Image - Body - Space: Serbian Orthodox Monasteries and the Creation of Patriotic Memory in the 18th Century
The paper deals with the problem of a relation between the sacred spaces and
the holy bodies in the context of the Serbian culture of the 18th century. The focus is set
on the minority group of the Orthodox Serbs in the Habsburg monarchy and on the
analysis of their use of the holy relics in the struggle to preserve religious identity
amidst attacks from the Catholic Church. The aim of the research is to explain the
political use of Orthodox religious traditions and visual means for the creation and
spreading of the new patriotic conscience in the early modern period. Religious
patriotism was one of the main forms of patriotic awareness among the Serbs at the time
when the old Orthodox dynasties of Nemanjićs and Brankovićs had disappeared, when
they had lost their country and found themselves under the Muslim and the Catholic
rulers. The relics of the Serbian medieval saints were brought along during the
migrations and distributed throughout the monasteries in the archdiocese of Srem.
Their presence in the monasteries gave a new quality to the perception of the space.
The faithful flocked to pay homage, to express their piety and loyalty, while the church
hierarchy worked on shaping the final image of these cults. With time, the services and
hymns in honour of these saints were written and published, and they become an
integral part of the liturgical and devotional practices among the Serbs. At the same
time, the leading Serbian artists published a great number of images of these saints. The
aim of this widespread glorification of the saints was to accelerate the development of
the patriotic religious consciousness among the Serbs. This will remain a key
determinant of identity until the late 18th and early 19th century, when the idea of a
nation/national identity started to gain ground.
sacred space, holy relics, orthodox Serbs, religious patriotism, icons, 18th