Three hundred years after the burning of Saint Sava’s remains, in 1895, the Society for the Construction of the Cathedral of Saint Sava on Vračar was founded in Belgrade. Its goal was to build a cathedral on the place of the burning. A small church was built at the future place of the Cathedral, and it was later moved so the construction of the Cathedral could begin. In 1905, a public contest was launched to design the church; all five applications received were rejected as not being good enough.
Soon, the breakout of the First Balkan War in 1912, and subsequent Second Balkan War and First World War stopped all activities on the construction of the church. After the war, in 1919, the Society was established again. New appeals for designs were made in 1926; this time, it received 22 submissions. Though the first and third prize were not awarded, the second-place project, made by architect Aleksandar Deroko, was chosen for the building of the Cathedral.
Forty years after the initial idea, construction of the church began in May 10, 1935, 340 years after the burning of Saint Sava’s remains. The cornerstone was laid by bishop Gavrilo Dozic-Medenica (the future Serbian Patriarch Gavrilo V).
The project was designed by Aleksandar Deroko and Bogdan Nestorovic, aided by civil engineer Vojislav Zadjina.
The work lasted until Second World War Axis occupation of Yugoslavia in 1941. The church’s foundation had been completed, and the walls erected to the height of 7 and 11 metres. After the 1941 bombing of Belgrade, work ceased altogether.
The occupying German army used the unfinished church as a parking lot, while in 1944 the partisans and the Red Army used it with the same purpose. Later, it was used for storage by various companies. The Society for Building of the Cathedral ceased to exist and has not been revived.
In 1958, Patriarch Germanius renewed the idea of building the church. After 88 requests for continuation of the building—and as many refusals, permission for finishing the building was granted in 1984, and Branko Pešić was chosen as new architect of the church. He remade the original projects to make better use of new materials and building techniques.
Construction of the building began again on August 12, 1985. The walls were erected to full height of 40 metres.
The greatest achievement of the construction process was lifting of the 4,000 ton central dome, which was built on the ground, together with the copper plate and the cross, and later lifted onto the walls. The lifting, which took forty days, was finished on June 26, 1989.
As of 2004, the church was mostly complete. The bells and windows had been installed, and the facade completed. However, work on the internal decoration of the building still remains largely unfinished.