Michael Prokurat, Alexander Golitzin, Michael D. Peterson
The A to Z of the Orthodox Church


SERBIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH. Representing one of the three main southern Slavic nations with Bulgaria and (Yugoslavian) Macedonia (qq.v.) in the Orthodox world, the early Christian history of Serbia is obscure, though the conversion of the Serbs must be related to the acceptance of Constantine-Cyril’s and Methodius’s (qq.v.) disciples into the late 9th c. kingdom of Bulgaria. Medieval Serbia emerges in the reign of Stephan Nemanja (1165–1196), whose son, Archbishop Sava (ca. 1175–1233), founded the Serbian Church. Sava’s (q.v.) activity is noteworthy. His lifework represented a deliberate choice on the part of the Serbian Church for connection with Byzantium (q.v.) and the Eastern Church rather than the papal West. Stephan himself originated the great dynasty of kings that ruled the Serbs until the Ottoman conquests of the late 14th c.

Medieval Serbia reached its peak during the reign of Nemanja’s descendant, Tsar Stephan Dushan in the mid-14th c. It swiftly collapsed following Dushan’s death (1355) and the disastrous Battle (1389) of Kossovo Polye (q.v.). This marked the beginning of a half-millennium of rule by the Ottoman Empire (q.v.). Together with other Balkan (q.v.) nations, Serbia emerged from under Turkish rule in the 19th c. under the sole native dynasties (Karageorgevich and Obrenovich) in the Orthodox oikoumene (q.v.) outside of Russia. The Church was declared autocephalous (q.v.) in the latter part of the same century, its archbishop titled patriarch with the creation of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia (q.v.) following World War I. The patriarch of the Serbs is at present Pavle I, Archbishop of Belgrade (q.v.), and he presides over a local synod of some thirty bishops.

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