PODGORICA, Montenegro (AP) - Look up at the wall and you can see Yugoslavia’s late autocratic leader Josip Broz Tito drowning in red fiery waves of hell - along with Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, authors of the 1848 Communist Manifesto.
They are joined by Adam and Eve, current Montenegro politicians and people wearing Turkish turbans. Close by, rival church priests are being gobbled up by the huge jaws of an angry beast with pointed devil ears.
The Serbian Orthodox Church in Montenegro, the tiny Adriatic Sea nation of 600,000 people, has often been involved in politics, especially when Montenegro split from much larger Serbia in 2006. The church’s hardline leader in Montenegro, Bishop Amfilohije Radovic, has often bitterly criticized the country’s pro-independence leadership and is not shy in openly denouncing Islam and Catholicism.
Church leaders have already been criticized for the high costs of the vast church’s lavish design.
“I don’t see anything terrible in the symbolism of this fresco,” Vujacic told The Associated Press.
“To be honest, I am not one of those who see Marx and Tito on it and I don’t even remember how Marx looked like,” he added. “But I know that the fresco depicts the spirit of the time when the battle against God was fought.”
Unlike Vujacic, high-ranking Orthodox priest Velibor Dzomic clearly recognizes the personalities in the fresco.
“Art is a miracle,” he added.
The fresco has triggered controversy not only among the priests but also among believers, many of whom used to be passionate communists during Tito’s 1945-1980 autocratic rule. Montenegro was one of the six Yugoslav socialist republics that abolished communism in 1991.
“I don’t know what to say about the fresco,” said Zoran Savovic, a construction worker from Podgorica who described himself “a bigger Christian than a communist.”