Oplenac

Oplenac, the church and Royal Mausoleum

Oplenac is mostly known as the Mausoleum of the Serbian Royal Karadjordjevic dynasty. In fact, it is a hill near Topola, a small town located in the Šumadija district of Central Serbia.

Nestled between the trees and surrounded by beautiful nature, the Oplenac complex consists of the Church of Saint George, King Peter’s House, and King’s Winery. It is believed that the place got its name from “oplen”, the wooden parts on ox carts. Local inhabitants made them from oak trees that were grown in this region.

Because of its exceptional importance, the Church of St. George in Oplenac was inscribed on the Monument of Culture of Exceptional Importance list in 1979. It is protected by the Republic of Serbia.

the Church of St George on the Oplenac Hill

The Church of St George on the Oplenac Hill

 

How to get to Oplenac?

Oplenac is located about 80 km south of Belgrade. Take a drive on the highway E72 towards Niš, and follow the signs for Oplenac and Topola. The drive from Belgrade takes approximately 1,5 hours.

The most convenient way is by car individually. Another way is by regular bus service from Belgrade to Topola. The journey takes around 2 hours, and from the bus station, take a taxi for a short ride or walk to Oplenac.

Also, there are one-day excursions organized by local agencies from Belgrade to Oplenac and Topola.

So, when you come to Topola town, pass by the Karađorđe Residence, and the Hotel Oplenac and follow the path between the trees. On the top of the hill, you will see the marvellous white building. It is the Oplenac church and the royal mausoleum.

 

The Church of Saint George in Oplenac

In a word, the Church of Saint George is stunning. It was built in a Serbian-Byzantine style from Venčac white marble from 1910 to 1930.

The church is the endowment of King Peter I Karađorđević, the grandson of the great leader Karađorđe. It has one large central dome and four smaller domes. Unfortunately, King Peter died on 16th August 1921, and he didn’t see the completion of his foundation. So, his son King Alexander I took over its construction and made some modifications to the original plan.

Above the main entrance and the wooden door coated in bronze, there is a mosaic with the image of the saint patron of the church of St. George. But the patron bears Karađorđe’s figure and he pierces the dragon. This mosaic was made in Venice according to the designs of Paja Jovanović, the famous Serbian artist.

the Mosaic of Saint Patron the Church of St George in Oplenac

The mosaic of saint patron, the Church of St George, Oplenac

 

Above the mosaic, there is an ornamental field in the centre with the relief coat of arms of the Karađorđević family. It represents two typical men from the Šumadija region with the flags.

the Old Karađorđević Family Coat of Arm Oplenac Church

The old Karađorđević Family Coat of Arms

 

Interior of the Oplenac Church

Below the central dome of the church, there is a massive bronze chandelier of about 1,500 kg weight and 9 metres in diameter. Interestingly, it was made from the collected weapons from Kajmakčalan, where one of the most important battles was held in the First World War.

Oplenac Inside of the Church of St George

Oplenac, inside of the Church of St George

 

In fact, the chandelier has the form of a crown of medieval Serbian rulers. But its inner part is turned upside down. It is a sign of mourning of the Serbian people for the empire lost in the Kosovo battle in 1389.

Oplenacthe Chandelier in the St George Church

The chandelier in the St George Church

 

Oplenac mosaic frescos

The whole interior of the church is covered with a glass mosaic.

Oplenac

Oplenac, inside the St George Church

 

Precisely, it is about 3,500 square metres with 40 million various coloured pieces of glass! By the way, the mosaic of Jesus on the main dome has a diameter of 9 meters.

Oplenac Church of St George

The mosaic of Jesus in the Church of St George

 

The entire mosaic has 725 painted compositions with 1,500 figures. They represent the reproductions of the best frescoes from 60 Serbian medieval churches and monasteries. Impressive, isn’t it?

Oplenac St George Church

Serbian Medieval rulers in the St George Church

 

One of the most impressive parts of the church is the view of the Serbian Medieval rulers with its representative churches.

