Saint Sava (Serbian: Свети Сава/Sveti Sava,
pronounced [sʋɛ̂ːtiː sǎːʋa], 1174 – 14 January 1236),
known as The Enlightener, was a Serbian prince and Orthodox monk, the
Archbishop of the autocephalous Serbian Church, the founder of
Serbian law, and a diplomat. Sava, born as Rastko (Растко), was
the youngest son of
Serbian Grand Prince
Serbian Grand Prince
Stefan Nemanja (founder of
the Nemanjić dynasty), and ruled the appanage of Hum briefly in
1190–92. He then left for
Mount Athos where he became a monk, with
the name Sava (Sabbas). At Athos, he established the monastery of
Hilandar, which became one of the most important cultural and
religious centres of the Serbian people. In 1219 he was recognized as
the first Serbian
Archbishop by the Patriarchate, and in the same year
he authored the oldest known constitution of Serbia, Zakonopravilo,
thus securing full independence; both religious and political. Sava is
regarded the founder of Serbian medieval literature.
He is widely considered as one of the most important figures of
Saint Sava is canonized and venerated by the Serbian
Orthodox Church, as its founder, on January 27 [O.S. January 14].
His life has been interpreted in many artistic works from the Middle
Ages to modern times. He is the patron saint of Serbia, Serbs, and
Serbian education. The
Church of Saint Sava
Church of Saint Sava in
Belgrade is dedicated
to him, built where the Ottomans burnt his remains in 1594 during an
uprising in which the
Serbs used icons of Sava as their war flags; the
church is one of the largest church buildings in the world.
1 Early life
2 Mount Athos
Autocephaly and church organization
5 First pilgrimage
6 Second pilgrimage and death
7 Legacy and cult
7.2.1 Burning of relics
7.3 Divine Services
7.4 Churches dedicated to St. Sava
7.5 Visual arts
10 See also
14 Further reading
15 External links
Rastko (Растко Немањић, pronounced [râstkɔ
nɛ̌maɲitɕ]), a diminutive of Rastislav, was born in 1169 or
1174,[a] in Gradina (modern Podgorica, Montenegro). As the youngest
son of Grand Prince
Stefan Nemanja and Ana, he was part of the first
generation of the Nemanjić dynasty, alongside his brothers Vukan and
Stefan. His biographers mention that he was born after a hiatus in the
couple's childbearing and was therefore especially dear. At the
Serbian court the brothers received a good education in the
Byzantine tradition, which exercised great political, cultural and
religious influence in Serbia. He grew up in a time of great
foreign relations activities in Serbia. Rastko showed himself
serious and ascetic; as the youngest son, he was made Prince of Hum at
an early age, in ca. 1190. Hum was a province between Neretva
Dubrovnik (Ragusa). Having his own court with magnates
(velmože), senior officials and selected local nobility, the
governance in Hum was not only an honorary title but constituted a
practical school of state administration. Teodosije the Hilandarian
said that Rastko, as a ruler, was "mild and gentle, kind to everyone,
loving the poor as few others, and very respecting of the monastic
life". He showed no interested in fame, wealth, or the throne.
The governance of Hum had previously been held by his uncle Miroslav,
who continued to hold at least the Lim region with
Bijelo Polje while
Rastko held Hum. After two years, in autumn 1192 or shortly
afterwards, Rastko left Hum for Mount Athos. Miroslav may have
continued as ruler of Hum after Rastko had left. Athonite monks
were frequent visitors to the Serbian court – lectures perhaps made
him determined to leave.
Upon arriving at Athos, he entered the Russian St. Panteleimon
Monastery where he received the monastic name of Sava (Sabbas), and
according to tradition it was a Russian monk who was his spiritual
guidance, said to have had earlier guested the Serbian court with
other Athonite monks. He then entered the Greek
where he would stay for the next seven years, and became more closely
acquainted with Greek theological and church-administrational
literature. His father tried to persuade him to return to Serbia,
but he was determined, and replied "You have accomplished all that a
Christian sovereign should do; come now and join me in the true
Christian life". His young years at Athos will have a significant
influence on the formation of his personality, it was also here that
he found models on the basis on which he would organize monastic and
church life in Serbia.
Stefan Nemanja took his son's advice – he summoned an assembly at
Studenica and abdicated on 25 March 1196, giving the throne to his
middle son, Stefan. The next day, Nemanja and his wife Ana took
monastic vows. Nemanja took the monastic name Simeon, and stayed in
Studenica until leaving for
Mount Athos in autumn 1197. The
arrival was greatly pleasing to Sava and the Athonite community, as
Nemanja as a ruler had donated much to the community. The two,
with consent of hegumen (monastery head) Theostyriktos of Vatopedi,
went on a tour of Athos in late autumn 1197 in order for Simeon to
familiarize with all of its churches and sacred places; they donated
to numerous monasteries, and especially Karyes,
Iviron and the Great
When Sava guested the Byzantine Emperor
Alexios III Angelos
Alexios III Angelos at
Constantinople, he mentioned the neglected and abandoned Hilandar, and
asked him that he and his father be given the permit to restore the
monastery and grant it to Vatopedi. The Emperor approved, and sent
a special letter and much gold to his friend
Stefan Nemanja (monk
Simeon). Sava then addressed the Protos of Athos, asking them to
support the effort that the monastery of
Hilandar becomes the haven of
the Serb monks. All Athonite monasteries, except Vatopedi,
accepted the proposal, and in July 1198 Emperor Alexios III authored a
charter which revoked the earlier decision, and instead not only
granted Hilandar, but also the other abandoned monasteries in Mileis,
to Simeon and Sava, to be a haven and shelter for Serb monks in
Athos. The restoration of
Hilandar quickly began and Grand Prince
Stefan sent money and other necessities, and issued the founding
Hilandar in 1199.
