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.

Spatial Cultural-Historical Unit - Center of Novi Bečej

The building of the old district officesProtected spatial cultural-historical unit Center of Novi Bečej, is a well-preserved old center of the borough settlements, organized according to the administrative provisions and laws of the late 18th and early 19th century in Vojvodina, with authentic standardized old municipal buildings from the late 18th century, preserved until today, as well as the Serbian Orthodox Church St. Nicholas, built in the second half of the 18th century. The houses in the main street of Marshal Tito and Trg Slobode (Liberty Square) are mostly two-storey buildings, built in the 19th century until the First World War, with a preserved authentic look and allotment. With its architectural-stylistic values and the role in the historical events, political, cultural and educational life of the city, the valorized architectural heritage gave this unit an important place in the history of the Serbian people in Vojvodina and Serbia.

Novi Bečej was rebuilt in 1716, after the withdrawal of the Turks, on the banks of the Tisza around a small church (the Monastery), built in the first half of the 18th century and preserved to this very day. There was a graveyard surrounding the Monastery.[12]

Turkish-Bečej Savings BankOn the military maps of Banat settlements from 1769 to 1772, a plan of Bečej (Becsey) and Vranjevo (Franiova Militair) was presented with the most proximal appearance of these places at the time. The appearance confirms the existence of a settlement Bečej, shaped like the letter „L“ formed along the left bank of the Tisza, in which „regulation“ had not yet been completed. The houses were separated from the gardens. There were two rows of houses on the very riverbank, aligned parallel to it, along the north-south direction, and the village was spreading to the south-east within approx. ten crossway streets, which also led to the shore of the river. The houses were built in rows, in a relative street formation, the frontal side facing the street. In the north of the village, there were two houses surrounded by gardens and marked with larger signs. These were most likely some public, municipal buildings.[13]

The houses were initially log cabins and then they were made of cob, rarely of clay brick, with the street gables of wicker or wooden boards. The roofs were covered with reed, having the overhanging eaves. These houses were built until the end of the 19th and in the first quarter of the 20th century.

Thanks to their large agricultural production and trade, Novi Bečej and Vranjevo became rich settlements.

Building of Citizen’S School (elementary school “Milan Čiplić”)In The Geographic Dictionary of Hungary from 1851, Fenyes Elek wrote about Turkish (Novi) Bečej as the largest place of grain trade within the monarchy. Towers of Catholic and Orthodox churches as well as grain warehouses were, according to his description, made of hard material and gave the city a nice appearance. The streets were paved with stone, and so was the promenade along the river. There were whole rows of trees in front of the castle of the estate owners, along the high embankment on the Tisza. The quay was decorated with walls of quarry stone. It was noted that there were three fairs held annually, weekly markets, as well as the port from which about 300 ships with grain embarked annually, mainly to Budapest and Vienna and elsewhere. After the grain, the most important was the

trade with wine, tobacco and cattle. The healing herbs were thriving on the soil in the vicinity.

Shortly after the Great Fire in 1886, thanks to an extensive trade, export of grain and agriculture, a period of enrichment of the bourgeois class ensued. The construction of the mills began, banks were being opened and in the early 20th century a sawmill was built as well as a brick and tile factory.

The courthouseAnother plan of Novi Bečej known today is dated from 1896. It was prepared to celebrate the Millennium in Budapest at the time this settlement bore the name Tőrők Becse (Turkish Bečej). The plan confirms the existence of a town center, at the today‘s square, which had emerged at the intersection of Marshal Tito St. and Žarko Zrenjanin St., as well as the appearance of the other streets with marked public buildings and houses, built until that time, which were represented in the map similarly in terms of the same base shape and color. In addition, there were marked location of the both Orthodox churches, „The Monastery“ and Serbian Orthodox church of St. Nicholas, and Roman Catholic church of St. Clare of Assisi. The Tisza River, as presented on the map, flowed in the immediate vicinity of today‘s main square, on its west side.

On the third cadastral map of Novi Bečej from 1908, all previously constructed public buildings as well as houses of wealthier merchants and craftsmen were drawn. Mostly, they have a rectangular base with their longer side positioned along the regulatory line of the streets. It can be noted that many of them were expanded with new wings even back then,

which was marked by red color on the map. Also, the worn and old ones would soon be replaced by new ones. The first public facility of the former administration was shown – the building of the old district offices, preserved to this day and built in the late 18th century, at the corner of the streets of Milorad Popov and Svetozar Miletić and also not far away a used-to-be trade store of Vela Peter, from the same period, on the corner of the streets of Žarko Zrenjanin and Svetozar Miletić.

