Graham Speake, Kallistos Ware

VLADETA JANKOVIC. The Serbian Tradition on Mount Athos

‘The Holy Mountain has, from its earliest emergence as a monastic community in the ninth and tenth centuries, played an important role not only as a place where Byzantine asceticism was cherished but also as the centre of a cultural mission’, wrote the late Dimitrije Bogdanović, Serbian literary historian, scholar, and authority on the Athonite tradition.210 In his view, the Christianization of the Slav peoples was accomplished with the active involvement and participation of the Holy Mountain’s monastics who were steeped in authentic Byzantine spirituality. These monks of the Slav peoples – Russians, Bulgarians, Serbs – were adopting the traditions of one state culture and transporting them back to their own countries of origin. It proved in subsequent ages to have been, in one form or another, a two-way process: the debt which the Slavs owed to the Byzantine and Athonite traditions was variously repaid and reciprocated. The monastery of Hilandar is a good example to support this theory.

The existence of the Serbian tradition on the Holy Mountain is inseparably linked to that of the monastery of Hilandar. There are no data regarding the presence of any Serbian monks on the Holy Mountain before the middle of the twelfth century, although there were probably a small number of individuals such as hermits or members of already established brotherhoods similar to those in Lavra, Vatopedi, Esphigmenou, or Iviron, and certainly some travelling pilgrims. Even so, one can say that Serbian history on the Holy Mountain begins properly in 1191 with the arrival of Prince Rastko Nemanjić (the future St Sava), while the official date can be taken to be 1198 when the main church of the restored Hilandar was completed and consecrated.

The original, pre-Serbian Hilandar was situated in the same location as the present one and was founded almost certainly by the monk Grigorios Hilandaris, who by all accounts was a well-known and much-respected personality on the Holy Mountain. His name suggests that he had some connection with shipping and freight ships which were known as helandion, hence the name of the monastery itself (Helandariou in Greek), which could be translated as ‘the boatman’s’. Hilandaris, who in 976 and 979–80 intervened between the Athonite community and Emperor Basil II,211 in April 982 sold his habitat, together with the surrounding land, to the monks of the neighbouring monastery of Iviron ‘in order to live nearer the sea’,212 evidently on the very site of the present Hilandar. It is equally clear that his new premises evolved into a monastery which now carries the name of its founder and was dedicated then, as it is now, to the Presentation of the Holy Virgin. In the Holy Mountain’s archives there is mention of the three abbots of Hilandar before it became a Serbian monastery;213 the last of these was noted in 1169, from which one concludes that it must have been around the same time that the monastery was ransacked by pirates who often made raids in that part of the Holy Mountain, known as Milea. When the Serbs took it over, at the very end of the twelfth century, Hilandar was deserted and in ruins, under the jurisdiction of the Protos in Karyes.

It would be appropriate here to remind ourselves of the story, well known and reliably documented,214 about the arrival on Athos of the man who was to resurrect Hilandar. Rastko Nemanjić was the third and youngest son of Stefan Nemanja, the founder of the medieval Serbian state and of the dynasty that ruled Serbia from the twelfth until almost the end of the fourteenth century. His early youth was spent at the court with his parents where he was especially well loved, being a late and unexpected child. Having received the best education that was on offer and befitting a medieval prince, the young Rastko was particularly drawn to spiritual values and deeply impressed by tales of the austere ascetic life of the Holy Mountain, which were related to him by a Russian monk from Athos, probably a wayfaring mendicant friar, who had stopped for respite at the Serbian court. Contemporary sources215 would have it that the youth, who was only seventeen at the time, left the court without his parents’ knowledge and followed the monk to the Holy Mountain, where he initially found refuge in the monastery of St Panteleimon. The anxious father sent a posse after his favourite son and when the military contingent reached the Russian monastery, which was then situated about 3 kilometres inland from its present location, the young man hurled his princely robes and his shorn hair down from a pyrgos to the soldiers below, bidding them tell his father that he had become a monk and that his name was no longer Rastko, but Sava. This same tower from the eleventh century still stands in what is known as the Old Roussikon, while Sava, who was later to become a saint, remains the most deserving and revered son of the Serbian nation in its entire history.