Sava wrote a typikon (liturgical office order) for Hilandar, modeled
on the typikon of the monastery of The Mother of God Euergetes in
Constantinople. Besides Hilandar, Sava was the ktetor (sr. ktitor;
founder, donator) of the hermitage at
Karyes (seat of Athos) for the
monks who devoted themselves to solitude and prayer. In 1199, he
authored the typikon of Karyes. Along with the hermitage, he built
the chapel dedicated to
Sabbas the Sanctified, whose name he received
upon monastic vows. His father died on 13 February 1199. In
1204, after 13 April, Sava received the rank of archimandrite.
Sava reconciling his quarreling brothers,
Paja Jovanović (1901).
As Nemanja had earlier decided to give the rule to Stefan, and not the
eldest, Vukan, in the meantime, back home, the latter began plotting
against Stefan; he found an ally in Hungarian king Emeric with whom he
banished Stefan to Bulgaria, and Vukan usurped the Serbian throne.
Stefan returned to
Serbia with an army in 1204, and pushed Vukan to
Zeta, his hereditary land. After problems at Athos with Latin
Boniface of Montferrat
Boniface of Montferrat following the Fourth Crusade, Sava
Serbia in the winter of 1205–06 or 1206–07, with the
remains of his father which he relocated to his father's endowment,
the Studenica monastery, and then reconciled his quarreling
brothers. Sava saved the country from further political crisis by
ending the dynastic fight. Nemanja (Simeon) was canonized in
Sava blessing Serb youth,
Uroš Predić (1921).
Having spent 14 years in Mount Athos, Sava had extensive theological
knowledge and spiritual power. According to Sava's biography, he
was asked to teach the court and people of
Serbia the Christian laws
and traditions and "in that way enwisen and educate". Sava then
worked on the religious and cultural enlightenment of the Serbian
people, educating in Christian morality, love and mercy, meanwhile
also working on the church organization. Since his return in 1206,
he became the hegumen of Studenica, and as its elder, self-willed
entered regulations on the independent status of that monastery in the
Studenica Typikon. He used the general chaos in which the
Byzantine Empire found itself after the siege of
into the hands of the Crusaders, and the strained relations between
Despotate of Epirus
Despotate of Epirus (where the
Archbishopric of Ohrid
Archbishopric of Ohrid was seated,
which the Serbian Church was subordinated to) and the Ecumenical
Constantinople in Nicaea, into his advantage. The
Typikon became a sort of lex specialis, which allowed
Studenica to have independent status ("Here, therefore, no one is to
have authority, neither bishop nor any one else") in relation to the
Bishopric of Raška and Archbishopric of Ohrid. The canonization
of Nemanja and the Studenica
Typikon would be the first steps towards
the future autocephaly of the Serbian Church and elevation of the
Serbian ruler to king ten years later.
Crowning of Stefan, by Anastas Jovanović.
In 1217, archimandrite Sava left Studenica and returned to Mount
Athos. His departure has been interpreted by a part of the historians
as a revolt against his brother Stefan accepting the royal crown from
Rome. Stefan had just prior to this made a large switch in
politics, marrying a Venetian noblewoman, and subsequently asked the
Pope for a crown and moral support. With the establishment of the
Latin Empire (1204), Rome had considerably increased its power in the
Balkans. Stefan was crowned in Žiča, and was now equal to the
other kings, and was called "the First-Crowned King" of "all Serb
lands". According to Ćorović, Stefan's politics were not well
received in the country; Orthodox tradition had already taken grip,
especially Sava rose against his brother, to whom he had up until then
been a faithful companion; he was the main representative of Orthodoxy
and Byzantine ecclesiastical culture in Serbia. According to
Zorić, though Sava left
Serbia while talks were underway between
Stefan and Rome (apparently due to disagreeing with Stefan's excessive
reliance on Rome), he and his brother resumed their good relation
after receiving the crown. According to Mileusnić it is possible
that Sava did not agree with everything in his brother's international
politics, however, his departure for Athos may also be interpreted as
a preparation for obtaining the autocephaly (independence) of the
Serbian Archbishopric. His departure was planned, both Domentijan
and Teodosije, Sava's biographers, stated that before leaving
Studenica he appointed a new hegumen and "put the monastery in good,
correct order, and enacted the new church constitution and monastic
life order, to be held that way", after which he left Serbia.
Autocephaly and church organization
The elevation of
Serbia into a kingdom did not fully mark the
independence of the country, according to that time's understanding,
unless the same was achieved with its church. Rulers of such
countries, with church bodies subordinated to Constantinople, were
viewed of as "rulers of lower status who stand under the top chief of
the Orthodox Christian world – the Byzantine Emperor".
Serbia for autocephaly were largely met at the time,
with a notable number of learned monks, regulated monastic life,
stable church hierarchy, thus "its autocephaly, in a way, was only a
question of time". It was important to Sava that the head of the
Serbian church was appointed by Constantinople, and not Rome.
On 15 August 1219, during the feast of the Dormition of the Mother of
God, Sava was consecrated by Patriarch
Manuel I of Constantinople in
Nicaea as the first
Archbishop of the autocephalous (independent)
Serbian Church. With the support of Emperor Theodore I Laskaris
and "the Most Venerable Patriarch and the whole Constantinopolitan
assembly" he received the blessing that Serbian archbishops receive
consecration from their own bishops' assemblies without consenting
with the Patriarch of Constantinople. Sava had thus secured the
independence of the church; in the Middle Ages, the church was the
supporter and important factor in state sovereignty, and political and
Archbishop Sava returned to Mount Athos, where he
profusely donated to the monasteries. In Hilandar, he addressed
the question of administration: "he taught the hegumen specially how
to, in every virtue, show himself as an example to others; and the
brothers, once again, he taught how to listen to everything the
hegumen said with the fear of God", as witnessed by Teodosije.
