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The Sacrosanct Nemanjic Dynasty
Rulers of the medieval Serb lands (1166 - 1371), glorified by rulers from the Petrovic Njegos sacrosanct dynasty of Montenegro (1697-1918) who considered themselves as successors of the Nemanjics' deed

Text below is taken from CD Chilandar (Belgrade 1998) which was published by Studio A, Aetos, Library of Serb Patriarchate and Chilandar monastery. On with courtesy of Nebojsa Jovanovic, participant in development of CD Chilandar.

Grand Zhupan (1166 - 1196), + February 13, 1199
Monk Symeon, St Symeon Elaiovrytis (He Who Flows With the Holy Oil)

Stefan Nemanya is the founder of the Nemanyich Dynasty and unifier of all Serbian lands.

He proclaimed Orthodoxy the state religion, and spent all his life trying to strengthen the church in his country. He organized it according to the Byzantine church models. Stephan Nemanya founded, restored and assisted the monasteries all over Serbia. The best-known amongst them are Djurdjevi Stupovi in Ras and the "Temple of the Immaculate Holy Virgin the Benefactor", known as Studenica. He also bestowed donations on many churches abroad, such as The Big Church (Patriarchate) and the Church of St. John the Forerunner in Jerusalem, Church of St Theodosios "in the Desert", the Virgin Evergethide Church in Constantinople, St Demetrios Church in Salonika, St Peter's Church in Rome, St Nicholas Church in Bari.

After having united the country and organized state and religious conditions, he abdicated the throne to his second son Stefan in 1196. Then he renounced the secular life and retired to the monastery Studenica. There he entered a monastic order and received the name Symeon. Eventually he went to the monastery Vatopedi, on Mount Athos, to join his youngest son, Monk Sava, who had been living there for a few years. Shortly after that the two of them reconstructed the ruined monastery of Chelandari, in the North of Mount Athos, "in order to receive there people of Serbian descent who wanted to dedicate themselves to the monastic life".

Stefan Nemanya died in the narthex of the Chilandar church , before the icon of the Virgin Hodegetria. On his deathbed he swore in his son Sava to have his body transferred from Chilandar to Serbia, "when God permits it, after a certain period of time". The Monk Sava did itt in 1207. He transferred the relics to Serbia and put them into the tomb made ready for them, in his father's endowment, the Holy Virgin Church of Studenica, where they still rest in peace.

In the person of the founder of the Nemanyich dynasty the Serbs got their first saint, whose cult is connected with the Studenica monastery. The Monk Sava wrote the Liturgy of St Symeon, where he called Symeon saint, blessed, and his relics miracle- working and exuding the holy oil.

The community of Chilandar has been ever since cherishing the memory of St Symeon, as well as the traces of his sojourn among the Athonite monks: Charter of the Grand Zhupan Stefan to Chilandar, old and new reliquaries of St Symeon, the vine of St Symeon, the cypress of St Symeon, the cell of St Symeon, the icon of St Symeon.

(+January 14, 1236)
Monk Sava, first Serbian Archbishop, Saint Sava

Rastko was the youngest son of the Grand Zhupan Stefan Nemanya.He was only seventeen when some Russian monks arrived to his father's court. As soon as he had learned from them about Mount Athos, he left the court and went there in disguise. He had entered a monastic order in the Russian monastery Old Roussikon, but invited by the Vatopedi abbot, he moved into their community. He bestowed on them rich donations, erected two churches and re-roofed the katholikon.

Five to six years after Sava had arrived to Mount Athos, his father, at the time already Monk Symeon, joined him there.

They met in the Vatopedi monastery and remained there for a certain period of time. Soon both of them felt a desire to build a monastery for their own Serbian people. After having gone through many troubles, they eventually received the constitutional charter. By the Chrysobull of the Emperor Alexios III the Angel, they were granted the ruined settlement of Chelandari to found there a Serbian community. They started building it in 1198, and when Symeon died in 1199, Sava continued with the works on his own. He went to Karyes, and founded there the Kellion of Saint Sava of Jerusalem, where he subjected himself to a strenuous ascetic discipline for some time. There he wrote the Karyes Typikon, thus laying the foundations of a strict monastic tradition, which has been respected up to the present day. Beside writing the Chilandar Typikon andKaryes Typikon, Monk Sava is also credited with translations of liturgiical literature. He wrote the father Symeon's hagiography, the first literary work in Serbian. It was in Chilandar that he conceived the idea of writing the Code of Rules, as well as the Studenica Typikon.

According to his father's wish, and at the request of his brothers Stefan and Vukan, Sava had the relics of Nemanya transferred to Serbia in 1207. When Stefan received the title of a king, in 1217, Sava returned to Mount Athos. He arranged the work of the hospital in Chilandar, and then withdrew to the kellion in Karyes. Shortly after that, he left for Nicaea, where in 1219 he received from the Byzantine Emperor and Patriarch the autonomy for the Serbian church, and the title of Archbishop for himself. The monastery Zhicha was chosen as the seat of the autocephalous Serbian Orthodox Church, and it was there that Sava, some time later, preached his famous sermon on Orthodoxy. He ruled the Serbian Church as an Archbishop for fourteen years, and during that time he put it in order and strengthened its foundations.

