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Serbian Orthodox Church (Yugoslavia)

Srpska Pravoslavna Crkva

Last modified: 2003-01-18 by ivan sache
Keywords: serbian orthodox church | srpska pravoslavna crkva | religion | ocila | firesteel |
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[Serbian Orthodox Church]by Ivan Sarajcic

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Description of the flag

The flag of the Serbian Orthodox Church is the Serbian tricolor with golden cross and 4 so-called ocilo. Proportions vary, but the most frequent of them is nearly 1:4.

Ivan Sarajcic, 6 January 1999

Meaning and origin of the ocila emblem

Ocila (c is read as "ts") is the term that describes the four curious elements (cyrillic S's). Another word in Serbian for the same thing is ognjila, but I do not think that this is ever used for those elements in this sense.
Ocilo is called in English a firesteel, a cup or plate used for holding fire in religious service (or most usually beneath icons), providing the fragrant smoke. Similar device is also known in West-European heraldry, then most usualy with opening above, often with fire bursting from it.

Zeljko Heimer 28 September 1998

The meaning and use of this symbol comes from 12th century during the life of St. Sava, a Serbian prince, monk, and a patron of Serbian Orthodox Church [est. 1219].
During that time of transition in Serbian maedieval history, the state was pressured by the Vatican to convert into Catholicism. Since the state did not have its own independent ecclesiastic establishment, St. Sava called for establishment of Serbian independent Archiepiscopat, and as well called on all Serbs to unite against the pressure from The Vatican.
St. Sava said, "Only Unity Saves the Serbs" [in Serbian, Samo Sloga Srbina Spasava]. You have noticed [in Serbian version] that every word of that sentence begins with letter "S", In Cyrillic alphabet letter "S" looks like "C", and there comes the explanation why there are "4 C's" in the Yugoslav coat of arms. Serbian coat of arms represents a reminder for a need for Serbian people to unite with the cause to preserve their heritage and nationhood.

David Adizes, 23 November 1999

This is a well-known legend. The ocili stems from Byzantine symbols, and the idea for the motto is also taken from the 4B's of Byzance.

Zeljko Heimer , 25 November 1999

The fact is that, before the 12th century, an almost identical cross with four C- or rather open-B-shaped firesteels was used by the Byzantine Paleologi emperors, the letters standing for Basileus Basileon Basileuon Basileusin ("King of kings, ruling over kings"), the emperors' motto in Greek.

Santiago Dotor , 25 November 1999