From Hilandar, Sava travelled to Thessaloniki, to the monastery of
Philokalos, where he stayed for some time as a guest of the
Metropolitan of Thessaloniki, Constantine the Mesopotamian, with whom
he was a great friend ever since his youth. His stay was of great
benefit as he transcribed many works on law needed for his church.
Upon his return to Serbia, he was engaged in the organization of the
Serbian church, especially regarding the structure of bishoprics,
those that were situated on locales at the sensitive border with the
Roman Catholic West. At the assembly in
Žiča in 1219, Sava
"chose, from his pupils, God-understanding and God-fearing and
honorable men, who were able in managing by divine laws and by
tradition of the Holy Apostles, and keep the apparitions of the holy
God-bearing fathers. And he consecrated them and made them bishops"
(Domentijan). Sava gave the newly appointed bishops law books and
sent them to bishoprics in all parts of Serbia. It is unclear how
many bishoprics he founded. The following bishoprics were under his
administration: Zeta (Zetska), seated at Monastery of Holy Archangel
Prevlaka near Kotor; Hum (Humska), seated at Monastery of
the Holy Mother of God in Ston; Dabar-Bosna, seated at Monastery of
St. Nicholas on the Lim; Moravica, seated at Monastery of St.
Achillius in the Moravica region; Budimlja, seated at Monastery of St.
George; Toplica, seated at Monastery of St. Nicholas in the Toplica
region; Hvosno, seated at Monastery of the Holy Mother of God in the
Hvosno region; Žiča, seated at Žiča, the seat of the Church;
Raška, seated at Monastery of
Holy Apostles Peter and Paul in Peć;
Lipljan, seated at Lipljan; Prizren, seated at Prizren. Among his
bishops were Ilarion and Metodije. In the same year Sava published
Zakonopravilo (or "St. Sava's Nomocanon"), the first constitution of
Serbia; thus the
Serbs acquired both forms of independence: political
The organizational work of Sava was very energetic, and above all, the
new organization was given a clear national character. The Greek
Prizren was replaced by a Serbian, his disciple. This was
not the only feature of his fighting spirit. The determination of the
seats of the newly established bishoprics were also performed with
especially state-religious intention. The Archbishopric was seated in
Žiča, the new endowment of King Stefan, further north of Ras (the
capital) and Studenica, and not far from the Hungarian borders. The
bishopric in Dabar on the
Lim river was situated towards the border
with Bosnia, to act on the Orthodox element there and suppress the
Bogomil teaching. The bishopric of Zeta was located on the Prevlaka
peninsula, Bay of Kotor, out of real Zeta itself, and the bishopric of
Hum in Ston; both of these were almost on the outskirts of the
kingdom, obviously with the aim to combat the Catholic action which
had spread especially from the Catholic dioceses of Kotor and
Dubrovnik. In earlier times, also Orthodox monasteries were subjected
to the supervision of the Catholic Archdiocese of Bar; after Sava's
action that intercourse began to change in the opposite direction.
After Sava's organization, Orthodoxy finally became the state religion
of Serbia. Sava, in that respect, worked consistently and without any
regard. The Bogomils had been prohibited already by his father,
Nemanja, while Sava, as an Athonite Latinophobe, did his part all to
prevent and weaken the influence of Catholicism. Through his clergy,
which he directly influenced as an example and with teaching, Sava
rose also the general cultural level of the whole people, striving to
develop human virtues and a sense of civic duty. The Serbian state
thought of the
Nemanjić dynasty was created by Nemanja, physically,
and intellectually by Sava.
Mar Saba, where Sava founded Serbian cells.
After the crowning of his nephew Radoslav, the son of Stefan, Sava
left the Serbian maritime in 1229 for a trip to Palestine. He
visited almost all the holy places and endowed them with valued
gifts. The Patriarch of Jerusalem, Athanasius, along with the rest
of the prelates, and especially monks, warmly greeted and welcomed
him. On the way back he visited
Nicaea and the Byzantine Emperor
John Vatatzes (r. 1221–54), where he remained for several days. From
there, he continued his journey to Mount Athos, Hilandar, and then via
Thessaloniki to Serbia. While visiting Mar Saba, he had been
Trojeručica (the "Three-handed Theotokos"), an icon of
Nursing Madonna, and the crosier of
Sabbas the Sanctified, which he
brought to Hilandar. After a short stay at Studenica, Sava
embarked on a four-year trip throughout the lands where he confirmed
the theological teachings, and delivered constitutions and customs of
monastic life to be kept, as he had seen in Mount Athos, Palestine and
Second pilgrimage and death
After the throne change in 1234, when King Radoslav was succeeded by
his brother Vladislav,
Archbishop Sava began his second trip to the
Holy Land. Prior to this, Sava had appointed his loyal pupil
Arsenije Sremac as his successor to the throne of the Serbian
Domentijan says that Sava chose Arsenije through
his "clairvoyance", with Teodosije stating further that he was chosen
because Sava knew he was "evil-less and more just than others,
prequalified in all, always fearing God and carefully keeps His
commandments". This move was wise and deliberate; still in his
lifetime he chose himself a worthy successor because he knew that the
further fate of the Serbian Church largely depended on the personality
of the successor.
