Church of Saint Nicholas: History and significance of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Novi Bečej

Dive into the past through the story of the Church of Saint Nicholas in Novi Bečej, the famous Serbian Orthodox Church that proudly carries the burden of centuries of history and spirituality of this region. This feat of construction symbolizes togetherness and faithfulness, representing at the same time a monument to past times and a place of faith that gathers the community in prayer and worship.

The Church of St. Nicholas in Novi Bečej
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Architectural and stylistic characteristics of the church

The Church of St. Nicholas in Novi Bečej is a single-nave building with a bell tower above the western facade, an elongated space of the nave, and an altar apse on the eastern side, externally and internally pentagonal.

It is constructed of brick, then plastered. The roof is a pitched double-slope covered with clay tiles. Besides the main portal on the western side, the church has two side entrances, on the northern and southern sides.

The way the facades are shaped and decorated gives the church the appearance of Vojvodina's sacred buildings from the late 18th and early 19th centuries, characterized by their rich and diverse plasterwork. Among the decorative elements, several types of pediments above windows stand out, circular and triangular details of under-window cartouches on the facades of the nave, and cartouches below the rectangular window on the bell tower, four lilies on the pilaster capitals on the western facade, as well as a series of triangles below the triglyphs of the tympanum of the western facade. There are also Ionic capitals of the bell tower pilasters and garlands located on the framed rectangular surface below the bell tower window.

In deep coffered niches, there are window openings which, combined with shallow pilasters topped with protruding capitals, emphasize the vertical division of the facades. Below the archivolts of the first bay of the southern and northern facades, there are representations of St. Nicholas in a standing position in the form of fresco-icons.

Balance in relation to the pronounced vertical articulation of the facades is achieved with a profiled attic cornice and a wide band beneath it.

The western facade is dominated by a protruding central projection flanked by paired pilasters on the left and right sides, featuring an entrance portal and a semi-circular window, surmounted by a tympanum and a tower.

The church tower underwent certain modifications due to damage caused during a storm in 1931. At that time, a part of it was removed, shortening it by approximately 5 meters. Its current height is 30 meters. A horizontal cornice between the floors of the tower is at the height of the ridge of the roof of the main nave of the church.

The attic cornice is profiled, with a semi-circular shape in the central part, following the shape of clocks placed beneath it, as the finishing motif of the bell tower. The facades are adorned with corner pilasters topped with Ionic capitals, and the entire bell tower is finished with a metal "pillow" and a cross. On all four facades, there are elongated semi-circular window openings.

The church is vaulted with a semi-cylindrical vault resting on arches. From the space of the sanctuary, stairs located south of the main entrance lead to the gallery - choir, supported by two massive columns.

Interior of the church

Contrary to the measured and harmoniously designed external wall surfaces, the interior of the church exudes Baroque splendor. The iconostasis screen, whose architectural structure is covered with an abundance of carved floral ornamentation, bears about forty representations of standing figures of saints and church holidays, which, according to recent research, were painted in 1804 by Stefan Gavrilović (?-1823). This artist is among the best masters of Serbian late-baroque painting, infused with new classicist influences that emerged in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.

One of the early representatives of Serbian Romanticism, Pavle Simić (1818-1876), executed wall paintings on the vaults of the nave and the altar in 1858. On the vault above the choir in the center, there is a representation of God the Father seated on clouds above the globe. Below are four archangels and angel heads. In the corners are the evangelists.

On the southern side of the vault, from east to west, there are scenes: the Ascension of Christ, the Nativity of Christ, and the Transfiguration. On the northern side, from east to west: the Resurrection of Christ, the Descent of the Holy Spirit, and the Baptism. The painter's signature, in italics, is left in the corner on the northern side, on the vault above the sanctuary: "P. Simić painter 1858". These are probably also by Pavle Simić, two wall paintings in the sanctuary, each featuring two standing figures of bishops. On the southern side are St. John Chrysostom and St. Gregory the Theologian, and on the northern side are St. James and St. Basil the Great.

The Holy Sepulchre dates back to 1821. It depicts scenes of the suffering of Christ, the Last Supper, and the Crucifixion. It is assumed to be the work of the same master who painted the Holy Sepulchre in the church in Vranjevo, and it belongs to the circle of Georgije Popović.

It can be assumed that the carved decorations on the choir lofts, thrones, as well as two pulpits, two rectangular tables, and one tripod table, were made at the same time as the carving of the iconostasis.

Based on the decision of the Provincial Institute for the Protection of Cultural Monuments from Novi Sad dated October 6, 1966, No. 596, the iconostasis, wall paintings, thrones (Virgin Mary's and Episcopal), icons, and the Holy Sepulchre, as well as objects of applied art, two large wooden candlesticks, a plate or tray made of forged brass, and a silver prosphora, were placed under legal protection. Also, by the same decision, the church was protected as a cultural monument.

The Church of St. Nicholas was declared a cultural monument of great importance for the Republic in 1991 ("Official Gazette of AP Vojvodina", No. 28/91).

The Church of St. Nicholas was built in the Neoclassical style with elements of Baroque. Around the church is a spacious courtyard enclosed by a transparent fence. In the courtyard stands a large cross made of reddish stone, on a stepped pedestal. The cross was originally placed in the main square of Novi Bečej in 1844 but was moved to the courtyard in 1952.

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