Cultural tolerance, peace and freedom have been indivisible parts of Serbia’s history and tradition for centuries. As a result, many Serbian contributions to UNESCO are internationally acknowledged. Many monuments confirm century long respect for diversity across Serbia. The first Buddhist temple in Europe was built in Belgrade, Serbia. Some monuments are recognized as international brands, such as Fetislam, Bali-Bey Mosque or the Church of the Mother of God of snow at Tekije, a unique church composed of the Christian and Muslim symbols together, emphasizing the common heritage.
The Taj Mahal of Serbia is the Valley of Lilacs, flowery trees in the valley along the river banks planted to welcome the French princess Helen of Anjou. Serbian king Uroš I wanted to welcome his future queen in the most beautiful way, planting beautiful lilacs along the inaccessible valley of the Ibar river to remind her of her home in Provence. Their love was stronger than interreligious obstacles and still servers to remind everyone in Serbia that loves is stronger than any symbol.
One of the first regional conferences on interreligious dialogue was organized in Dom Omladine in Belgrade, by famous erudite Dragutin Gostuski. One of the first important intercultural conferences connecting science and spirituality took place in New York, organized by famous Serbian-American scientist, professor Pupin, who served as the President of the New York Academy of Science, and was also one of the founders of NASA. Professor Pupin worked together with Nikola Tesla – another notable Serbian-American scientist. Nikola Tesla’s contributions to UNESCO and world peace are still in centre of intellectual community, as evidenced by the events held at world’s most advanced educational institutions, such as Harvard University CES held on February 11th 2015 exploring Tesla’s contribution to UNESCO and world peace.
Serbia hosted many UNESCO international events. The first student UNESCO Club in South Eastern Europe was founded in Belgrade – the University UNESCO Club. The Youth delegates from the Club are regular participants at the UNESCO Youth Forum and other similar forums. The biggest and the oldest independent nonprofit organization for extracurricular science education in South Eastern Europe was founded in Serbia, with the supported from UNESCO and the European Commission.
Serbia is also the center of peacebuilding education is being thought, supported by the United Nations. The European Center for Peace and Development University of Peace established by the United Nations was founded in Belgrade in 1980. Its high level peacebuilding mission gathers world most famous peacebuilders, such as Boutros Boutros-Ghali, who was the Former Secretary General of UN and Federico Mayor, who was the former UNESCO Director General.
The most important UNESCO heritage in Serbia includes the following:
Stari Ras and Sopocani
Stari Ras was one of the first capitals of medieval Serbian state Raska. On the outskirts of this capital lies a cluster of monuments among which the most important one is Sopocani – a monastery which serves as a reminder of the connection between Western civilization and the Byzantine world. Many churches, the fortress and other monuments give Stari Ras its own unique appeal and a place in the world heritage list. Located at the convergence of the Raska and lbar rivers, the ancient town of Ras became the first capital of the Serbian state in 1159 under the Serbian dynasty Nemanjic. Situated on the border hill between the small kingdom of Raska and the Byzantine Empire this old Balkan city was influenced by both East and West. The monuments make up a unique architectural complex of the capital of the Serbian State until the early years of the 14th century when King Milutin moved the capital to Skopje. The buildings in Ras were mostly built between the 9th and 11th centuries, and are characteristic of the Raska School of architecture.
The Monastery of Sopoćani was built in 1260 by King Uros I as the resting place for the ashes of his parents and his own tomb in its vault. This building, surmounted by a cupola and extended to the west between 1336 and 1345 by the Emperor Dusan is noteworthy for its exceptional frescoes. Those in the narthex provide invaluable historical evidence about the family of the founder of the monastery. The plastic quality of these compositions from the 13th century testify to the vitality of Byzantine art at the time when Constantinople was in the hands of the Crusaders. Emperor John I Tzimiskes (r. 969-976) recognized the Ras region as the center of the Serbian lands. More information about Stari Ras and Sopocani.