Sava began his trip from Budva, then via
Brindisi in Italy to
Acre. On this road he experienced various bad events, such as an
organized pirate attack in the rough Mediterranean Sea, which however
ended well. In Acre he stayed in his monastery dedicated to St.
George, which he had earlier bought from the Latins, and then from
there went to Jerusalem, to the Monastery of St. John the Apostle,
"which he, as soon as arriving, redeemed from the Saracens, in his
name". Sava had a prolonged stay in Jerusalem; he was again
friendly and brotherly received by Patriarch Athanasius. From
Jerusalem he went to Alexandria, where he visited Patriarch Nicholas,
with whom he exchanged gifts.
After touring the sanctities in Egypt, he returned to Jerusalem, from
where he went to the Sinai, where he spent the Lent. He returned
briefly to Jerusalem, then went to Antiochia, and from there across
Armenia and the "Turkic lands" he went on the "Syrian Sea" and then
returned on a ship to Antiochia. On the ship, Sava became sick,
and was unable to eat. After a longer trip he arrived at
Constantinople where he briefly stayed. Sava first wanted to
return home via
Mount Athos (according to Domentijan), but he instead
decided to visit the Bulgarian capital at Trnovo, where he was warmly
and friendly admitted by the Bulgarian Emperor Ivan Asen II
(father-in-law of King Vladislav) and Bulgarian Patriarch Joakim.
As on all his destinations, he gave rich gifts to the churches and
monasteries: "[he] gave also to the Bulgarian Patriarchate priestly
honourable robes and golden books and candlesticks adorned with
precious stones and pearls and other church vessels", as written by
Teodosije. Sava had after much work and many long trips arrived at
Trnovo a tired and sick man. When the sickness took a hold of him
and he saw that the end was near, he sent part of his entourage to
Serbia with the gifts and everything he had bought with his blessing
to give "to his children". The eulogia consisted of four
Domentijan accounted that he died between Saturday and
Sunday, most likely on 14 January [O.S. 27 January] 1235.
Sava died ill on his way home from the Holy Land, on 12 January 1235,
in Trnovo, Bulgaria.
Sava was respectfully buried at the Holy Forty Martyrs Church.
Sava's body was returned to
Serbia after a series of requests, and
was then buried in the
Mileševa monastery, built by Vladislav in
1234. According to Teodosije,
Archbishop Arsenije told Vladislav
"It's neither nice nor pleasing, before God nor the people, leaving
our father [Sava] gifted to us by the Christ. An equal to apostles –
who made so many feats and countless efforts for the Serbian lands,
decorating it with churches and the kingdom, the archbishopric and
bishops, and all constitutions and laws – that his relics lie
outside his fatherland and the seat of his church, in a foreign
land". King Vladislav twice sent delegations to his father-in-law
Asen, asking him to let the relics of Sava be transferred to the
fatherland, but the Emperor was unappealing. Vladislav then
personally visited him and finally got the approval, and brought the
relics to Serbia. With the highest church- and state honours, the
Saint Sava were transferred from the Holy Forty Martyrs
Mileševa on 6 May [O.S. 19 May] 1237. "The King and the
Archbishop, with the bishops and hegumens and many noblemen, all
together, little and great, carried the Saint in much joy, with psalms
and songs". Sava was canonized, and his relics were considered
miraculous; his cult remained throughout the
Middle Ages and the
Legacy and cult
Saint Sava is the protector of the Serb people: he is venerated as a
protector of churches, families, schools and artisans. His feast
day is also venerated by Greeks, Bulgarians, Romanians and
Russians. Numerous toponyms and other testimonies, preserved to
this day, convincingly speak of the prevalence of the cult of St.
Sava. St. Sava is regarded the father of Serbian education and
literature; he authored the
Life of St. Simeon (Stefan Nemanja, his
father), the first Serbian hagiography. He has been given various
honorific titles, such as "Father" and "Enlightener".[b]
The Serb people built the cult of St. Sava based on the religious
cult; many songs, tales and legends were created about his life, work,
merit, goodness, fairness and wisdom. His relics, according to
Dimitrije Bogdanović, "became a topic of national, political cult,
focus of liberation thought, danger to foreign rule. Thus, they (the
relics) were burnt, so that the source of insubordination in the
people would not disappear". The
Serbian Orthodox Church
Serbian Orthodox Church venerates
him on January 27 [O.S. January 14].
The first, shorter, biography on St. Sava was written by his
Archbishop Arsenije. The transcript is preserved in a
manuscript on parchment dating to the 13th or 14th century.
Domentijan (ca. 1210–after 1264), an Athonite monk, wrote the Life
of St. Sava in 1253. He gifted it to Serbian king Stefan Uroš I
(r. 1243–76). This biography describes Sava's life from his
birth to his burial in Trnovo. Teodosije (1246–1328), also an
Athonite monk, wrote the Life of St. Sava at
Hilandar at the end of
the 13th century. He based it on Domentijan's biography, though,
unlike the latter, of which narratives are of thoughtful and solemn
rhetoric, Teodosije's biography is warmer, with features of a
hagiographic narrative. Teodosije's description of events give the
impression of a novel, though it does not distort the historical
course of events. Catholic bishop Ivan Mrnavić, a contemporary of
Serbian patriarch Pajsije, published a biography of St. Sava in Latin,
in Rome in 1630–31, which was later translated into Serbian by
Veselin Čajkanović (1881–1946); this biography has many historical
inaccuracies. There are many transcripts preserved of Domentijan's
biography, and many more of Teodosije's.