Not long after, Sava moved from Roussikon to Vatopedi from where he proceeded to visit all of the Mountain’s monasteries, but also spent extensive periods in total isolation as a recluse in the desert. In 1196 his father, Stefan Nemanja, relinquished his throne in favour of his son Stefan, who became known as ‘the First Crowned’ – the first Serbian ruler to become a king – while he himself ‘took the cowl’, entering the monastery of Studenica in Serbia as monk Simeon. From there, at Sava’s summons, he joined his son on the Holy Mountain. Chronicles record in a vivid description the emotional reunion of the two men in the Vatopedi arsanas in November 1197.216 Father and son then undertook a tour of all the monasteries, lavishing on them generous gifts but especially richly rewarding their hosts in Vatopedi. They also lost no time in systematically pressing for the establishment of a Serbian monastic order on Athos. At the beginning of 1198, Sava obtained from Emperor Alexios III Angelos in Constantinople the chrysobull by which the monastery of Hilandar no longer belonged to the governance of the Protos in Karyes, but came under the jurisdiction of Vatopedi ‘for the purposes of restoration’. The sigillion was accompanied by the appropriate deeds and land registry documents regarding the boundaries of the property.217

Almost immediately work commenced on the rebuilding of Hilandar, liberally financed by the new king of Serbia, Nemanja’s son and Sava’s brother, Stefan. (In truth, money for Hilandar was not a problem, either then or during the following two centuries.) The Vatopedi brotherhood was, in the beginning, reluctant to cede the monastery altogether to the Serbs, but Nemanja and Sava overcame their recalcitrance with the help of the Protos and the Holy Community in Karyes. All of them together approached Emperor Alexios with a petition appealing for Hilandar to be granted the status of an independent monastery, citing as examples the Georgian monastery of Iviron and the Italian one of Amalfitans (then in existence). The emperor granted the request in June 1198 and issued a charter with the Golden Seal whereby Hilandar, together with ‘all holy ground in Milea’, was to be subjected to the rule and governance of Simeon Nemanja and Sava and was henceforth to be considered ‘a gift to the Serbs in perpetuity’. The original of this charter is still kept in the treasury of Hilandar.218

It is necessary to emphasize the significance of the fact that Hilandar, from the beginning of the twelfth century, enjoyed the status of an ‘imperial lavra’. In the Byzantine world, monasteries were divided into episcopal, metropolitical, patriarchal, and imperial. The first three categories were bound by certain obligations to the bishops, the metropolitans, and patriarchs respectively, while the imperial ones, those under the emperor’s protection, were exempt from all dues and independent of church authorities in all administrative matters (although not in matters of ecclesiastical jurisdiction).219

In addition to the chrysobull regarding its self-governance, Hilandar was also presented with nine villages in the environs of Prizren (in what is now Kosovo), two vineyards, four bee-keeping farms, one mountain, and 170 peasants. Together with the wealth of properties donated by King Stefan the First Crowned, the material base for the existence of Hilandar was secured.220 Of equal importance was the fact that the first brotherhood consisted of men of the highest quality. Its core was made up of prominent nobles devoted to Stefan Nemanja, who had come with him from Serbia. They put an aristocratic stamp on the monastery, so that wealth and a certain elegance remained a characteristic of the place, well into the period of Ottoman occupation.

The renewal of Hilandar was not quite finished when, on 13 February 1199, Simeon Nemanja died. He was of a venerable age and died most probably from pneumonia. The main church must have been completed by then because sources confirm that Nemanja died in its narthex and was buried in the temple itself.221 The remainder of the works must have been completed in the following few months because it is known that, in June of the same year, Sava had been again to Constantinople to receive from Alexios III confirmation of all the rights and privileges which had been granted to Hilandar in 1198, as well as the gift of yet another abandoned monastery, Zygou, the remains of which are not far from Ouranoupolis.222 On his return, Sava wrote Hilandar’s typikon, which remains in use to this day.

Hilandar’s constitution was modelled on that of the Virgin Evergetis monastery in Constantinople, that is to say, a closely knit cenobitic community, working together, sharing their meal-times, all under the guidance of an abbot, with priority always given to matters spiritual. Hilandar, as the typikon emphasized, was independent of the Protos in Karyes and even of the emperor in the sense that it had the freedom to elect its own abbot without the need of the emperor’s approval. It is also of interest that, since earliest times, the Hilandar hospital was in operation, where treatment was administered according to what were then the most up-to-date standards of western medicine, based on the teachings of Hippocrates and Galen.