There is also a Serbian Orthodox church of St. Nicholas, built in the second half of the 18th century. The Roman Catholic church of St. Clare of Assisi was built at the beginning of the 19th century and somewhat later the Evangelical church in 1861.

The promenade near the Tisa River and a destroyed castleThe other buildings were from the 19th century too, mostly built in the style of academicism, in the main street of Marshal Tito, Žarko Zrenjanin Street and on the main Liberty Square: the Rectory, Schlesinger Palace, the Turkish-Bečej Savings Bank, hardware store of Hugo Richter, Maletić Bank, Hotel Jadran (Royal), Hotel Vojvodina, elongated massive corner one-storey building on the corner of the main Square and Žarko Zrenjanin St., the house of landowner Kostović, and others.

Until the First World War, the beginning of the 20th century represented a period of fervent development of Novi Bečej, as well as the transformation of not only the town center but the surrounding streets too. Many representative buildings, not only those for public use but private houses as well, were built in this period and preserved to this day. The building of today’s library was being built in Žarko Zrenjanin Street, the house in Ulica Revolucije (Street of the Revolution) no. 7, as well as the building of the old church school in Ivo Lola Ribar Street.

In the same period, the objects in the new Art Nouveau style were erected: Kharkov Institute, today’s secondary school „Ivo Lola Ribar”, the Comprehensiveschool with gymnasium in 1909, today’s elementary school „Milan Čiplić“ in 1910, both in the main street of Marshal Tito, as well as the houses in the Žarko Zrenjanin Street no. 11 and no. 8, where is now also the Municipal building from 1911. The building of cadastre, prison and the court were built in the same street, in the early 20th century, also in the Art Nouveau style.

A special group includes the buildings that were built after the World War II of which the most important are: the Building of the Workers‘ (now the Culture Center), the Workers‘ University (today the building of the Cadastre), the Public Health Center, the Hotel “Tiski cvet” (“Tisza Flower”), Community hall, Sports hall and a department store.

Old Hotel “Royal”Finally, it is worthwhile mentioning the most important buildings that had existed in the past but, starting from 1908, have been torn down. This refers primarily to the castle of Hadžimihajlo-Sisanji with outbuildings and a park that was located in the area where the Health Center is today, and all the residential houses next to it, all the way to the street of Svetozar Miletić. Likewise, Rohonci Lipot, son-in- law of the family Sisanji had a house, as seen on the map from 1908 at the corner of the main square, next to the former Hotel Vojvodina. The house was demolished at a later period, while the hotel survived until 1944. It

was bigger than the adjacent Hotel Royal, preserved until today, and it had a big hall - tavern. It was a two-story building, with a small inside atrium courtyard. It had about twenty rooms for overnight stays, and there were restaurants and a large hall for parties and events at the ground floor.

Today, the Community hall is in its place, built in the fifties of the 20th century. In the building of landowners Rohonci next to the Hotel Vojvodina, there was a buffet “Bela ladja” (“White Ship”).[14]

Šojmoš Elemer, descendant of the Sisanji family, built a castle by the causeway with a view to the Tisza, across the house of Rohonci Lipot. The castle was bought in 1927 by Marković Vićentije from Sirig near Szeged. The building was torn down at the beginning of the eighties.In addition to the economic changes at the end of the 19th century when the District

was annulled and surrounding villages were merged with the Novi Bečej County, very significant and positive changes in cultural life in Novi Bečej had been recorded somewhat earlier.

The spirit of Romanticism that appeared in almost all of Europe in the late 18th and early 19th century, spread among the Serbs in Vojvodina. A period of national enthusiasm and cultural bloom emerged. In such circumstances, theatrical performances became one of the special aspects of the struggle for revival of national consciousness and the dissemination

of culture.

The greatest success in reputable foreign theaters of the time was achieved by Joca Savić (1847-1915) from Novi Bečej, who was a theater actor and director, Shakespearean scholar, a great theater educator and writer in Vienna, Weimar, Mannheim and Munich.

Some of the significant descendants of the families of Novi Bečej include Ognjeslav Kostović (1851- 1916), the inventor, designer and scientist in the field of technical sciences, who was right behind Nikola Tesla and Mihajlo Pupin.

Beside the numerous theater troupes, Novi Bečej was a home to well-known singing, reading and sports associations, which have continued with their work after the World War I.

[12] Erdeljanović J. Serbs in Banat, Novi Sad, 1992. pp. 355-356.

[13] Čurčić, S., Jovanović M. op. cit. p. 114.

[14] Bakić S. Study of the Conservation of Immovable Cultural Property in the Municipality of Novi Bečej, .... (Documentation ZZZSKZ).1994.

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