The presence of the relics of St. Sava in
Serbia had a
church-religious and political significance, especially during the
Ottoman period. No individual among the
Serbs has been woven into
the consciousness and being of the people as Saint Sava, from his time
until the present day. In 1377, Bosnian Ban Tvrtko was crowned
King in the presence of Sava's relics. In 1448, vojvoda Stefan
Vukčić Kosača of Hum styled himself "herzog (duke) of Saint
Sava". The cult collected all South Slavic peoples, especially the
Orthodox Serbs, while his grave was also a pilgrim site for Catholics
and Muslims. Foreign 16th-century writers, Jean Sesno (1547) and
Catherine Zen (1550) noted that Muslims respected the tomb of St.
Sava, and feared him. Benedicto Ramberti (1553) said that Turks
and Jews gave more charity to
Mileševa than the Serbs.
Burning of relics
Further information: Burning of Saint Sava's relics
The burning of Saint Sava's relics by the Ottomans after the Banat
Uprising, on April 27, 1595. Painting by
Stevan Aleksić (1912)
Serbs in Banat rose up against the Ottomans in 1594, using
the portrait of
Saint Sava on their war flags, the Ottomans retaliated
by incinerating the relics of St. Sava on the
Vračar plateau in
Belgrade. Grand Vizier Koca Sinan Pasha, the main commander of the
Ottoman army, ordered for the relics to be brought from
Belgrade, where he set them on fire on 27 April. Monk Nićifor of
Fenek monastery wrote that "there was great violence carried out
against the clergy and devastation of monasteries". The Ottomans
sought to symbolically and really, set fire to the Serb determination
of freedom, which had become growingly noticeable. The event,
however, sparked an increase in rebel activity, until the suppression
of the uprising in 1595. It is believed that his left hand was
saved; it is currently held at Mileševa.
Church of Saint Sava
Church of Saint Sava was built near the place where his relics
were burned. Its construction began in the 1930s and was completed in
2004. It is one of the largest churches in the world.
Divine Services, službe, were created in his honour following his
burial. The earliest service date to the reign of king Vladislav, in
Saint Sava is mentioned along the killed monks on Sinai. In
it, he is compared to the saints Sergius and Bacchus, whose relics are
held at the
Mileševa monastery. In the service, he is called an
illuminator on earth, and the adoration of his icon is mentioned.
There are two services dedicated to Saint Sava: one dedicated to his
Assumption (death), and the second to the translation of his
relics. Nikola and Radoslav wrote the service on the translation
of his relics in ca. 1330. Other services dedicated to the
translation were also compiled in 1599 by inok Georgije, and written
by protohegumen Visarion of Zavala in 1659–60. These services
were superseded by the use of Teodosije's service. The unknown
author of the Service of the Assumption of Saint Sava, a monk of
Mileševa, speaks to him: "Father of Fathers – [of] clergy rules,
wholewised model, virtue of monks, fortification of the church,
lighthouse of love, seat of feelings, source of mercifulness,
fire-inspired tongue, mouth of sweet words, a church vessel of God,
intellectual heaven become – God-good hierarch of Christ".
Churches dedicated to St. Sava
Monument, complex (day) and front walk (night) of the Church of Saint
one of the largest churches in the world.
There are many temples (hramovi) dedicated to St. Sava. As early as
the beginning of the 14th century, Serbian
Nikodim I (s.
1316–1324) dedicated a church to him. Helena of Bulgaria, the
wife of Emperor
Stefan Dušan (r. 1331–55), founded a chapel on the
top of the tower in Karyes, dedicated to St. Simeon and St. Sava.
One of the churches of Rossikon on Mount Athos, as well as a church in
Thessaloniki, are dedicated to him. Churches throughout Serbia,
Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia and
Montenegro are dedicated to him,
as well as churches in diaspora communities.
There are close to no Serbian churches that do not have a depiction of
St. Sava. He is most often depicted as a archiereus (arhijerej,
main priest), or together with his father, St. Simeon. The most
notable of his fresco depictions are located in the monasteries of
Studenica, Mileševa, Peć, Morača, Arilje, Sopoćani, Dečani,
Hilandar, Bogorodica Ljeviška, Psača, Lesnovo, Marko's Monastery,
Matejić, Nagoričano, Nikita, Andrijaš, Bela Crkva, Baljevac,
Pavlica, Ljubostinja, Resava, Koporin, Prohor Pčinjski, Rudenica,
Blagoveštenje and St. Nicholas in Ovčar, Ježevica, Poganovo and
others; he is depicted with the
Nemanjić dynasty (loza Nemanjića) in
Peć and Orahovica. The translation of his relics are
illustrated in the church of the Gradac Monastery, and in the
Peć (in the Bogorodica Odigitrije temple) the scene
where Sava appoints his successor Arsenije is depicted. In the
Church of St. George, also in the Monastery of Peć, an assembly of
Sava is depicted. Iconographer (zograf) Georgije Mitrofanović
illustrated events from the Life of St. Sava in the dining room of
Hilandar. "The Serbian miracle-workers" Sava and Simeon are
depicted in the Archangel Sobor in Kremlin, in Moscow. In the
chapel of the
Rila Monastery in Bulgaria, the Life of St. Sava is
depicted in eight compositions, and in the Athonite monastery of St.
Panteleimon Monastery he is depicted as a monk.
