From the moment visitors step through the vestibule and into the nave of the church, they will be astounded by the richness of the iconography covering the walls and ceiling. The religious images depict, in vivid hues, Christ and the Virgin Mary, saints and martyrs, angels and apostles, along with scenes from the Bible and representations of the history of the church. Rather than traditional frescoes, which are painted onto wet plaster, these were created on canvas and attached to the walls and ceiling, often in pieces. An iconographer from Serbia worked on the images over 12 years, completing the work in 2008. Bishop Maxim of the Western American Diocese of the Serbian Orthodox Church dedicated the icons in 2009.
This tiny jewel, the first Serbian Orthodox Church in the Western Hemisphere, was founded by Father Sebastian Dabovich, later canonized as St. Sebastian of Jackson. Upon his death in 1940, he was buried in Serbia. However, after entreaties by parishioners, his remains were returned to Jackson in 2007 where they reside in a reliquary near the altar. Consecrated in 1894, St. Sava Church continues to serve the local Orthodox faithful to this day. Many of today’s congregants are descendants of the original immigrants who worked in the region’s gold mines. The church is dedicated to St. Sava (born in 1169), the first Archbishop of the Serbian Orthodox Church. When the church was consecrated by the Russian Orthodox Bishop of Alaska, he brought three gifts: the bell, which is still in use; the lovely chandelier lighting the nave; and an icon of the Virgin Mary.
The stairs leading up to the church are flanked by the graves of generations of congregants. The first burial took place the same year the church was dedicated. Among those interred are 9 of the 47 victims of the 1922 Argonaut Mine disaster. Also laid to rest in the cemetery is John C. Begovich, former state senator, U.S. marshall, judicial court justice and Amador County supervisor, who died in 1999. Milo Radulovich, who was the subject of a filmed report by Edward R. Murrow on the dangers of McCarthyism during the 1950s, is interred here as well. Several docents will be available to provide additional details about the church and its cemetery.