In 1199 St Sava had a cell (hesychasterion) built in Karyes, where he himself first lived alone and for which he wrote a specific typikon. In it the rules prescribe very strict norms for a hermit’s life which are still adhered to. This cell in Karyes was only one of many properties belonging to Hilandar which comprised churches, fortresses, and cells, scattered all over the Holy Mountain. The most notable of these are St Basil, a very picturesque for tress and church in the harbour of Hilandar, built by King Milutin towards the end of the thirteenth century, and the pyrgos of the Transfiguration, in the hills an hour’s walk from the monastery. All these buildings were built in locations which were strategically important for security but also, incidentally, in settings that were aesthetically pleasing. From the Karyes hermitage a magnificent view opens out to the mountain range of Athos and the open sea looking towards Thasos, while the pyrgos of St Basil is situated on a rocky promontory directly above the sea, and the pyrgos of the Transfiguration in woodland, atop a cliff from which the sea can be seen in the distance. From its beginnings Hilandar cultivated Orthodox spirituality and asceticism in various degrees, from the humble communal life accessible to all and attainable by many, to the elitist separatism and isolationism, where two or three monks would retreat for purposes of deep spiritual contemplation, hesychastic prayer, and also, very often, literary work. Indeed, some of the most notable Serbian medieval hagiographies, biographies, and hymns were written by Hilandar monks (such as Domenthian or Theodosios) in the pyrgos of the Transfiguration.

The economic bedrock for Hilandar’s survival was the great number of estates donated to the monastery by Serbian rulers and landed gentry, from the beginning of the thirteenth right through to the fifteenth century. These holdings were situated not only in Halkidiki but scattered all over present-day Macedonia, central Serbia, and especially Kosovo. At the beginning of the fifteenth century, according to reliable sources,223 Hilandar owned thirty metochia with about 360 villages, over which it excercised feudal rights. These produced so much revenue, while at the same time enjoying legal and administrative tax exemptions, that Hilandar was at that time virtually a state within a state. On the Holy Mountain alone it owned around 60 square kilometres, that is, effectively a fifth of the entire peninsula.224

There is no doubt that the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, while the Nemanjić dynastynruled Serbia (and right up to the battles on the river Marica and in Kosovo, which opened the way for the Turkish invasion of the Balkans), were Hilandar’s ‘golden age’. Apart from being one of the biggest and most influential of the Holy Mountain’s monasteries, Hilandar also represented the centre of the spiritual life of medieval Serbia. At the same time it was a vital factor in matters of foreign policy, as a representative and intermediary in relations between Serbia and Byzantium. In the eyes of Byzantium, Hilandar was a lasting and inalienable testament of legitimacy, because it bore the golden seal of the emperor. With the status of an imperial lavra, Hilandar – independent and wealthy – was Serbia’s best diplomatic ‘envoy’ in Byzantium. Moreover, without the mediating agency of Hilandar, medieval Serbia would not have embraced Byzantine culture and civilization and adopted its ancient heritage so comprehensively. Everything that was best in Serbia, its ecclesiastical, political, and cultural elite, all passed through Hilandar, whose radiance cast its light and marked out the country – economically, politically, and culturally – as one of the great powers of medieval Europe.

Deserving of mention is the turbulent period after the Fourth Crusade, when the Latin prelates, stationed on Byzantine territory by the Roman Curia, were putting great pressure on the inhabitants of the Holy Mountain to acknowledge the supremacy of the Pope, to mention his name in their church services, and to adopt the dogmas and rituals of the Roman Church. Sources confirm225 that all the non-Greek monasteries, with the exception of Iviron, vigorously resisted, remaining loyal to Orthodoxy and loyal in their affiliation to the Byzantine state and cultural tradition. But let us return to the Serbian tradition on medieval Athos.

After Sts Sava and Simeon, its founders, the man to whom Hilandar owed most for its progress and development was King Milutin of Serbia (1286–1321). It was he who was responsible for the way Hilandar more or less looks today. The monastery’s katholikon was completed in 1293 and is believed to have been the work of the master-builder Georgios Marmara of Thessaloniki. Milutin also erected sizeable ramparts and fortifications at all approaches to the monastery, such as the already mentioned pyrgos of St Basil by the sea and a fortified tower on the road linking the monastery to the harbour. The katholikon of Hilandar is considered to be an excellent example of Byzantine architecture, with its use of space akin to the older churches on the Holy Mountain (those of Lavra, Vatopedi, and Iviron), but with structural details taken from the so-called Palaiologan renaissance. About 100 years later, during the reign of Prince Lazar Hrebeljanović, one more narthex was added. So spontaneously and elegantly did it blend in with the whole, that the difference is hardly perceptible even to the expert eye.

