Lazar of Serbia
The holy, glorious and right-victorious Great Martyr Lazar, Prince of Serbia (Свети Великомученик кнез Лазар) was one of the Serbian noblemen who ruled the Serbian empire after the death of Emperor Dušan. After death of Emperor St. Uroš V, 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 chancelor Pribac Hrebeljanović. He was educated at Emperor Dušan's court in Prizren. He was later granted the high title knez (Prince in Serbian ) by Dusan'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 death of the Emperor, Lazar became 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 from 1352. In 1375, full comunion between Peć and Constantinople was restablished in St. 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 St. Pantaleon on Mt. Athos as well as many other churches and monasteries.
Marriage and Family
Lazar married Milica (Venerable Euphrosine of Serbia) in around 1353. Milica was 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:
- 1. Mara (Марa): died on April 12, 1426. She had married Vuk Brankovic around 1371
- 2. St. Stefan Visoki (Свети Стефан Високи) (born in 1375 and died on July 19, 1427, He is buried in Manasija monastery, he was prince from 1389 to 1402 and despot from 1402 to 1427), in 1405, he married Jelena, daughter of Francesco Gattilusio (1384-1404).
- 3. Vuk (Вук), prince, he was executed by Turks on July 6, 1410
- 4. Dragana (Драгана), died before July 1395, married the Bulgarian tsar Ivan Shishman around 1386
- 5. Teodora (Теодора), died before 1405, married Nikola II Gorjanski, who died 1433, (Nikola II Gorjanski jr. (Никола II Горјански Млађи), son of Nikola I Gorjanski (Никола I Горјански), ban of Mačva since 1387, ban of Croatia since 1394, Hungarian Palatin since 1401)
- 6. Jelena (Јелена), died March 1443, married toČ
- 1. Đurađ Stracimirović (Ђурађ Страцимировић), one of Balsics
- 2. Sandalj Hranić (Сандаљ Хранић) Kosače (Косаче)
- 7. Olivera (Оливера ) born 1372 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 and lost on the Field of Blackbirds [Kosovo Polje] on June 15, 1389. against the Turkish Emperor Amurat, after which he was beheaded.
Lazar having been visited by an angel of God on the night before the battle, and offered a choice between an earthly or a Heavenly kingdom, which choice would result in a victory or defeat, respectively, at the coming Battle of Kosovo. Lazar, naturally, opts 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!"), but has to perish on the battlefield. “We die with Christ, to live forever”, tells he to his soldiers. That Kosovo’s destination and that Testament, it is a union which Serb people made with God – and sealed it with martyrs’ blood. On Kosovo Serbs voted with their souls for Kingdom of Heaven and that was and has been their right destination. Since then all Serbs truthful to that Testament are becoming people of God, part of God’s New Israel. Soon after death Lazar was canonised.
His body was translated and interred in Ravanica, his memorial church near Ćuprija and later was translated to Sisatovac in Srem and from there, during the World War II, was translated to Belgrade and placed in the Cathedral Church of the Holy Archangel Michael where it rests today incorrupt and extends comfort and healing to all those who turn to him with prayer. In 1989, on the occasion of the six-hundred year anniversary of his martyrdom, St. Lazar's relics were again translated to the monastery of Ravanica in Cuprija. It rests today incorrupt and extends comfort and healing to all those who turn to him with prayer.