St. Sava is depicted with St. Simeon on an icon from the 14th century
which is held in the National Museum in Belgrade, and on an icon held
in the National Museum in Bucharest. The pair is depicted on tens
of icons held in Hilandar. Other icons of them are found in the
monasteries of Lepavina and Krka, and on the triptych of
Orahovica. On an icon of Morača, beside a scene from his life, he
is depicted with St. Simeon, knez Stefan and St. Cyril the
Graphical illustrations of St. Sava are found in old Serbian printed
books: Triode from the
Mrkšina crkva printing house
Mrkšina crkva printing house (1566), Zbornik
Jakov of Kamena Reka
Jakov of Kamena Reka (1566), as well as Sabornik of Božidar
Vuković (1546) where he is depicted with St. Simeon. There are
notable depictions of Sava in chalcography, one of which was made by
Zaharije Orfelin (1726–1785). In Hilandar, there are two
wood-cuts depicting St. Sava and St. Simeon holding the Three-handed
Theotokos icon. His person is illustrated on numerous liturgical
metal and textile items, while he and scenes from his life are
illuminated in many manuscripts and printed books.
Many Serbian poets have written poetry dedicated to St. Sava. These
include Jovan Jovanović Zmaj's (1833–1904) Pod ikonom Svetog Save
and Suze Svetog Save, Vojislav Ilić's (1860–1894) Sveti Sava and
Srpkinjica, Milorad Popović Šapčanin's (1841–1895) Svetom Savi,
Aleksa Šantić's (1868–1924) Pred ikonom Svetog Save, Pepeo Svetog
Save, Sveti Sava na golgoti,
Vojislav Ilić Mlađi's (1877–1944)
Sveti Sava, Nikolaj Velimirović's (1881–1956) Svetitelju Savo,
Reči Svetog Save and Pesma Svetom Savi, Milan Petrović's
(1902–1963) Sveti Sava, Vasko Popa's (1922–1991) St. Sava's
Journey, Momčilo Tešić's (1911–1992) Svetom Savi, Desanka
Maksimović's (1898–1993) Savin monolog, Matija Bećković's (b.
1939) Priča o Svetom Savi, Mićo Jelić Grnović's (b. 1942)
Uspavanka, and others.
The earliest works of Sava were dedicated to ascetic and monastic
Hilandar Typikon. In their nature,
they are Church law, based strictly on non-literary works, however, in
them some moments came to expression of indirect importance for the
establishment of an atmosphere in which Sava's original and in the
narrow sense, literary works, came to exist. In addition,
characteristics of Sava's language and style come to light here,
especially in those paragraphs which are his specific interpretations
or independent supplements.
Typikon with Sava's signature (1199).
Karyes Typikon, written for the
Karyes cell in 1199. It is basically a
translation from a standard Greek ascetic typikon. It became a model
for Serbian solitary or eremitical monasticism also outside of Mount
Hilandar Typikon, written for
Hilandar in 1199. Compiled as a
translation and adaptation of the introductory part of the Greek
Euergetic typikon from Constantinople. Sava only used some parts of
that typikon, adding his own, different regulations tailored to the
needs of Hilandar. He and his father had donated to the Euergetide
monastery, and Sava stayed there on his trips to Constantinople,
seemingly, he liked the order and way of life in this monastery. This
typikon was to become the general managing order for other Serbian
monasteries (with small modifications, Sava wrote the Studenica
Typikon in 1208). The
Typikon contains regulations for
the spiritual life in the monastery and organization of various
services of the monastic community (opštežića).
The organization of the Serbian church with united areas was set on a
completely new basis. The activity of major monasteries developed;
caretaking of missionary work was put under the duty of the
proto-priests (protopopovi). Legal regulations of the Serbian Church
was constituted with a code of a new, independent, compilation of Sava
– the Nomocanon or Krmčija; with this codification of Byzantine
Serbia already at the beginning of the 13th century received a
firm legal order and became a state of law, in which the rich
Greek-Roman law heritage was built. With this, Sava made
country among the European and Mediterranean civilization.
1262 transcript of the
Nomocanon (sr. Zakonopravilo) or Krmčija, most likely created in
Thessaloniki in 1220, when Sava returned from
Nicaea to Serbia,
regarding the organization of the new, autocephalous Serbian church.
It was a compilation of state ("civil") law and religious rules or
canons, with interpretations of famous Byzantine canonists, who by
themselves were a kind of source of law. As Byzantine nomocanons, with
or without interpretation, the Serbian Nomocanon was a capital source
and monument of law; in the medieval Serbian state, it was the source
of the first order as a "divine right"; after it, legislations of
Serbian rulers (including Dušan's Code) were created. Sava was the
initiator of the creation of this compilation, while the translation
was likely the work of various authors, older and contemporary to
Sava. An important fact is that the choice of compilation in this
nomocanon was unique: it is not preserved in Greek manuscript
tradition. In the ecclesiastic term, it is very characteristic, due to
its opposing of that period's views in effect on church-state
relations in Byzantium, and restoring of some older conceptions with
which the sovereignty of divine law is insisted on.
His liturgical regulations include also Psaltir-holding laws (Ustav za
držanje Psaltira), which he translated from Greek, or as possibly is
the case with the Nomocanon, was only the initiatior and organizer,
and supervisor of the translation. A personal letter of his,
Jerusalem to his disciple hegumen Spiridon in Studenica,
shows Sava getting closer to literature. This is the first work of the
epistolary genre that has been preserved in the old Serbian
literature. Theologian Lazar Mirković (1885–1968) noted "With a lot
of feeling and longing for the fatherland in a distant world and
caring for things in the homeland, Sava wrote this letter to Spiridon,
reporting about him and his entourage, of them falling ill on the
road, how they donated to the Holy sites, where he intended to travel,
and along with the letter he sent gifts: a cross, pleat, cloth and
pebbles. The cross and pleat had laid on Christ's grave, and hence
these gifts received greater value. Sava perhaps found the cloth in
Jordan". The letter has been preserved in 14th-century copies held
in the Velika Remeta monastery. The proper literary nature of Sava
is however revealed only in his hagiographical and poetic
compositions. Each in its genre, they stand at the beginning of the
development of convenient literary genres in the independent Serbian
Hilandar Typikon, Sava included the Short
Hagiography of St.