By the autumn of 1321, the interior decoration of the church was also completed. For this work King Milutin had engaged some of the best artisans and craftsmen of the time. Their names unfortunately cannot be definitively verified, although, in the literature, one does come across efforts at identification. According to some conjectures, the frescos were painted by Manuel Panselinos, the great master to whom the painting in the Protaton in Karyes is attributed. Another, more likely hypothesis points to Georgios Kaliergis from Thessaloniki, who used to sign himself as ‘the best painter in all Thessaly’ and who is known to have been in contact with the Hilandar brotherhood in 1320.226 Whatever the truth regarding their authorship, the Hilandar frescos are deemed to be among the most beautiful of all on the Holy Mountain. Accumulations of soot and dust had, in the course of time, darkened them to the extent that they had become almost invisible, so in 1803–4 the Hilandar monks engaged the renowned painters, Benjamin and Zachariah from Galatista, to reinvigorate the frescos by applying a fresh coat of paint. That the appearance of the frescos today is identical to the originals has been proved by probing in several parts of the church and lifting small sections of the newer layers of paint. To do this throughout would be a complicated and expensive undertaking, but with today’s modern techniques it would certainly be possible, and then the Hilandar paintings would be revealed in all their original glory.

The Serbian presence on the Holy Mountain was at its peak in the second half of the fourteenth century, or more precisely, between the years 1345 and 1371, during the reign of Stefan Dušan and his immediate successors.227 The civil war in Byzantium between John V Palaiologos and John VI Kantakouzenos, following the death of Andronikos III in 1341, opened the way for the conquests of the Nemanjić dynasty’s fourth ruler. To the Serbian state, which at one time stretched from the Danube to the Peloponnese, he added Halkidiki, crowning himself in Skopje as the ‘tsar of the Serbs and Greeks’ – the first time in history that the Holy Mountain had accepted the reign of a ruler not crowned by the Ecumenical Patriarch; indeed, it accepted it amicably, by mutual agreement, and in a spirit of tolerance. Dušan, after all, was an Orthodox ruler, who sought to bring the Serbian empire into line with the Byzantine model and who respected and scrupulously adhered to the traditions of the Holy Mountain. In November 1345 agreement was reached that the Holy Mountain would not sever links with the emperors of Byzantium and the Ecumenical Patriarch but would, in all monasteries and during all liturgies, commemorate the name of Dušan, the new ruler, immediately after the names of the emperor and the patriarch. Dušan had magnanimously acknowledged all the privileges that the Holy Mountain had hitherto enjoyed, while the Athonites for their part, headed by the Protos, attended his coronation. The monks received chrysobulls reaffirming their privileges – something that had always been done when any change occurred on the Byzantine throne. Tsar Dušan became particularly closely involved in the affairs of the Holy Mountain between August 1347 and April 1348, when he stayed on Athos uninterruptedly, taking refuge from the plague with his whole family, including his wife Tsarina Jelena – a rare documented case of a female presence on the Holy Mountain. On that occasion he traversed the whole peninsula, distributing generous gifts to the monasteries, but always scrupulously avoiding any interference in the workings of the Karyes administration. The considerable rise in influence that the Serbian monks had on the life of the Holy Mountain can be explained by the simple fact that through them it was easier to conduct business with the ruling administration. Also, it was the first time in history that a number of Serbs held positions at the head of the Protaton in Karyes. Perhaps it was because it fell between the two low points of the recent civil war and the imminent Turkish occupation that this particular period was to be remembered as a time of prosperity and wellbeing. Many stories attest to this, but also documents in which the Athonites refer to Dušan as ‘our mighty lord and emperor’.228

When Dušan died, on 20 December 1355, he was succeeded on the throne by his only son, Stefan Uroš V, known as ‘Uroš the Weak’. The Holy Mountain then found itself part of the so-called state of Serres, first ruled by Jelena, Dušan’s widow, and then by Prince Ioannis Uglješa. After the defeat by the Turks in the battle on the river Marica in 1371, the state of Serres disintegrated and the Holy Mountain temporarily (until it finally fell to the Turks) reverted to the rule of Byzantium. Although at this point the period of Serbian state domination on Athos was over, the presence and influence of the Serbian noblemen continued to the end of the fourteenth century and beyond.