Oplenac St George Church

Oplenac, St George Church

 

The view of the walls with over 15,000 different shades of colours is spectacular. And you don’t know where to look first!

Oplenac Mosaic Frescoes Church of St George 2

Mosaic frescoes, Church of St George

 

The floor is covered with marble in various colours with ornaments.

Oplenac Interior of the Church St George

An altar in the Church St George

 

There are two tombs on the ground floor of the church. The tomb of Karađorđe (1762-1817) is situated in the southern apse, while the tomb of King Peter I (1844-1921) is located in the northern apse.

Oplenac St George Church Karađorđe Tomb

Karađorđe tomb in the St George Church

 

Nikolay Petrovich Krasnov, a former Russian imperial architect and architect of King Alexander took care of the decoration of the church.

Decorated Interior of the Church of St George Oplenac

An amazing view of the decorated interior

 

Crypt of the Church of Saint George in Oplenac

There are 40 graves with tombstones made of Dečani onyx stones in the church’s crypt.

Until now, six generations of the Karadjordjević dynasty were buried there. Among them, there are tombs of three rulers: Prince Alexander (the son of Karađorđe) with his wife Persida, King Alexander I and his wife Maria, and their son King Peter II.

Tombs of the Members of the Karađorđe Dynasty

Tombs of the members of the Karađorđe dynasty

 

The crypt is also decorated with colourful mosaics, and it looks fascinating.

Oplenac Crypt Ot the St George Church

Colourful mosaics in the Crypt of the St George Church, Oplenac

 

King Peter’s House and King’s Winery

Close to the church, there is King Peter’s House, built in 1910 to supervise the building of the church. King Peter I lived there for a few years and watched its construction.

Oplenac Zadužbina Kralja Petra

Endowment House of King Peter

 

Today it is a museum with various exhibits, and the office of the “Endowment of King Peter I Karadjordjević”.

For example, you can see many original documents, such as the Austro-Hungarian Declaration of War on Serbia in 1914, the Constitution of the Kingdom of Serbia in 1888, war notebooks, etc.

Oplenac

The photo of King Petar I Karađorđević and various documents

 

Also, you can see a few portraits of the members of the Royal family Karađorđević.

Portraits of King Alexander and King Peter in the House of King Peter I Karadjordjevic

Left: King Alexander; right: King Peter I

 

Then, you can see personal things, photos and portraits of King Alexandar, his wife Queen Maria, and their son, Petar II Karađorđević.

Portraits of the Royal Family Karađorđević Oplenac

Photos and portraits of King Alexandar, his wife Queen Maria, and their son, Petar II Karađorđević.

 

The very interesting parts of the museum collection are relics and a few Russian icons.

Items in the Fondation of King Peter

Icons in the Foundation of King Peter

 

Besides the king’s residence, the complex consists of the villa of King Alexander and Queen Maria.
Also, in the famous King’s Winery, you and see the wine museum with old barrels and taste delicious wines.

 

Topola, the Karadjordje’s town

The area of Topola town is known since the Neolithic and ancient times. But today’s town was founded by Karađorđe, the ancestor of the Karađorđević dynasty.

Karađorđe was a Serbian revolutionary and the Grand Vožd of the First Serbian Uprising (1804-1813) against the Ottoman Empire. The monument of Karađorđe was erected in 1938 on the foundations of the original log cabin house in Topola.

the Statue of Karadjordje in Topola

The bronze statue of Karađorđe in Topola

 

So, Đorđe Petrović, known as Karađorđe was born probably around 1762, in the little village Viševac (25 km far from Topla town). After the end of the Austro-Turkish War in 1791, he moved with his family to the settlement of Topola and built a town there.
The Karađorđe’s town was destroyed after the First Serbian Uprising in 1804. Karađorđe rebuilt it with towers, walls, a school, konaks, a church and other buildings from 1808 to 1813. But it was ruined again in 1814 by Ottomans. Later, Karađorđe son Aleksandar Karađorđević rebuilt the town again.

Karađorđe was murdered in 1817 by the order of Prince Miloš Obrenović.