Sava travelled twice to the East, to visit the Holy Land and the Holy Sepulchre. From his journeys he brought back many relics, icons and other holy objects, many of which have been preserved in Chilandar and in its kellia to the present day; icons of the Virgin Troyerutchitsa (of the Three Hands) and the Virgin Galaktotrophousa (She Who Suckles), episcopal staff of St Sava of Jerusalem called Pateritsa, a fragment of the True Cross, a splinter from the Crown of Thorns and other.

Archbishop Sava died on January 14, 1236 in Trnovo, on his way back from the Holy Land. The Serbian king Vladislav had his relics transferred to the monastery Milesheva, in 1237. Out of fear from the saint, Sinan Pasha, a Serb converted into Islam, had the relics of St Sava transferred from Milesheva to Belgrade, where he had them burnt on the Vrachar pplateau in 1594. On that veryplace, out of respect and gratitude, the Serbian people have now been erecting the largest Orthodox temple in the world.

The monks of Mount Athos and Chilandar monastery traditionally make daily mention of Saint Sava's miracles, of his building of Chilandar, his writing of the Karyes Typikon with a cross-like stamp on it, his kellion, hospital, tower in Chilandar. Many places that he used to visit still bear his name: at the Sava's Kellion, Sava's Water, St Sava's Well...

The national tradition ascribes to St Sava many parables, miracles and tales, and the Serbian people put him into the first place among their teachers and educators. His cult is a very strong one.

St Sava's feast day is January 27th (14th by the old calendar), and it is being celebrated both by the Serbian Church and all Serbs wherever they may live. It is also celebrated as the school feast day.

Grand Zhupan (1196 - 1217), King (1217 - 1228)
St Simon the Monk

Stefan was the second son of Stefan Nemanya. He succeeded his father Nemanya to the Grand Zhupan's throne in 1196 and was crowned the first Serbian king in 1217.

Through his political activities he helped his brother, the Chilandar monk Sava, to obtain in Nicaea, in 1219, the document of autonomy of the Serbian Church, as well as to be appointed the first Serbian Archbishop.The seat of the Archbishopric was in the monastery Zhicha, the endowment of Stefan the First-crowned.

In memory of his father, he wrote his hagiography and several charters to various monasteries. Before his death, he had entered a monastic order and received the name Simon. He was buried in Studenica, but due to frequent war dangers his relics had been transferred for fourteen times, until they were finally returned to Studenica, where they still rest in peace.

King (1228 - 1234)
Monk John

Radoslav was the oldest son of Stefan the First-crowned. He received the title of king from the first Serbian Archbishop, the latter Saint Sava. Later, he entered a monastic order himself, under the name of John.

He had a large exonarthex added to the famous foundation of his grandfather Nemanya, which is known as the Radoslav's narthex in the Holy Virgin Church of Studenica. He is also credited with the exonarthex of Zhicha, the building of which had probably started before the death of Stefan the First-Crowned (1228).

King (1234 - 1243)

Vladislav was the second son of Stefan the First-crowned. In 1218 he had the monastery Milesheva erected. About 1224 he ordered that all the distinguished members of the Nemanyich dynasty should be painted in the monastery narthex. The procession started with Stefan Nemanya, and finished with the figure of the donor, still a prince at the time, holding a model of Milesheva in his hand.

Sava, the First Serbian Archbishop, died in Trnovo, Bulgaria, in 1236. Vladislav had his relics transferred to his endowment Milesheva, where he buried them in the Church of Ascension, in 1237.

King (1243 - 1276)
Monk Simon

Urosh was the youngest son of Stefan the First-crowned. Like all the other members of the Nemanyich dynasty, he was particularly zealous in building and decorating Serbian monasteries and churches. He was the donor of the monastery Sopochani, which he also endowed with some properties, besides presenting it with various gifts. In the 60s of the 13th century he erected the Tower of Transfiguration next to the Holy Trinity on the Saviour's Water, within half an hour walking distance from Chilandar. Shortly after, an important workshop for literary and transcribing activities was formed there. Amongst others there worked the great Serbian author and Karyes ascetic Dometian. It was here that he wrote, to the order of Urosh I, the hagiography of Stefan Nemanya, with the title of "The Hagiography of St Symeon".

King (1276 - 1282)
St Monk Theoktist

Dragutin was the older son of Stefan Urosh I. He abdicated the throne to his younger brother Milutin, at the Dezhevo Assembly, in 1282. Until his death in 1316, he ruled over a mighty kingdom in the regions of Podrinye, Posavina and Shumadia- Branichevo, independent of his brother Milutin.

He erected various churches, the most famous being the Church of St Achillius in Arilye, the seat of the Morava Bishopric, in 1296. He entered a monastic order at the end of his life, receiving the name of Theoktist.

