City Feast - Ascension Day


Historians of religion and ethnologists agree that Slava (feast), i.e. Krsno ime, (baptismal name) is more Serbian, national, than a religious institution. It was introduced into the family life of Serbs in the XIII century.

When, in 1403, Despot Stefan Lazarević gave Belgrade the status of capital city, in the honour of renewal and prosperity, the city chose Ascension Day to be its Slava. This ancient Testamental feast symbolically represents Belgrade's upraising - ascension from ashes and indestructible hope and faith in the future. It represents the expression of spiritual and moral strength of the nation hardened in the glorious past, steadfast in present times and proudly looking into the future. Under the pressure of many enemies and great social changes, the celebration of the City feast has been occasionally interrupted, but also renewed, having thus endured the hardest value test - the test of time.


This holiday, Ascension Day, is one of the holidays dedicated to Christ. It is a movable holiday - it always falls on Thursday, 40 days after Easter, and 10 days before Whit Sunday. According to Christian teaching, after Easter, Christ stayed in this world with His apostles for forty days, contacting them, teaching them and, especially, strengthening their faith after Calvary and crucifixion. The very act of the Ascension took place in Bethany, a village on the eastern slope of the Mount of Olives, two kilometres away from Jerusalem, on the way to Jericho. On that day, Christ's stay on earth ended, for salvation and redemption of the human race. In front of His apostles, Christ blessed them and ascended to Heaven and sat on the right side of God. After that, the apostles regained their faith, joy and courage.

How great importance this holiday has for the Serbs, shows the following example: the greatest historical-legal document of Serbian mediaeval state, the famous Dušanov zakonik (Dušan's Law), was proclaimed on the Ascension Day in 1349, and amended also on the Ascension Day, 1354. At the celebration of the Ascension Day in 1939, the City of Belgrade was awarded the highest war decoration - Karađorđe's star with swords of the IV degree. It is worth mentioning that the Ascension Church, built in 1863 as the city church, has maintained the original flag of the City of Belgrade. On one side of that flag made of red brocade in an icon of the Ascension of Our Lord and inscription in gold: Municipality of Belgrade, 1938, and on the other side is an icon of St. Petka and a message: The baptismal name helps the one who celebrates it. This church which keeps the City Feast, was the starting place of the procession in 1992, led by His Holiness Patriarch Pavle.

The procession has an established route, symbolically closing the circle at the yard of the Ascension Church. The first stop is made at Terazije fountain (instead of the mark which used to be where now the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts is), to say prayers for good health of the citizens of Belgrade. The second stop is made near the Cathedral Church, to say prayers to Our Lord to save us from suffering, for peace and prosperity. The third stop, to say prayers for peace for the souls of the fallen heroes of Belgrade, is at the yard of the Ascension Church, in from of the granite cross. Also, it is interesting that the City has its patron saint, the Most Holy Mother of God, to whom Despot Stefan Lazarević has dedicated Belgrade.