 

Karađorđe’s Residence

Today, we can see the old school, the church, and the Karađorđe’s Residence (Karađorđev konak) which is transformed into a museum.

Topola Karađorđev Konak Karađorđes Residence

Topola, Karađorđe’s residence

 

So, when you enter the museum, first you will see the original Karađorđe’s canon known as the “aberdar”. The missing right handle was melted in the crown of King Peter. It was the king’s wish to connect his reign with the reign of his grandfather, Karađorđe.

Oplenac Karadjordje Statue and Canon

Karađorđe’s statue and a canon

 

In the museum, you can see various items from everyday life.

Karadjordjes Residence Topola Karađorđev Konak

Various items in the Karađorđe’s Residence

 

Also, there are various weapons, maps, documents, and exhibits detailing the life and achievements of Karađorđe.

Inside of the Karađorđe Residence Topola

Exhibition in the Karađorđe Konak

 

The Karađorđe’s Church in Oplenac

Next to the Karađorđe Residence, there is the Church of the Holy Mother.

Topola Church of the Holy Mother or the Karadjordje Church

The Church of the Holy Mother or the Karađorđe Church

 

It is also known as the Karađorđe’s Church because Karađorđe built it in 1811 as his endowment and as a family tomb as well. First, he and his wife Jelena were buried in it. Then, their remains were moved to the church in Oplenac on 8th September 1930.

Inside of the Church of Karadjordje Topola

Inside of the Church of Karadjordje, in Topola

 

Previously, I wrote about how the Serbian Royal families of Karadjordje and Obrenović were connected and intertwined in the past.
If you like to find out more about it, you can read here:👉 Exhibition “Serbian Royal Portraits”.

 

Festival “Oplenačka berba” in Topola 

Topola and Oplenac have been known for the cultivation of vines for years. This region is also known for the “Oplenac Grape Harvest”. It is the festival of grapes, wine, culture, and folk art creation.

Since 1962, this festival known as the “Fair in Topola” has been held every year. During three days in October, visitors can enjoy a rich cultural and artistic program, workshops, exhibitions, theatre plays, and concerts. The festival starts with a ceremonial parade of participants dressed in traditional costumes, folk music, and dances.

Vašar U Topoli Oktobar 2019 Oplenačka Berba

Festival in Topola – Oplenačka Berba, October 2019

 

On food stalls, you can taste local rakias, wines, fruits, cheese, pastries, grilled meats, and homemade bread. And of course, one of the local speciality is pig on a spit 🙂

Oplenac Vašar U Topoli 2019

Local products on the festival in Topola, October 2019

 

Vašar U Topoli 2019 Oplenačka Berba

Sweet products and rakias on the Oplenac festival in Topola, October 2019.

 

Also, there are local and handmade crafts, pottery, jewellery, and various souvenirs.

Vašar U Topoli Oktobar 2019 Oplenačka Berba

Fair in Topola, October 2019.

 

Every year, the number of visitors is increased. For example, in 2023, there were around 200,000 visitors in Topola. It is considered one of the best-organized and popular events in Serbia.

This year, the 61th festival will held on 11,12, and 13th October. Check out more about the Oplenac Festival here.

 

What to see close to Oplenac

Close to Oplenac and Topola town, you can find several interesting places.

Orašac, a small and famous village close to Arandjelovac town.
👉Read more here: Orašac, the birthplace of the Serbian state 

Cave Risovača, one of the most important archaeological sites of the Paleolithic in Serbia.
Arandjelovac, a town located in the Šumadija District of central Serbia.
Manastir Nikolje, one of the oldest monasteries in this region.
◊ Several
 wineries are around Oplenac, such as PIK Oplenac, Aleksandrović Winery, and Vladimir Winery.

So, plan to visit Oplenac and Topola, the captivating places of Serbian history, royal legacy and vibrant cultural traditions.
And don’t forget to taste excellent wines from the grapes grown on the slopes of the beautiful Šumadija region.

 

 

 

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Natania
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