April 11, 2018 Arts

Five Must-See Treasures in the National Museum

After a 15-year hiatus, Serbia’s most important museum finally re-opens in June, and here are five artefacts that are not to missed.
The re-opening ceremony of the National Museum is symbolically set for June 28, St Vitus’ day, or Vidovdan. Photo: Courtesy of the National Museum

Srdjan Garcevic

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After a 15-year reconstruction, the re-opening ceremony of the National Museum is symbolically set for June 28th, St Vitus’ day, or Vidovdan, which is both a folk holiday as well as the anniversary of two important events in Serbian history – the Battle of Kosovo in 1389 and the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in 1914, which started World War I. Given the long time that many of the museum’s treasures were unavailable to visitors, here are five artefacts that we are especially keen to see again.

“Foremother” sculpture

This elaborate, fish-like sculpture of a deity dates from the Mesolithic period and is about 9,000 years old. It comes from Lepenski Vir, a stone-age settlement located at the Iron Gates of the Danube, and discovered in the 1960s. The discovery caused a stir in the archaeological circles at the time as Lepenians, as its inhabitants are called, appear to have been very sophisticated for their time, as they lived in orderly trapezoidal homes and carved elaborate sculptures of their river gods.

Portrait of Constantine the Great

Constantine the Great, the Roman Emperor who made Christianity the state religion of the Empire, may well be the most famous person in history ever born within the boundaries of what is now Serbia. A particularly beautifully sculpted bronze portrait of him was found in Naissus, his birthplace, an ancient Roman city which stood in the area of the present city of Nis. It is believed that the head was part of monumental gilded statue and that it dates from the first half of 4th century AD.

Miroslav’s Gospel

Superbly illuminated by skilled monks for the church of St Peter near Bijelo Polje, in present-day Montenegro, this 12th-Century Gospel was commissioned by Miroslav of Hum, a nobleman and brother of Stefan Nemanja, founder of the longest-ruling Serbian Medieval dynasty. It is one of the most important proofs of the literacy and use of the Cyrillic manuscript among the ancient Slavs. The blend of western Romanesque and eastern Byzantine styles make the illuminations particularly appealing; one of them is used as the logo of the National Museum. The manuscript was inscribed into UNESCO’s Memory of the World register in 2005.

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