With the death of Uroš the Weak in 1371 the Nemanjić dynasty was extinguished. Through the rivalries of two other prominentaristocratic families, two new names came to the fore, those of Prince Lazar Hrebeljanović and his son-in-law, Vuk Branković. Prince Lazar (in Serbia mostly called ‘Tsar’ Lazar) was the leader who took his troops into the fateful battle of Kosovo against the Turks in 1389 in which both he and Sultan Murat were killed, spelling the final defeat of the Serbs. And although nearly 100 years were to pass before the fall of Smederevo, the last remaining free town in Serbia, the relationship between the Serbs and Hilandar and the Holy Mountain did undergo a fundamental change. The ruling families of Lazarević and Branković still continued to support the monasteries, but now, in a situation of permanent retreat from the insurgent Turks, the relationship took on the shape of a kind of contract – adelphaton – whereby, in return for their deeds of charity, they could count on the Holy Mountain as a place of refuge. In time this resulted in a growing number of Serbian monks, mostly men of high birth, living not only in Hilandar but also in some of the other monasteries. The economic power of the Serbian nobility was such that they continued to fund building projects and finance literary activities, as well as donating objects of the greatest artistic value, and in this way they left an indelible mark on the Holy Mountain, until the first half of the sixteenth century.

A good example is the monastery of St Paul’s229 which, after the Catalan attacks, had practically disappeared and was reduced to the rank of a cell. In the last quarter of the fourteenth century two Serbian noblemen who had opted for the monastic life, Gerasimos Radonja and Arsenios Pagasi, built a church there, together with a lodge and a pyrgos. In the following decades, under the patronage of the powerful Branković family, St Paul’s was as Serbian a monastery as Hilandar. A prominent role was played by Mara Branković, daughter of the despot Georgios, who was married to the Sultan Murat and later became the much-loved step-mother of Mehmet the Conqueror. She used her considerable influence to help the monasteries on the Holy Mountain and took particular care of St Paul’s. There is a beautiful legend that tells of how, after the fall of Constantinople, she found in the imperial treasure house some of the gifts borne by the Three Wise Men to the new-born Christ Child. She set off with these, intending to give them to the monastery, when a voice from Heaven warned her that women were forbidden to tread on the Virgin’s hallowed ground. She stopped in her tracks and handed the gifts over to the monks. On that spot a chapel was later built, which visitors can still see today on the slope between St Paul’s and the sea-shore.

There is another reliably documented230 story, which attests to the close links between St Paul’s monastery and Serbia. In 1333 Tsar Dušan ceded the conquered town of Ston on the Adriatic coast to the city of Dubrovnik in exchange for an annual payment of 500 perpera, which was to provide a regular income for Hilandar. Later, the sultan’s widow Mara, when renewing the contract with Dubrovnik, allotted half of that sum to the monastery of St Paul’s. When the monks came to collect the rent, they always proved their identity with a segment of a gold piece, broken up into three parts. One bit of the coin was kept by Dubrovnik, one by the monks of Hilandar, and the third by the monks of St Paul’s. Only when these three pieces were brought together and found to fit was the payment (the ‘Ston stipend’) disbursed. It is to the great credit of the Republic of Ragusa that this payment continued to be honoured until as recently as 1792.

In a paper of this scope and remit one can include only the most significant examples of Serbia’s contributions to the monasteries on the Holy Mountain to illustrate its tradition on Athos. As already mentioned, St Paul’s was one such example, where the Serbian grandees of the fourteenth century held the status of second ktetores (founders). Even older and more convincing is the case of Vatopedi. During the first few years of St Sava’s sojourn on the Holy Mountain, he built in Vatopedi a church dedicated to the birth of the Virgin, a smaller church of St John Chrysostom, and, on top of the pyrgos of the Transfiguration, a paraklesis of the same name. He also had the roof of the monastery recovered, replacing the stone slabs with lead. After the arrival of Simeon Nemanja, father and son renovated the neighbouring little monastery of St Simeon in Prosphora and gave it as a gift to Vatopedi. They built several lodges within the monastery complex, enlarged the refectory, and had the extension adorned with frescos. It is no wonder that, after so many obvious benefits which Vatopedi received from its royal guests, there was some ‘disenchantment’ when Sava and Simeon left to take possession of Hilandar, no longer under Vatopedi’s control. This caused some tension in the relationship for a while, but a compromise was soon found: Vatopedi and Hilandar were to be regarded as one monastery and ‘the holy kyrios Sava as father to both’.231