He led a deeply religious, almost ascetic life, making many good deeds. In his home he manufactured liturgical vessels which he gave away as presents to many churches and monasteries in Russia, Jerusalem, on Mount Sinai and other holy places. He took care of religious purity and had many Bosnian heretics converted into Christianity.

Only upon his death it was revealed how blessed he really was. Namely, when the courtiers wanted to bathe him, they found out that under his sumptuous garments he had all his life worn coarse linen clothing, the straw-belt of which was deeply cut into his body.

His relics were first buried in the monastery Djurdjevi Stupovi. They were transferred to Studenica at a later date, and they still rest there next to the tomb of St Symeon.

King (1282 - 1321)
St King Milutin

Milutin was the younger son of Stefan Urosh I. He was, after St Symeon and St Sava, the biggest donor of Chilandar and the biggest donor in general among all members of the sacrosanct Nemanyich dynasty. His hagiography writers claimed that he had erected more than forty churches and monasteries. He built in Jerusalem, Constantinople, Salonika, in Macedonia, Serbia and on Mount Athos. He also built in Bari and Rome, but most of all in Chilandar.

He gave the final touch to the Chilandar monastery precincts, giving it splendour, so all the other donors only added to or repaired damaged buildings. Without Milutin there would be no Chilandar katholikon, which is maybe the most magnificent building of Mount Athos. There would also be no Chilandar refectory, built on the place of the old refectory of St Symeon and St Sava. He also completed the Cemetery Church, which was first dedicated to the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, and later to Annunciation. He also took care of defence objects of Chilandar, and had the upper third of the St Sava's Tower built. Between 1300 and 1302, he answered the request of the Chilandar abbot Kyriakos, and erected the large Hrussia Tower. Immediately after that, he had a magnificent tower built on the Sava's Field, which was named after him Milutin's Tower. With his monies he also erected the tower of hieromonach Theodoulos in Karyes, next to the Kellion of St Sava, but it has not been preserved to the present day.

King Milutin filled up all these buildings with frescoes, icons, ecclesiastical vessels, books and embroideries. A lot of them were lost with the time, but many of them have also been preserved in churches and in monasteries' treasuries. The exceptional diptych with miniatures of Venetian art, was donated to Chilandar monastery by the "Christ loving and God fearing King".

King (1321 - 1331)
St Stefan of Dechani

Stefan Urosh III was the son of King Milutin. Out of his love for Christ, as well as gratitude to the Chilandar community which had mediated in his reconciliation with his father Milutin, Stefan built in the courtyard of the Hrussia Tower, in Chilandar, the Church of St Basil.

He built many more endowments, the most famous being the monastery of Christ the Pantocrator near Dechani, in Metochia, after which the King was named by the people "Stefan of Dechani". Because of its architectural symmetry, lavish sculptural ornamentation, theological themes of paintings and richness of the monastery treasury, Dechani represents one of the most significant monuments of the Serbian medieval heritage.

Relics of the donor, Stefan of Dechani, are resting in peace in the Dechani monastery.

King (1331 - 1346), Tzar (1346 - 1355)

Dushan was the son of Stefan of Dechani. Borders of Dushan's state included the most important centre of Orthodoxy of the Byzantine Empire - Mount Athos -The Holy Mountain. The State Assembly in Skopje accepted the proclamation of the Empire and Patriarchate. On Easter day 1346, Dushan was crowned the Tzar by the Serbian Patriarch Ioannikos and the Patriarch of Trnovo Symeon.

At Dushan's time not many enlargements were done at the Chilandar monastery, but he bestowed it with many gifts and untold wealth. He was generous also to other monasteries of Mount Athos. The legend credits him with donation of the Holy Archangels Church. To Tzar Dushan and his time at Chilandar are also related the epitaphios (the holy shroud for the altar) of the Archbishop John of Skopje, which represents an exceptional cult object of art. Chilandar monastery also keeps a cup of Tzar Dushan, with an ivory decoration from the 16th century, Dushan's hasha (a rich Venetian horse cover), Dushan's cross and Tzar Dushan's olive tree.

For Dushan's sake the Athonites made a precedent, unique in the history of this monastic state, accessible only to men. Namely, since the plague raged all over Serbia, Dushan and his consort, Empress Helen, took refuge from the black pestilence at the only safe place - Chilandar. In order not to have the holy ground desecrated by woman's feet, the Empress was carried all the time in a sedan chair. The legend has it that for a moment her feet touched the sacred ground which cracked then and there.

Tzar (1355 - 1371)
St Stefan Urosh

Urosh the Feeble was the only son of Tzar Dushan the Mighty. In the year 1346, when Dushan was crowned the tzar, Urosh was simultaneously crowned the king. He became his father's co-ruler, and after Dushan's death, the second Serbian tzar.

Together with his mother, the Empress Helen, he completed Dushan's endowment, the monastery Mateich, and he erected the Holy Trinity Church in Skopje.

With Urosh the Feeble's death the sacrosanct Nemanyich dinasty was extinct, and Mount Athos was not within the borders of the Serbian state any more.