The History And Culture Of Sremski Karlovci

 

The town of Sremski Karlovci is located on the main road Novi Sad – Belgrade on the right bank of the Danube and the gentle slopes of Fruška Gora, only ten kilometers from Novi Sad. Its very advantageous geographic location and climate have influenced the development of the viticultural traditions and world-renowned wines over the span of centuries in this area.


Sremski Karlovci are not only famous for their wine. There was a small fort that was established as one of many outposts of the Roman Empire at the site of today's Karlovci. The fist mention of Sremski Karlovci comes in the year of 1308. relating to a fortress named Karom built on Roman foundations.

Ottoman general Bali Beg occupied Sremski Karlovci in 1521. and they remained under Turkish rule for the next 170 years during which they became one of the biggest settlements in Srem. The Slovenian name, Karlovci, was first mentioned in 1532-1533. In the year 1545, Karlovci had 547 Christian residents (Serbs) and had three Orthodox churches and one monastery.
As such, Karlovci under the Turkish rule existed up until 1688. when they were burned to the ground and destroyed by Turks retreating towards Belgrade.


A congress was held in Karlovci from the 16th of November 1698. until the 26th of February 1699. which marked the end of hostilities between the Ottoman Empire and the Holy League. This arrangement is known as the Peace Treaty of Karlowitz. A large tent was erected to house the occasion with four openings on each of the four sides so that the negotiators could all come inside at the same time, not giving precedence to anyone. During the negotiations, for the first time in the history of world diplomacy, the term 'round table' was used officially. At the exact location where the Peace Treaty was signed the Chapel of Peace was raised  in the year 1817.


After the Karlovci Peace Treaty in 1699. the entire territory of today's Vojvodina came under Austrian (Habsburg) power. According to the borders set in 1699. the Habsburgs ruled over Bačka and the northwestern part of Srem. Sremski Karlovci were part of the Habsburg military border of Hungary, which was managed directly from Vienna. It remained like this until 1848. when the Grand National Assembly (May Assembly ) was held in Sremski Karlovci and the autonomous Serbian Vojvodina was proclaimed for the first time, consisting of Srem, Backa, Banat and Baranja.


From the 16th century onwards Karlovci have become one of the religious centers of the Serbian people. The seat of the diocese was moved from the Krušedol monastery to Sremski Karlovci in 1713.


Karlovci Grammar School was founded on the 11th of October 1791. The Patronage and Guardianship of the high school funds with Metropolitan Stratimirović at the head took care over the school everyday life and functioning. The Grammar  school opened its doors to the students on the 1st of November 1792. and is the oldest Serbian Grammar School.

The oldest Serbian Theological School was established by metropolitan Stevan Stratimirović in 1794. It is the second oldest in the world, giving precedence only to the Kiev Theological school. A couple of years later, in 1798. Metropolitan Stratimirović also founded a boarding school to provide room and food for the underprivileged theologians and high school students.


The Patriarchy residence is a magnificent edifice built at the end of the nineteenth century at the initiative of patriarch Branković and it represents a major architectural undertaking of the time. The building was completed by the end of 1884. The Residence also houses the chapel of St. Dimitry which contains iconostasis, work of Uroš Predić, one of the most famous Serbian Realist painters.

The Royal Garden is one of the oldest botanical gardens in our country and it represents a natural monument of garden architecture. It was created in 1848. under personal engagement of the patriarch Josif Rajačić as a means to provide better quality of nature studies to the high school students outdoors.


Sremski Karlovci takes its special place in history in the period of 13-15. Of May 1848. when the May Assembly was held and the Serbs proclaimed the creation of Serbian Vojvodina (from Srem, Backa, Banat and Baranja), the entering into political alliance with the Croats "based on freedom and perfect equality" with the recognition of the Romanian nationality and elected Josif Rajačić patriarch and Stevan Šupljikac the archduke.


Karlovci obtained its present appearance at the end of the nineteenth century when several capital facilities were built thanks to patriarch Georgij Branković. As the Patriarchy was moved to Belgrade, Karlovci loose their former significance.

 

The Orthodox Cathedral was built in 1762. on the foundations of an old church from the sixteenth century and is dedicated to Saint Nicholas. The church carries a distinct baroque style within its three-aisled structure with two large steeples  dominating the front.

 

The majestic iconostasis from the eighteenth century combines the works of two painters from Karlovci, Todor Kračun and Jakov Orfelin. The iconostasis is one of the most representative works of Orthodox art of the time and one of the most important works of art in Vojvodina. In the late nineteenth century, the famous Serbian painter Paja Jovanovic painted several compositions dedicated to biblical figures, as well as a couple of paintings depicting Serbian history which proudly decorate the walls of the church.

 

The fountain 'Four Lions' occupies the main part of the central square and was built in 1799. Legend has it that when one drinks the water from this fountain, one is sure to return and stay in Sremski Karlovci.

 

Near Sremski Karlovci on the gentle slopes of Fruška Gora, lies the most famous picnic ground Stražilovo. Branko Radičević, one of the greatest poets of Serbian Romanticism, is buried here. Branko's remains were transferred from Vienna to Stražilovo on the 22nd of July 1883. following the initiative of the Karlovci Grammar school students. Due to the fame and importance of the poet Branko Radičević this is also a famous place of pilgrimage for the pupils and the poets.

Present-day Sremski Karlovci is an independent municipality and, thanks to its glorious past, remains an important cultural and spiritual centre of the Serbian nation.


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