Sava of Serbia

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Our father among the saints Sava of Serbia, also Savvas and Sabbas, was the first Archbishop of Serbia and is an important saint on the calendar of the Serbian Orthodox Church. His feast day is observed on January 14 and January 12.


Sava was born Prince Rastko Nemanjic, the son of Stefan Nemanja, the Serbian ruler and founder of the medieval Serbian state. His brother, Stefan Prvovencani, was the first Serbian king. Rastko Nemanjic was born in either 1175 or 1176.

In the early 1190s, the young Rastko left home to join the Orthodox monastic community on Mount Athos. Taking monastic vows, he was given the name Sava. Initially, he joined a Russian monastery, but then moved to the Greek Vatopedi Monastery. At the end of 1197, his father, King Stefan Nemanja, joined him. In 1198, together they moved to and restored the abandoned Hilandar monastery, which at that time became the center of Serbian Orthodox Christian monastic life.

St. Sava's father took monastic vows under the name Simeon He died in the Hilandar Monastery on February 13, 1200. He is also canonized as Saint Simeon.

After his father's death, Sava retreated to an ascetic monastery in Kareya which he built himself in 1199. He also wrote the Kareya Typikon both for Hilandar and for the monastery of asceticism. The last typikon is inscribed into the marble board at the ascetic monastery. He stayed on Athos until the end of 1207.

When Sava entered his native land in 1207, he unfortunately found the country just as Simeon had informed him in his dream—in total disarray. The Serbian state was split in two. By secret negotiations with Hungary and Pope Innocent III, Vukan, the eldest of the three brothers, who was bitter over the appointment of his younger brother Stephen as heir to the throne, was able to amass troops and capture Zeta; he then was set to launch a campaign against Rashka, King Stephen's portion of the divided kingdom. This civil war was only a microcosm of a larger conflict instigated by the West—that is, the hostilities initiated by the Great Crusades of the Latin church. In 1204, the soldiers of the Fourth Crusade captured Constantinople and much of the territory of Byzantium, including the Holy Mountain. In 1205, the Holy Mountain was officially placed under the authority and jurisdiction of a Roman Catholic bishop. It is believed that this occurrence was the most influential factor in Sava's decision to return to Serbia. Hence, the Saint returned home with his work cut out for him.

When he returned, Sava brought with him the medicine to heal the entire situation: the relics of his father, the Grand Zhupan and saint, Stephen Nemanja-Simeon the Myrrh-bearer and co-founder of Hilandar. Upon entering Studenitsa Monastery, St. Simeon's foundational monastery, Sava invited his two brothers to a proper and rightful Memorial Service for their father. As the casket was opened, before their eyes the body of their father was found to be sweet-smelling, exuding a fragrant oil and myrrh, warm and aglow, looking very much alive, as if he were only restfully sleeping. This act of veneration oftheir father was the first step in healing the fraternal schism between Vukan and King Stephen. Shortly thereafter, the civil war was halted and a peace agreement was drawn up, once again restoring the kingdom of Serbia as it was under the reign of the great King Stephen Nemanja-St. Simeon the Myrrh-bearer. In discussions with his reunited brothers, Sava also designed plans for an immediate, systematic and far-reaching missionary program to save the Orthodox soul of the Serbian people. Studenitsa Monastery, with St. Simeon's relics making it a national shrine, was chosen as the outreach station for all activities. St. Sava wrote the Monastery's Typikon, which strengthened Studenitsa's monastic life.

St. Sava managed to persuade the Constantinople patriarchate, who residing in Nicea , because Consstantinople was under Latin rule until 1261, to establish the independence of the Serbian Church in the year of 1219.At Patriarch Manuel's request, Sava was selected to be elevated to Archbishop. At first, Sava vehemently refused this offer on the grounds that he felt he was truly unworthy for such a position and calling. He offered several of the monks from Hilandar who were present as potential candidates for the position. In the end, Sava accepted and was consecrated in Nicea on the Feast of St. Nicholas, December 6, 1219, becoming the first Archbishop of the newly autonomous Orthodox Church of Serbia. He was 44 years old at the time. The following are the exact words of the Greek text of Patriarch Manuel's decree elevating Sava to Archbishop, thus granting autonomy to the Serbian Church:

I, Manuel, the Ecumenical Patriarch and the Archbishop of the City of Consrantinople, New Rome, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, have consecrated Sava, Archbishop of all the Serbian lands, and have given him in God's name the authority to consecrate bishops, priests, and deacons within his country; to bind and loose sins of men, and to teach all and to baptize in rhe name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Therefore, all you Orthodox Christians, obey him as you have obeyed me.

 He crowned next year his brother Stefan as first serbian king. He also crowned two of Stefan's sons Radoslav 1228, and Vladislav 1233. Sava abdicated from archbishopal see 1233, apointed his most capable pupil Saint Arsenije as Archbisop of Serbija (1233-1263) and gone for Holy land secon time.

On the returning from holy Land he stoped in Trnovo to visit Bulgarian emperor Ivan II Asen and Patriarch of Trnovo. After participating in a ceremony called Blessing of the Waters (Agiasmo) he developed a cough that progressed into pneumonia. He died from pneumonia in the evening between Saturday and Sunday, January 14, 1235. [1] He was buried at the Cathedral of the Holy Forty Martyrs in Trnovo where his body remained until May 6, 1237, when his sacred bones were moved to the monastery Mileseva in southern Serbia. Three hundred sixty years later the Ottoman Turks dug up his relics and burned them in the main square in Belgrade.


St. Sava is remembered as the founder of the independent Serbian Orthodox Church and is celebrated as the patron saint of education and medicine among Serbs. Since the 1830s, St. Sava has been the patron saint of Serb schools and schoolchildren. On his feast day, students partake in recitals in church.

The Temple of St. Sava in Belgrade, whose construction was planned to start in 1939 but actually began in 1985 and completed in 2004, is the largest active Orthodox temple in the world today. It was built on the place where the holy bones were burned.


At first we were confused. The East thought that we were West, while the West considered us to be East. Some of us misunderstood our place in the clash of currents, so they cried that we belong to neither side, and others that we belong exclusively to one side or the other. But I tell you, Ireneus, we are doomed by fate to be the East in the West and the West in the East, to acknowledge only heavenly Jerusalem beyond us, and here on earth—no one

St. Sava to Ireneus, 13th century


TROPARION Tone 8 O guide of Orthodoxy and blessed teacher of virtues,* purifier and enlightener of thy homeland,* beauty of monastics,* most wise Father, Holy Sava,* by thy teaching thou didst enlighten thy people,* O flute of the Spirit, pray to Christ God for our souls.

KONTAKION Tone 8 As the first great hierarch and co-worker with the Apostles,* the Church of thy people magnifies thee;* and since thou hast found favor with Christ,* save us by thy prayers from every calamity,* so that we may proclaim to thee: Rejoice, God-wise Father Sava.

ther is also another troparion in Tone 3 but I don't have it translated in English.


External links and references