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St. Sava Serbian Orthodox Cathedral (Milwaukee) facts for kids

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St. Sava Serbian Orthodox Cathedral
The St. Sava Serbian Orthodox Cathedral in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.jpg
Coordinates: 42°59′11.8″N 87°58′43.3″W / 42.986611°N 87.978694°W / 42.986611; -87.978694
Location 3201 S. 51st. Street
Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Country United States
Denomination Serbian Orthodox Church
Dedication Saint Sava
Consecrated August 26, 1956 (land); August 30th, 1958 (building)
Architect(s) Camburas and Theodore
Style Serbo-Byzantine architecture; Byzantine Revival
Completed 1958 (63 years ago)
Materials Stone
Diocese Diocese of New Gracanica – Midwestern America

St. Sava Serbian Orthodox Cathedral (Serbian: Црква светог Саве; Crkva svetog Save) is a large Serbian Orthodox Cathedral located in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Completed in 1956, the cathedral is covered in traditional wall mosaics that have been described as, "some of the most extensive and elaborate church mosaics in the United States." The cathedral sits on a complex that also includes a parochial school and an event center known as the American Serb Hall, an important stop for political candidates including a number of men who have gone on to become President of the United States.


Serbian Immigration and the Early Faith Community

Initial Serbian immigration to Milwaukee began in the late 19th century and continued through the early 20th century, by 1912 there were roughly 2,500 Serbian immigrants living in the city and that number quickly rose to 6,000 Serbians by 1916. Exact immigration statistics for this period are considered unreliable at best, as a number of Serbian immigrants were lumped into other ethnic groups who were also immigrating from the Austro-Hungarian Empire around the same period. On February 8, 1912 a group of Serbians met and determined that there was a need for a Serbian Orthodox Church in their community. The unified faith community founded their first church that same year at 724 S. 3rd St., and the first divine liturgy was held on Christmas, January 7, 1913. Between 1912 and 1942 the parish went through 12 priests, and organized an executive board to help keep the church community organized. The parish faced many hard times during these years, as a large number of men in the congregation returned to Europe to fight in the Balkan Wars and World War I.

In 1942 Milan Brkich was elected as the parish priest, a relatively young member of the clergy, he is credited with reinvigorating the community during the 1940s. Milan Brkich is noted for resettling displaced Serbians to Milwaukee, and the chain migration that ensued from these relocations caused the Serbian population in Milwaukee to grow and the languages and customs of the community to remain strong into the 1950s.

Construction of the Cathedral

In the late 1940s the congregation bought 14 acres on Milwaukee's Southwest side. The American Serb Hall was built on the land in 1950 and with its success, the church decided to build a new church building in 1951. A building fund was established and church members were asked to contribute $100 each for construction of the cathedral, on August 26, 1956 a groundbreaking ceremony was held and the land was consecrated by Bishop Dionisije at the celebration. Construction soon commenced on not just the cathedral building, but the new parish house and the new parish school building as well. On February 4, 1958 the construction was completed and the new cathedral was consecrated in August of the same year.

The Cathedral and Community Today

In the decades that followed the completion of the cathedral, the church hosted a number of important events in the greater church community. The church was the site of the consecration of Firmilian Ocokoljich as the bishop of the Diocese of Midwestern America on August 1, 1963. A year later, long time parish priest Milan Brkich retired after having served the church for more than 20 years. The addition of a new cultural center in the 1970s, the subsequent renovations of the American Serb Hall and the completion of the cathedral's mosaics are other major achievements during the latter half of the 20th century. Today the cathedral remains an active community, and in 2012 the congregation celebrated their 100th anniversary.


St. Sava Serbian Orthodox Cathedral was designed in the Serbo-Byzantine style. The interior of the cathedral is covered almost entirely with wall mosaics that cost more than US$3 million, and 35 years to complete. The mosaics were designed by Italian artist Sirio Tonelli, and depict a number of important Orthodox Christian figures in the Byzantine iconographic style. The mosaics have been described as, "some of the most extensive and elaborate church mosaics in the United States." by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

American Serb Hall

Located adjacent to the cathedral property is the American Serb Hall, opened and consecrated in 1950 the hall was dedicated to Serbs who had given their lives defending the United States. The hall is home to a fish fry (including dine-in and drive thru service) that is claimed to be "America's Largest Good Friday Fish Fry", on average the hall handles 440 fish orders per hour on this date. The American Serb Hall is also an important campaign stop for many political candidates, the hall has hosted a number of U.S. Presidents including every president elect since the hall's opening.

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