This ‘special relationship’ between Vatopedi and Hilandar still holds good today: it is not, for instance, generally known that the festive Liturgy on the day of the Presentation of the Virgin in Hilandar has for centuries been conducted by the abbot of Vatopedi, while the abbot of Hilandar does the same in Vatopedi on the day of the Annunciation. In the courtyard of Vatopedi, to the right as one enters the gate, there is a church dedicated to the Holy Anargyroi, built by Despot Ioannis Uglješa in the fourteenth century. Not long ago, some wonderfully preserved frescos were discovered there, beneath the top nineteenth-century layer, including a portrait of the despot himself as a ktetor. The church, dedicated to the Holy Healers, was doubtless built around 1363–4, when the plague was raging in Serres. It had killed the sister and the only son of Despot Uglješa. In the treasury at Vatopedi numerous precious objects are to be found which were gifts from Serbian noblemen. Among the relics there is a much-venerated garment of the Virgin, donated by Prince Lazar, and, in the archives, there are documents and covenants relating to estates and goods which the Serbs had given to the monastery. The cult of Sts Sava and Simeon has been preserved in Vatopedi from the Middle Ages to the present day, evidenced by depictions of them in the frescos situated immediately next to the famous mosaic in the narthex of the katholikon. Lastly, a few years ago in Vatopedi an icon was discovered depicting the face of St Sava, the oldest existing portrait of him, possibly painted from life.

Evidence of the Serbian presence on the Holy Mountain is also to be found in the chronicles of St Panteleimon, which was on the brink of extinction in 1348 when Tsar Dušan gave the monastery a gift of four villages in the hinterland of Halkidiki and, a year later, when he formally became second ktetor, another nine villages and a large donation of money.232 The tsar’s successors, especially the Lazarević family, continued to help the monastery, for which the Serbs were richly rewarded in later centuries, during the Turkish occupation, when Hilandar monks travelling through Russia received support from the Russian nobility and their rulers, among whom particular generosity was shown by Ivan the Terrible.233

In the second half of the fourteenth century the monastery of Simonopetra had become completely deserted. The Serbian Despot Ioannis Uglješa, with the permission of the Holy Community, rebuilt the whole monastery on the same cliff where it had stood before. All those buildings were destroyed in the disastrous fire of December 1580, when many of the monks also lost their lives. Today, all that is left of the despot’s benefactions is one icon of the Virgin, but the brotherhood, generation after generation, still reveres the memory of their second ktetor.

All sources with references to St Sava, including two early biographies (one contemporary),234 speak of the important role he played in renovating and revitalizing the monasteries of Xeropotamou, Karakalou, Konstamonitou, and Philotheou. In Xeropotamou he built the church of the Forty Martyrs. He paid off Karakalou’s debts, which had caused the monastery at one point to be ‘repossessed’ and to become a metochion of Great Lavra. Apart from stories and legends Esphigmenou has no records from the time of Sts Sava and Simeon, but this monastery had a close connection with the Serbian nobility in the period between the second half of the fourteenth and the beginning of the fifteenth century. Despot Uglješa, for example, built a hospital in the south-western corner of the monastery’s complex, which was known as his endowment, until it was burnt down in the fire of 1770. And Despot Georgios Branković accepted the brotherhood’s invitation to become their new ktetor and granted the monastery an income of 50 litres of silver, to be paid annually from the silver mines in Novo Brdo in Kosovo. There is a charter, kept in Esphigmenou, relating to this arrangement which is a masterpiece of the calligraphic art and contains exquisite illustrations, among them a depiction of the ruler’s family.235

What is superbly documented is the role played by the Serbian nobleman, Radič Postupovič, in the annals of the monastery of Konstamonitou. There, a document from 1430 has been preserved236 which attests that he totally renovated an impoverished and mostly dilapidated monastery, equipped it with all necessities, and, in addition, introduced a typikon which sets out, in very precise detail, the way of life the monks should pursue and the strict cenobitic discipline they should follow. In all likelihood Radič himself retreated into monastic life and spent his old age in Konstamonitou and this is why his memory is very much revered at the monastery, which still operates according to the rules laid down by him.

Naturally, the greatest single contribution to the Serbian tradition on the Holy Mountain is the Hilandar monastery itself with its theological and liturgical heritage and priceless art treasures. The history of Hilandar is an organic part of the Holy Mountain’s history. Hilandar enjoys the privilege of being the only non-Greek monastic community which heads one of the five tetrades (groups of four monasteries) on the Mountain. Hilandar also is officially ranked fourth in the Athonite hierarchy. So much has now been said about the influence exerted on the Holy Mountain by Serbian rulers, aristocracy, and clergy that too little space is left to take a look at the influence that Hilandar and the Holy Mountain had on the ecclesiastical and cultural development of Serbia. Such a glance would reveal, among other things, a seemingly paradoxical situation that arose when the influence of western art on the Orthodox Slav Balkans came, not directly, but in a roundabout way via the Holy Mountain, particularly during the period of the fall of Byzantium. The monks then increasingly adopted the icons and frescos of the Italo-Cretan masters, as well as the influences of late Gothic workmanship. These western achievements were more readily accepted by the Orthodox hinterland because they came to them ‘sanctioned’, as it were, from the Holy Mountain, whose Orthodoxy was above reproach and could be trusted.

