by Tamara Sretenović
Serbian Orthodox church of Saint Spyridon is among the top rated must-see touristic attractions in Trieste, as well as the city’s architectural jewel built in recognizable Byzantine style, with five distinctive domes and beautiful frescoes.
Talking about cultural, architectural, historical and artistic wealth of the temple, connoisseurs could claim that it is priceless, not only to the Serbian community, but to the city of Trieste itself.
On the other hand, lack of solid gold, silver, gems and jewels in a temple decoration would leave many visitors disenchanted. But, that is not the case with the Serbian church, next to the Grand Canal.
Crossing the threshold you will immediately face iconostasis decorated with four, mid- nineteenth century icons of great artistic value painted in Moscow and later covered in pure silver and gold plate. On the opposite side, from the ceiling hangs votive vigil lamp – a present from the Romanov family.
“This vigil lamp was a gift from Paul I of Russia, the only son of Catherine the Great and Peter III”, says priest Raško Radović, adding that many visitors pass by it, not paying attention to the Venetian master’s notable work. Apart from the votive lamp, future Russian Tzar and his wife Maria Feodorovna also donated the Gospel book with a silver cover printed in 1779 in Moscow, now kept in Saint Spyridon’s treasury.
Showing us around, local parish priest Radović pointed out the Shroud made in 1772 in gold embroidery on the silk velvet canvas donated by Russian countess Julia Samuilova and valuable candleholders provided by Jovan Kurtović, a shipping magnate.
Stunning Crucifixion at the altar with exquisite decoration and semi precious stones is breathtaking.
Undoubtedly, the most valuable items are kept elsewhere. Saint Spyridon church treasury houses numerous objects, but most enigmatic is the sword protected by a glass showcase.
“This sword was restored some years ago at the Museum of Trieste and experts confirmed its value”, says Zlatimir Selakovic president of Serbian orthodox religious community Administrative council. He explained that there is no written document to confirm the story, but in Saint Spyridon church there’s a firm belief that this sword was a gift from Maximilian archduke of Austria to a prominent member of Serbian community.
In addition, recently done insurance assessment of the four candleholders, donated by a great benefactor Risto Škuljević (Cristoforo Scuglievich) ship owner and philanthropist, left the Serbian community officials speechless.
President Selakovic refused to share with us an estimated value, however he emphasized that these objects have both artistic and historical importance, as well as real worth in silver, precious stones like sapphires, rubies and emeralds.
“In our treasury there are numerous objects significant enough to be outed in public display,” said Selakovic emphasizing not only religious items, but also important documents, paintings, archival materials, more than eight thousand books e.t.c.
Saint Spyridon church and Serbian community have no deficit in actual hidden treasure that requires exposing to the public, furthermore there is enough material to form a museum.
“What we are lacking are not items to be exhibited, but adequate space to establish a museum,” explains Selakovic adding that Serbian community “will strive to realize this plan with a helping hand of Trieste city officials.”
Until then, a lot of hidden treasure will remain in the temple’s treasury department. But even so, this gem of Trieste is worth a visit to enjoy its beauty or to listen to the excellent church choir and its Byzantine style chant which will lift your spirits on a gray winter’s day.