Simeon Nemanja, which tells of Simeon's life between his arrival at
Hilandar and death. It was written immediately after his death, in
1199 or 1200. The developed hagiography on St. Simeon was written in
the introduction of the Studenica
Hagiography of St. Simeon, written in 1208 as a ktetor hagiography of
the founder of Studenica. It was made according to the rules of
Byzantine literature. The hagiography itself, biography of a
saint, was one of the main prose genres in Byzantium.
Hagiographies were written to create or spread the cult of the saint,
and communicated the qualities of and virtues of the person in
question. The work focused on the monastic character of Simeon,
using biographical information as a subset to his renouncing of the
throne, power and size in the world for the Kingdom of Heaven.
Simeon is portrayed as a dramatic example of renouncing earthly life,
as a representative of basic evangelical teachings and foundations of
these, especially of monastic spirituality. His biographical
pre-history (conquests and achievements) with praises are merged in
the prelude, followed by his monastic feats and his death, ending with
a prayer instead of praise. The language is direct and simple,
without excessive rhetorics, in which a close witness and companion,
participant in the life of St. Simeon, is recognized (in Sava).
Milan Kašanin noted that "no old biography of ours is that little
pompous and that little rhetorical, and that warm and humane as
Very few manuscripts of the works of St. Sava have survived. Apart
Karyes Typikon, of which copy, a scroll, is today held at
Hilandar, it is believed that there are no original manuscript
(authograph) of St. Sava. The original of the Charter of Hilandar
(1198) was lost in World War I.
St. Sava is regarded the founder of the independent medieval Serbian
Sava founded and reconstructed churches and monasteries wherever he
stayed. While staying at Vatopedi, even before the arrival of his
father (1197), he founded three chapels (paraklisi). He had the
monastery church covered in lead, and was regarded the second ktetor,
also having donated highly valuable ecclesiastical art objects.
Together with his father he was the great, second ktetor of the
monasteries of Iviron,
Great Lavra and churches in Karyes. The
most important was Hilandar, together with his father (1198). He
then founded the cell at Karyes, and in 1199 became ktetor of three
more Authonite monasteries: Karakallou, Xeropotamou, and
Philotheou. In 1197 he gave a large contribution to the
Constantinopolitan monastery of the Holy Mother of God Euergetes, and
did the same to Philokallou in Thessaloniki; "due to him also giving
much gold for the erection of that monastery, the population there
regard him the ktetor", according to Teodosije.
Fresco in Mileševa.
Serbia in 1206, Sava continued his work. The Mother of
God Church in Studenica was painted, and two hermitages near Studenica
were endowed. His most important architectural work was the Home
of the Holy Saviour, called Žiča, the first seat of the Serbian
Peć he built the Church of the Holy Apostles,
and he was also involved in the building of the Mileševa
monastery. In Palestine, on Mount Sinai, he founded the Monastery
of St. John the Apostle, as a shelter for Serb pilgrims. Sava
donated gold to many monasteries in Palestine, Thessaloniki, and
especially Mount Athos. His ktetor activity was an expression of
deep devotion and sincere loyalty to Christian ideals.
Hilandar monastery on Mount Athos
Karyes monastery cell (see:
Church of John the Apostle in Jerusalem
And many other churches across Serbia, as well.
Vatopedi on Mount Athos
Philotheou monastery on Mount Athos
Xeropotamou monastery on Mount Athos
Karakallou monastery on Mount Athos
Saint Andrew's church in Constantinople
Studenica monastery in Kraljevo
Church of the
Holy Apostles in Peć
Mileševa monastery in Prijepolje
Mar Saba monastery in Bethlehem
Iviron monastery on Mount Athos
The Monastery of
Great Lavra on Mount Athos
Mother's Mary monastery in Solun
Filokala monastery in Solun
Žiča monastery in Kraljevo
Church of Christ's birth in Bethlehem
An unnamed Georgian monastery in Jerusalem
Church of St. Lazarus of Bethany in Jerusalem
Church of St. Zechariah in Jerusalem
Saint Mary's church in Nazareth
And many other donations in
Jerusalem and Serbia.
Order of St. Sava
Only Unity Saves the Serbs
Eastern Orthodox Church
Eastern Orthodox Church titles
Archbishop of Serbs
December 6, 1219 – 1233
Prince of Hum
under Stefan Nemanja
1190 – 1192
Miroslav or Toljen
^ Sources puts the year of his birth in either 1169 or 1174. The
official site of the
Serbian Orthodox Church
Serbian Orthodox Church put it "around year
1174". Historians Slobodan Mileusnić and Alexis Vlasto
supports ca. 1174.
^ Throughout history, Sava has been given various honorific titles. He
received the popular epithet "Illuminator (enlightener) of the
Serbs". In other genealogies and chronicles, as well as in many
records and inscriptions, he was given the titles: "First Archbishop
and teacher and educator and with God enlighter of his fatherland",
"First saint and teacher", "Great miracle-worker", etc. (for further
information: Radovan Samardžić (1981). Pisci srpske istorije. 2.
Prosveta. p. 19. )
^ a b c d e f g h i Vlasto 1970, p. 218.
^ Stanojević 1935, p. 7.
^ a b c d e f g h Mileusnić 2000, p. 38.
^ Stanojević 1935, p. 8.
