The Serbian Orthodox church has demanded that the ashes of one of the world’s greatest inventors, Nikola Tesla, be moved from the museum where they are currently kept in Belgrade to St. Sava’s Church, also in the Serbian capital. This comes as another chapter in a long-running dispute between the church and the museum as to who get to keep the remains of the Serbian national hero.
The church claims that “the Serbian Orthodox Church had always been present in the life and deeds of the great Nikola Tesla,” though many have pointed out that the man was not actually "a believer in the orthodox sense," as Tesla himself even put it. Scientists have argued that he should be remembered and celebrated as a man of science, not religion. After the first attempt to move the remains took place, a campaign called Leave Tesla Alone started to fight it. As one campaigner has said, Tesla “was not an ancient king, nor a saint. He was a scientist.”
The gold sphere containing Tesla's ashes are currently held by the Nikola Tesla museum. Martin Lopatka/Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0
Born in 1856 in a village in modern-day Croatia, Tesla actually conducted most of his work in the United States in 1884 for Thomas Edison in New York City. It was in the US that he developed the alternating current electricity supply system – still in use today – while also working on a bunch of other inventions. By the time of his death in New York in 1943, Tesla had over 300 patents to his name. It was not until 1957 that his ashes, placed within a golden sphere, were taken to the Nikola Tesla museum in Belgrade, where they remain to this day.
This isn’t the first time that the Serbian Orthodox church has attempted to get the ashes moved to the city’s St. Sava Church. In 2014, they put pressure on the government to bury his remains with other national heroes, such as Prince Lazar, who led a Christian army against invading Ottomans. This initial attempt was stopped, but clearly it has not prevented the church from pursuing it further.
The St. Sava Church in Belgrade, where the Serbian Orthodox church want to inter the remains. Rowan Z/Flickr CC BY 2.0
To some, the reason for the dispute simply comes down to tourism. It is claimed the Serbian Orthodox church and the Tesla museum are simply fighting to get more feet through their doors, without being particularly concerned as to what the man himself would have wanted. Another report says that apparently the church is concerned that his ashes are being used in “satanic rituals” at the museum, something that they obviously disagree with. Either way, it doesn't seem like the issue will be settled anytime soon, and as Tesla never married or had any children, we can only speculate as to what he would have actually wanted.