Tekije Church, also known as Our Lady of Snow Church, is in Petrovaradin
near Novi Sad. It is one of the most renowned ecumenical churches in Serbia.
Tekije, an Arabic word meaning “resting place,” draws thousands of visitors
yearly who come to pray, visit, and learn about the famous battle between the
Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman Empires which resulted in Prince Eugen of Savoy’s
defeat of the much greater Ottoman army.
Built in honor of the biblical Virgin Mary by the Cistercians in the 13th
century, the church was destroyed by the Ottomans during the 16th century and
converted into a mosque and Tekije by Muslim holy men. After 160 years; the
Jesuits, who were the first Christians who came to Petrovaradin, converted the
mosque into a Christian church. The church’s modern design and renovation was
conceived by the Austrian church architect and Zagreb resident, Herman Bolle, in
A cross and the crescent are placed on the rear Byzantine cupola,
symbolizing that faith and worship belongs to two religions. Legend has it that
the crescent moon placed under the cross symbolizes the victory of Christianity
over the Ottoman Empire in August 1716. Another belief is that the crescent
represents the presence of a mosque.
The church grounds are spacious. According to Zarko Dinic, historian,
professor and head of archives for the Serbian Academy of Arts and Sciences in
Sremski Karlovci, “The Turkish army fell asleep in this place a night before the
big battle with Eugen of Savoy, the Austrian commander (August 5th 1716). As the
temperature dropped down very low, for summer nights, the Turkish army was
weakened, which helped Prince Eugen to victory. The name of the chapel comes
from this belief.''
Opposite the main entrance there is a replica statue of Our Lady of
Lourdes. According to Peter Pifat, spokesman for the sanctuary and church
organist, “The Chapel of Snow Mary is visited by more than 12 000 people
annually. Pilgrims come here to get the grace of Mary, the tourists to see the
cross above the crescent, and the sick in search of healing; however, people of
all faiths come here and pray and write their prayers into their
An inscription at the Tekije Church was placed after Christians restored
the original wood church in 1754. The renovated church was better able to
accommodate the growing number of pilgrims and visitors throughout the
Marble prayer plates inside the Tekije Church are inscribed with prayers in
Pilgrims and believers write their own prayers in a book in the entrance of
Prayers from Serbian Orthodox, Catholic and Muslim visitors are written in
English, German, Hungarian, Serbian and Croatian.
Today, the church is a Catholic pilgrimage site. Though the guest house is
closed during winter months, it reopens on the second Day of Catholic Easter and
is able to accomodate large groups of pilgrims staying for short periods of
The Tekije Church was declared a monument of importance by Serbia and it
has been placed under the protection of the Republic Institute for Monuments of
Culture by the government. According to church spokesman Petar Pitaf, the church
is maintained and renovated using its own funds garnered through charity and the
sale of souvenirs and sponsored masses.
A view of the church’s altar at the turn of the 20th century (left) and
A view of the outside of the Tekije Church from the beginning of the 19th
century (left) and today.
Pitaf (shown playing the organ) explained that, "the Tekije Church is
located in Serbia, at an international crossroad where East and West come
together - on one side there’s Bulgaria and Romania with Orthodoxy, and on the
other side we have Croatia with Catholicism. The Tekije Church is on the border
between orthodoxy and catholicism in a geographical sense.”