^ Fine 1994, p. 19.
^ Mošin 1979, p. 103.
^ Fine 1994, p. 52.
^ Fine 1994, p. 20.
^ Bogdanović 1980, p. 13.
^ Obolensky 2004, p. 144.
^ a b Mileusnić 2000, p. 30.
^ a b c d e f g h i j k Mileusnić 2000, p. 39.
^ Živojinović 2000, p. 110.
^ a b c d Zorić 2006, p. 6.
^ Fine 1994, pp. 41–48.
^ Fine 1994, p. 79.
^ Zorić 2006, p. 5.
^ a b c d e f g h i j Mileusnić 2000, p. 40.
^ a b Zorić 2006, p. 7.
^ a b Zorić 2006, p. 8.
^ Ćorović 2001, Трећи период, II, para. 21.
^ a b c d e f Zorić 2006, p. 9.
^ Ćorović 2001, Трећи период, II, para. 22.
^ a b c d e f g h Mileusnić 2000, p. 41.
^ a b Fine 1994, p. 118.
^ Ćorović 2001, Трећи период, II, para. 27.
^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o Mileusnić 2000, p. 42.
^ "Ikona Presvete Bogorodice "Trojeručice"". Ikonopis.
^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Mileusnić 2000, p. 43.
^ Mileusnić 2000, pp. 43–44.
^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Mileusnić 2000, pp. 44.
^ Popović Danica (2014). "Eulogiae Terrae Sanctae of St Sava of
Serbia". Balcanica. 45: 55–69.
^ a b c d Fine 1994, p. 136.
^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Mileusnić 2000, p. 48.
^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Mileusnić 2000, p. 45.
^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Mileusnić 2000, p. 46.
^ Mileusnić 2000, pp. 44–45.
^ a b c Ćorović 2001, Шести период, V..
^ Mileusnić 2000, pp. 46–47.
^ a b c d e f g h i j k Mileusnić 2000, p. 47.
^ a b c Bogdanović 1999, Предговор, para. 12.
^ Bogdanović 1999, Предговор, para. 13
^ Bogdanović 1999, Предговор, para. 14
^ Bogdanović 1999, Предговор, para. 15
^ Bogdanović 1999, Предговор, para. 8.
^ Bogdanović 1999, Предговор, para. 17
^ Bogdanović 1999, Предговор, para. 18.
^ Bogdanović 1999, Предговор, para. 19.
^ Đuro Daničić (1872). "Poslanica Svetog Save arhiepiskopa
^ Bogdanović 1999, Предговор, para. 20.
^ a b c d e Bogdanović 1999, Предговор, para. 21
^ a b c Bogdanović 1999, Предговор, para. 24.
^ a b Bogdanović 1999, Предговор, para. 25.
^ a b c Bogdanović 1999, Рукописи.
^ Bogdanović 1999, Предговор, para. 3–5.
^ a b Mileusnić 2000, p. 37.
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Српска књижевна задруга.
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Wikimedia Commons has media related to Saint Sava.
Istorijska biblioteka: Sveti Sava (in Serbian)
Collected works (in Serbian)
Spiritual leaders of the Serbian Orthodox Church
Arsenije Sremac (St.)
Sava II (St.)
Danilo I (St.)
Joanikije I (St.)
Jevstatije I (St.)
Jevstatije II (St.)
Sava III (St.)
Nikodim I (St.)
Danilo II (St.)
Joanikije II (St.)
Patriarchs (since 1346)
Joanikije II (St.)
Kirilo I (St.)
Nikon I (St.)
Makarije Sokolović (St.)
Gavrilo I (St.)
Heads of the
Serbian Orthodox Church
Serbian Orthodox Church in the Habsburg Monarchy
Metropolitans of Karlovci 1690–1848
Arsenije III Čarnojević
Belgrade and Karlovci:
Arsenije IV Jovanović Šakabenta
Vićentije Jovanović Vidak
Metropolitans and Patriarchs of Karlovci 1848–1920
Metropolitans of Belgrade
Metropolitans of Montenegro
Main ruling members
see family tree
Stefan the First-Crowned
(Uroš II) Milutin
(Uroš III) Dečanski
(Uroš IV) Dušan
Other ruling members
Vladislav of Syrmia
Stefan Uroš of Pharsalos
Komnena, Duchess of Kruja and Elbasan
Jelena, Princess of Bribir
Elizabeth, Baness of Bosnia
Ana-Neda, Empress of Bulgaria
Milica, Princess of Serbia
Maria Angelina, Empress of Epirus
Jelena, Lady of Zeta; Grand Duchess of Hum
Beloslava of Bulgaria
Helen of Anjou
Catherine of Hungary
Helena Doukaina Angelina
Elizabeth of Hungary
Helena of Bulgaria
Anna of Wallachia
National symbols of
Coat of arms (see also List)
Flag (see also List)
Anthem (see also List)
Stari Ras and Sopoćani
Medieval Monuments in Kosovo
Patriarchate of Peć
Our Lady of Ljeviš
Mramorje (part of Stećci Medieval Tombstones Graveyards)
Church of Saint Sava
Vuk Karadžić (Linguist)
Petar II Njegoš (Poet)
Stevan Mokranjac (Composer)
Nikola Tesla (Inventor)
Nadežda Petrović (Painter)
Jovan Cvijić (Geographer)
Đorđe Vajfert (Industrialist)
Milutin Milanković (Geophysicist)
Slobodan Jovanović (Jurist)
Fauna and flora
Names and codes
Names of Serbia
Serbian folk heroes
Serbian epic poetry
Mottos (Only Unity Saves the Serbs)
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