Lazar of Serbia
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The holy, glorious and right-victorious Great Martyr Lazar, Prince of Serbia (Свети Великомученик кнез Лазар, also Lazarus, or Lazar of Kosovo) was one of the Serbian noblemen who ruled the Serbian empire after the death of Emperor Dušan. After death of Emperor St. Uroš V (December 2), Lazar was de facto ruler of Serbia. He died for Christ's name on June 15, 1389. His feast day is June 15/June 28.
Lazar was born in Prilepac, which is near Novo Brdo, in 1329, the son of the imperial chancellor Pribac Hrebeljanović. He was educated at Emperor Dušan's court in Prizren. He was later granted the high title knez ("prince" in Serbian) by Dušan's successor St. Emperor Stefan Uroš V. Despite his imperial title, Uroš was a weak and ineffectual leader, allowing local nobles to gain power and influence at the expense of the central authority. Lazar remained a loyal vassal to Stefan Uros V.
After the death of the emperor, Lazar became a central figure in Serbia. He called, together with his son-in-law Đurađ Stracimirović, a synod that elected a new patriarch, Saint Ephraem. Lazar sent a delegation to Constantinople with the monk Isaiah to implore the patriarch to heal the Serbian-Constantinople Schism of 1352. In 1375, full communion between Peć and Constantinople was re-established in the Holy Archangels Monastery on the grave of Emperor Dušan.
St. Lazar restored the monasteries of Hilandar on Mount Athos and Gornjak. He built Ravanica and Lazarica in Kruševac and was a benefactor of the Russian monastery of St. Pantaleon on Mt. Athos, as well as many other churches and monasteries.
Marriage and family
Lazar married Milica (Venerable Euphrosine of Serbia) around 1353. Milica was a relative of Emperor Dušan. She was a daughter of Prince Vratko (кнез Вратко), who was a great-grandson of Vukan Nemanjic. Vukan himself was the eldest son of Stefan Nemanja. Lazar and Milica had seven children:
- Mara (Марa), died on April 12, 1426. She married Vuk Brankovic around 1371.
- St. Stefan Visoki (Свети Стефан Високи), born in 1375 and died on July 19, 1427. He was prince from 1389 to 1402 and despot from 1402 to 1427. In 1405, he married Jelena, daughter of Francesco Gattilusio (1384-1404). He is buried in Manasija Monastery.
- Vuk (Вук), prince. He was executed by the Turks on July 6, 1410.
- Dragana (Драгана), died before July 1395. She married the Bulgarian Tsar Ivan Shishman around 1386.
- Teodora (Теодора), died before 1405, married Nikola II Gorjanski (Никола II Горјански Млађи), son of Nikola I Gorjanski (Никола I Горјански), who died in 1433.
- Jelena (Јелена), died March 1443. She was married to:
- Đurađ Stracimirović (Ђурађ Страцимировић)
- Sandalj Hranić (Сандаљ Хранић)
- Olivera (Оливера), born 1372 and died after 1444, married Ottoman Sultan Bayezid I in 1390.
Battle of Kosovo
Lazar fought against the Turkish powers on several occasions in order to protect his people. Finally, he fought the Turkish Emperor Amurat and lost on the Field of Blackbirds [Kosovo Polje] on June 15, 1389. Afterwards he was beheaded.
Lazar, having been visited by an angel of God on the night before the battle, was offered a choice between an earthly or a Heavenly kingdom. This choice would result in a victory or defeat, respectively, at the coming Battle of Kosovo. Lazar, naturally, opted for the Heavenly kingdom, which will last "forever and ever" ("Perishable is earthly kingdom, but forever and ever is Kingdom of Heaven!" - Serbian: "Земаљско је за малена царство, а Небеско увијек и довијека!"). As a result, he perished on the battlefield. "We die with Christ, to live forever," he told his soldiers. Soon after death Lazar was glorified.
His body was translated and interred in Ravanica, in his memorial church near Ćuprija, and later was translated to Sisatovac in Srem. From there, during World War II, his body was translated to Belgrade and placed in the Cathedral Church of the Holy Archangel Michael. In 1989, on the occasion of the six-hundredth anniversary of his martyrdom, St. Lazar's relics were again translated to the Monastery of Ravanica in Ćuprija (Central Serbia - Uža Srbija). It rests there today incorrupt and extends comfort and healing to all those who turn to him with prayer.