Plans by the Serbian Orthodox Church to erect a giant steel cross on top of a mountain have raised questions about the role of the Church in the country.
The 33.5m high steel cross is due to be erected on Mount Stolovi near the town of Kraljevo at a height of 1,375 metres above sea level. It will be illuminated at night using wind and solar energy.
“The cross will be 33.5 metres high, because Jesus was that old when he was crucified. It will weigh 40 tons and you will be able to see it from many different places in Serbia,” said Ljubinko Kostić, the priest who chairs the board in charge of building the cross.
Much of the controversy lies in the cost of the project, the funds for which are being raised through donations.
“It’s hard to say how much it will cost, certainly over 100,000 euros (nearly $111,000),” said Mr Kostić, when asked about the amount needed.
While the cross has been welcomed by some believers, critics have argued that the money could be spent better on other projects, such as restoring property that suffered recent earthquake and flood damage.
Nikola Knežević, a lecturer in Politics & Religion at Novi Sad Protestant Theological Seminary, stated that the plan to build the huge cross constitutes “an attempt to highlight religious domination, in which the cross represents the domination of Orthodoxy in this region”.
Construction of the cross is due to begin imminently. According to the latest census data, nearly 85% of people in Serbia are Orthodox Christians.