forbidden but I get special permission. He even shows us around.
“Try some of the water,” he says, pointing at the famous spring water that comes trickling down a pipe, into specially manufactured Petka bottles.

Although there have been chapels on this spot for centuries, the present church of Saint Petka was built in 1937. The stunning mosaics are from the early eighties.

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