The Archbishop of Peć, Metropolitan of Belgrade and Karlovci and Serbian Patriarch is the head of the autocephalous Serbian Orthodox Church.
The Archdiocese of Žiča was founded in 1219 by St Sava as an episcopal see under the Patriarchate of Constantinople. In 1233, the archdiocese was moved to Peć. In response to Stefan Uroš IV Dušan of Serbia declaring himself Emperor of the Serbs and Greeks in, the archdiocese unilaterally declared itself the Holy Patriarchal See of Peć; these actions placed both the Serbian Emperor and Serbian Patriarch in direct rivalry with their counterparts in Constantinople. The Serbian Patriarchate was eventually recognized by Constantinople in 1379.
As the Serbian Empire quickly declined, the patriarchal see lost its influence and importance. By 1459, the last of the states formerly united under empire, the Serbian Despotate, was firmly captured by Ottoman forces. The Ottomans interfered with the governance of the patriarchate, the Sublime Porte even going so far as forcing Greeks sympathetic to the Ottoman rule into the supreme office. In 1766, the Serbian Patriarchate was abolished and all ecclesiastical jurisdiction was once again returned to the Patriarch of Constantinople. A metropolitan see was maintained in Belgrade; independent metropolitan sees continued the Serbian Orthodox traditions in Karlovci and in Montenegro.
The Serbian Orthodox Church was re-established in 1920 after uniting the Patriarchate of Karlovci (the independent Metropolitan See of Karlovci was elevated to a patriarchate in 1848, the seat of which had remained vacant since the assassination of Patriarch Lukijan Bogdanović in 1913), the Metropolitanate of Belgrade and the Metropolitanate of Montenegro. The current Serbian Patriarchs claim succession to St Sava and the Holy Patriarchal See of Peć.
The modern patriarchs are:
- Dimitrije I (Serbian: Димитрије), 39th Serbian Patriarch, from 12 September 1920 until his death on 6 April 1930.
- Varnava I (Serbian: Варнава), 40th Serbian Patriarch, reigned from 12 May 1930 until his death on 23–24 July 1937.
- Gavrilo V (Serbian: Гaврилo), 41st Serbian Patriarch, from 21 February 1938 until his death on 7 May 1950.
- Vikentije II (Serbian: Викентије), 42nd Serbian Patriarch, from 1950 until his death on 5 July 1958.
- German I (Serbian: Герман), 43rd Serbian Patriarch, from 14 September 1958 until his death on 27 August 1990.
- Pavle II (Serbian: Павле), 44th Serbian Patriarch, reigned from 1 December 1990 until his death on 15 November 2009.
- Irinej I (Serbian: Иринеј), became the 45th Serbian Patriarch on 23 January 2010.