Medieval Serbian Monuments in Kosovo
The four edifices of the site reflect the high points of the Byzantine-Romanesque ecclesiastical culture, with its distinct style of wall painting, which developed in the Balkans between the 13th and 17th centuries. The Dečani Monastery was built in the mid-14th century for the Serbian king Stefan Dečanski and is also his mausoleum. The Patriarchate of Peć Monastery is a group of four domed churches featuring series of wall paintings. The 13th-century frescoes of the Church of Holy Apostles are painted in a unique, monumental style. Early 14th-century frescoes in the church of the Holy Virgin of Ljevisa represent the appearance of the new so-called Palaiologian Renaissance style, combining the influences of the eastern Orthodox Byzantine and the Western Romanesque traditions. The style played a decisive role in subsequent Balkan art. Source: UNESCO website.
Studenica Monastery is one of the largest and richest Serbian Orthodox monasteries. The monastery is best known for its collection of 13th- and 14th century Byzantine-style fresco painting. It’s a representative example of the typical Rascian architectural style, which has a mix of Romanesque and Byzantine elements. It was founded in 1183 by Stefan Nemanja – founder of the medieval Serbian state. Its fortified walls encompass three churches: the Church of the Virgin and the Church of the King, both of which were built using white marble; and the smaller and simpler Church of St. Nicholas. The monastery was the cultural and spiritual centre of the mediaeval Serbia. It produced the Studenica Typicon, the first book of literature in Serbian.
Nikola Tesla Museum – Nikola Tesla’s Archive placed in UNESCO’s Memory of the World
Nikola Tesla Museum in Belgrade is the largest collection of documents, personal belongings and books of and about the great Serbian inventor and polymath. Nikola Tesla’s Archive housed at Nikola Tesla’s Museum had been placed in UNESCO’s Memory of the World list in 2003, being the largest of its kind in the whole world.
National Museum in Belgrade, Serbia – Miroslav’s Gospel placed in UNESCO’s Memory of the World
Miroslav’s Gospel is one of the oldest historical documents written in Serbian/Old Slavonic dialect of Serbian, dating back to the late 12th century. It is preserved today at National Museum in Belgrade. This illuminated manuscript with rich decorations and colourful inking has been placed in UNESCO’s Memory of the World in 2005, for its great historical value and particular place in the history of art and literature.
Water for Sustainable Development and Adaptation to Climate Change UNESCO Center – Belgrade, Serbia
Following General Conference of UNESCO in 2011 and Executive Board session in 2012, UNESCO Center for Water for Sustainable Development and Adaptation to Climate Change had been established in Belgrade, Serbia. The Centre is on nurturing expert cooperation and exchange of information between different organizations involved in sustainable water resources management.
Golija-Studenica biosphere reserve
Golija is the highest mountain in southwestern Serbia, where one of the most beautiful national parks of nature have been institutionalized to protect, preserve and cultivate the rich forests, landscape diversity, exceptional beauty and outstanding cultural heritage (monasteries Studenica and Gradac). Furthermore, Golija is known for its biological diversity: rare endemic and relic species; geo-heritage represented by unusual and attractive relief forms and numerous water phenomena such as mountain springs, streams and peat bog lakes. Due to these exquisite qualities, UNESCO declared the area for biosphere reserve of universal value in 2001.
Nikola Tesla: UNESCO heritage – Special event at Harvard supported by UNESCO Center for Peace
In February 2015, Tesla Memory Project and Teslianum Energy Innovation Center organized a book launch event and lectures inspired by the book “The Essential Nikola Tesla: Peace Building Endeavor” at Harvard University. Serbian inventor Nikola Tesla, best known for his inventions of modern electro-energetic system of production, long distance transmission and usage of electrical currents, was also dedicated to peacebuilding and sustainability. With support and participation of UNESCO Center for Peace, the event revisited contributions and stories, from more than 40 contemporary authors around the world – ranging from Nobel laureates and distinguished writers to young scientists and students, fascinated and inspired by Tesla.