I would like to mention one other, less well-known story, especially interesting in the light of the present inter-ethnic relations in the Balkans. An Albanian chieftain by the name of Ivan Kastriot, fleeing from the Turks, sought refuge and was granted asylum, in the manner of adelphaton, for himself and his four sons. For a certain sum of money (60 florins) they were offered hospitality and given accommodation in a pyrgos for life. Before he died, Ivan Kastriot most probably became a monk in Hilandar, where he is buried, as is his son Repoš. Repoš’s grave is in the north wall of the Hilandar church and bears the inscription ‘Here lies the slave of God, Illyrian duke.’ The youngest of Ivan Kastriot’s sons, however, later adopted Islam and became the national hero of all Albanians, celebrated and universally known as Skenderbeg.237

Let me conclude this paper on a somewhat personal note. I wish to state, from direct personal experience, what an uplifting and soul-enhancing experience it is for a Serb, in our time, to make a pilgrimage to the Holy Mountain. The reason for this is that, on Athos, memory is incomparably longer and history more vividly present, than anywhere else in the modern world. Remembrance of the ties with a Serbia of the past – a noble, generous, brave, and magnanimous Serbia – is passed on from generation to generation of monks, and is as vivid as if the events of that glorious past took place only yesterday. For one who belongs to a nation whose reputation, particularly in the last decade of the last century, has been systematically eroded by the media and dragged through the mud more than at any time in its history, to be welcomed with open arms, with warmth and respect, just because one is from Serbia, has a priceless, unparalleled value. When you are offered lodgings for the night in a remote skete, where they are normally unable to provide accommodation for visitors, it is because they have not forgotten that 700 years ago a certain Serbian nobleman had paid for repairing the roof of their church or had given the brotherhood a gift of the book of the four Gospels, which they still treasure today. When they invite you in a venerable ancient monastery to take part in their festive Liturgy by reading the Symbol of Faith in your own language, the honour is bestowed because the monks remember that it was your great ancestor who built their paraklesis and their hospital. Such experiences are not only personally rewarding but are the strongest possible proof of how deeply rooted and alive is the Serbian tradition on the Holy Mountain.


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Korać, D., ‘Sveta Gora pod srpskom vlašću (1345–1371)’, Zbornik radova Vizantološkog instituta, 31 (Beograd, 1992).

Lake, K., The Early Days of Monasticism on Mount Athos (Oxford, 1909).

Millet, G., L’ancien art serbe, Les églises (Paris, 1919).

Nasturel, P. S., Le Mont Athos et les Roumains (Roma, 1986).

Naumov, A., and D. Gil, ‘Poljsko-litvansko pravoslavlje i Sveta Gora – Atos’, Zbornik radova sa skupa Osam vekova Hilandara (Beograd, 2000).

Nenadović, S., ‘Gradjenje i gradjevine’, Osam vekova Hilandara (Beograd, 1987).

Ostrogorsky, G., History of the Byzantine State (New Brunswick, 1997).

Papahrisantu, D., Atonsko monaštvo (Beograd, 2005).

Petković, S., Hilandar (Beograd, 1989).

––, ‘Hilandar i Rusija u XVI i XVII veku’, Kazivanja o Svetoj Gori (Beograd, 1995).

Radojčić, S., Srpske ikone od XII veka do 1459. godine (Beograd, 1960).

––, ‘Umetnički spomenici manastira Hilandara’, Zbornik radova Vizantološkog instituta, 3 (Beograd, 1955).

Spremić, M., ‘Brankovići i Sveta Gora’, Druga kazivanja o Svetoj Gori (Beograd, 1997).

Subotić, G. ‘Obnova manastira Sv. Pavla u XIV veku’, Zbornik radova Vizantološkog instituta, 22 (Beograd, 1983).

Subotić, G. (ed.), Manastir Hilandar (Beograd, 1998).

Tachiaos, A. E., ‘Le monachisme serbe de Saint Sava et la tradition hesychaste athonite’, Hilandarski zbornik (Beograd, 1966).

