The Power of Belief
On the corner of Lazár cár ter (square) in Szentendre there is a monument topped with a cross. It is placed in a rather inconspicuous setting, beside a restaurant.
The throngs of tourists that come to visit this historic town often overlook it. Nonetheless this monument and the place where it stands represent the importance of Szentendre to the memory and history of Serbia during the 17th and 18th centuries.
Szentendre, at the beginning of the Danube Bend north of Buda, became a refuge for South Slavic immigrants who settled here after fleeing their war torn land at the hands of the Ottomán Turks.
The town had been a refuge even before the arrival of a large Serbian population. In the 14th and 15th centuries Bulgarians and Dalmatians made their way here while fleeing the Turks who were ravaging their homeland.
By the mid-16th century the Turks had managed to occupy most of Hungary and took over this area. The village was soon depopulated.
It was only after the ouster of the Turks in Hungary by Habsburg forces in the latter part of 17th century that the region was safe again.Meanwhile the Serbs had been able to reoccupy their own homeland.
It was not long though before they were soon uprooted again by Ottomán counter advances.As a reward for their bravery and courage in fighting the Ottománs, the Habsburgs allowed some 6,000 Serbs under the leadership of to resettle Szentendre.
Their leader, Arsenije III Čarnojević, also brought the relics (bones) of Tsar Lazar, the Serbian nation’s last pre-Ottoman leader who had been killed on the field of blackbirds at the Battle of Kosovo in 1389.
The relics had been given the greatest protection for the past three hundred years. Centuries long efforts of monks kept these relics from being defiled by the marauding Turks.
The relics allowed for the veneration of Lazar while being both physical and spiritual evidence of the Serbian nation’s will to exist no matter the historical circumstances. The relics were brought to Szentendre in 1690 where they were placed in a newly constructed wooden Serbian Orthodox church.
They were housed there for seven years before eventually being returned to Serbia. The spot where the church was located is today marked by the memorial at the corner of the square. It seems almost impossible to believe that in this spot, the life force of a nation was once safeguarded.
To modern visitors this might seem like no big deal. Today with “enlightened” beliefs pervasive, relics are not shown the same veneration. It is believed that such things are based on antiquated traditions, the superstitions of an unscientific age.
Yet it is well to remember that people act on what they believe. The Serbian people believed in the greatness of their leader Tsar Lazar and the independence of the Serbian kingdom.
Despite centuries of occupation and oppression the idea of Serbia lived on. Eventually and now it can be said, inevitably Serbia gained independence from its occupiers.
Did the relics assist this fight for freedom? The answer is almost certainly yes. They were as much a part of the fight for that kingdom as any soldier or sword.
The monument where that wooden church was once located, now stands improbably in another nation, Hungary, in a town that has only a handful of Serbs still living there.Nevertheless, it deserves not only to be noticed, but also to be read and remembered.
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