Živojinović, M., ‘Le domaine de Chilandar sur le territoire byzantine de 1345 a 1371’, Mount Athos in the 14th-16th Centuries (Athens, 1997).

––, Istorija Hilandara I (Beograd, 1998).

––, Svetogorski pirgovi i kelije u srednjem veku (Beograd, 1972).

* * *


D. Bogdanović, ‘Svetogorska književnost kod Srba u XIV veku’, Naučni sastanak u Vukove dane, 8 (Beograd, 1980), 291.


Archives de l’Athos XIV, XVI, XVIII, Actes d’Iviron I–III, éd. par J. Lefort, N. Oikonomides, D. Papachrysanthou, V. Kravari, avec la collaboration d’H. Métrévéli (Paris, 1985, 1990, 1994); Iviron I, no 7, l. 18–19.


Iviron I, no 8.


M. Živojinović, Istorija Hilandara I (Beograd, 1998), pp. 54, 98.


All sources for the early period of Hilandar’s history are in M. Živojinović, Istorija Hilandara I (Beograd, 1998), pp. 47–53, 96.


Domentijan, Život svetoga Simeuna i svetoga Save, izd. Dj. Daničić (Beograd, 1865), pp. 122–7; Teodosije Hilandarac, Život svetoga Save, izd. Dj. Daničić (Beograd, 1860), pp. 9–21.


Sveti Sava, Život svetoga Simeona (Beograd-Sremski Karlovci, 1928), pp. 162–3; Domentijan, op.cit., pp. 154–5; Teodosije Hilandarac, op.cit., pp. 40–3.


Archives de l’Athos XX, Actes de Chilandar I, des origines à 1319, éd. par M. Živojinović, V. Kravari (Paris, 1998), no. 4, 24–5.


Chilandar I, no. 4.


B. Ferjančić, ‘Hilandar i Vizantija’, Manastir Hilandar (Beograd, 1998), p. 51.


M. Živojinović, Istorija Hilandara I, pp. 60–1.


D. Bogdanović, V. Djurić, D. Medaković, Hilandar (Beograd, 1985), p. 365.


Teodosije Hilandarac, op.cit., p. 53; Domentijan, op.cit., pp. 65, 69.


R. Grujić, ‘Topografija hilandarskih metohija u Solunskoj i Strumskoj oblasti od XII do XIV veka’, Zbornik radova posvećen Jovanu Cvijiću (Beograd, 1924), pp. 517–34.


D. Bogdanović, V. Djurić, D. Medaković, op.cit., p. 40.


Cf. B. Ferjančić, op.cit., p. 51.


The issue is discussed by M. Marković, ‘Prvobitni živopis glavne manastirske crkve’,

Manastir Hilandar, pp. 221–42.


This period is extensively covered in D. Korać, ‘Sveta Gora pod srpskom vlašću (1345–1371)’, Zbornik radova Vizantološkog instituta, 31 (Beograd, 1992), 9–199.


D. Korać, op.cit., p. 122.


G. Subotić, ‘Obnova manastira Svetog Pavla u XIV veku’, Zbornik radova Vizantološkog instituta, 22 (Beograd, 1983), 207–58; see also M. Spremić, ‘Brankovići i Sveta Gora’, Druga kazivanja o Svetoj Gori (Beograd, 1997), pp. 81–100.


M. Živojinović, ‘Svetogorci i stonski dohodak’, Zbornik radova Vizantološkog instituta, 23 (Beograd, 1983), 179–88.


Domentijan, op.cit., p. 164.


R. Grujić, ‘Svetogorski azili za srpske vladare i vlastelu posle kosovske bitke’, Glasnik Skopskog naučnog društva, 1 (Skopje, 1932), 69.


S. Radojčić, ‘Umetnički spomenici manastira Hilandara’, Zbornik radova Vizantološkog instituta, 3 (Beograd, 1955), 175–6. See also S. Petković, ‘Hilandar i Rusija u XVI i XVII veku’, Kazivanja o Svetoj Gori (Beograd, 1995), pp. 143–70.


Domenthian was St. Sava’s contemporary, while Theodosios lived a generation later.


Esfigmenska povelja despota Djurdja, ed. P. Ivić, V. Djurić, S. Ćirković (Beograd, 1989).


R. Grujić, ‘Svetogorski azili’, pp. 83–7.


Ibid., p. 81.

Источник: Mount Athos. Microcosm of the Christian East / Graham Speake, Kallistos Ware - Oxford–Bern : Lang AG Peter, 2011. - Pp. IX, 216. ISBN: 3039119958

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