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Our venerable and God-bearing Father Simeon the Myrrh-flowing, in the world Stefan Nemanja, (in Serbian: Преподобни Симеон Мироточиви, у свијету Стефан Немања) was a Serbian ruler, monk, and saint in the 12th century. He is the father of St. Sava of Serbia. His feast day is celebrated on February 13.
Stefan Nemanja was born in 1113 or 1114 in town of Ribnica (today Podgorica, Montenegro). His father Zavida, a member of ruling dynasty of Raška (the most important Serbian state), was exiled in principality of Duklja, a minor Serbian state. Nemanja was baptized by a Roman Catholic priest because there was no Orthodox priest in Ribnica. When Zavid came back in Raška, his youngest son was re-baptized by the bishop of Ras Kalink.
In 1163 the grand prince of Raška Desa, Nemanja's kinsman, was replaced by Nemanja's eldest brother, Stefan Tihomir. This took place by the will of Emperor Manuel I Komnenos (1143-1180).
Tihomir's brothers became minor princes. Nemanja was a prince in counties of Ibar, Toplica, Rasina, and Reke. Later, the emperor granted him the county of Dubočica and imperial rank (sometimes mistranslated as imperial dream). Nemanja, several years before, personally met the powerful emperor. Some historians suggest that Nemanja's wife Ana, later St. Anastasia (June 21 or 22), was a Byzantine noblewoman. This could explain the emperor's sympathy for him.
Nemanja was popular among the people because he was a good ruler and a pious man. He soon built two monasteries: the Monastery of Holy Mother of Godon on the rivers Kosanica and Toplica, and the Monastery of Saint Nicholas-Kuršumlija. His brothers called him to council and imprisoned him and held him in a nearby cave. Saint George freed Nemanja from the cave. Nemanja soon, with support of the people, nobility, and the Church, deposed Tihomir and became the grand prince in 1166.
Nemanja's brothers raised a mercenary army, made up of Turks, Franks, and Greeks. Nemanja defeated them in the Battle of Pantin, near Zvečan, in 1168. Tihomir drowned himself in the river Sitnica, and Nemanja captured two other brothers: Stefan Miroslav and Stefan Stratimir. He reconciled with them and they were given back their principalities.
Nemanja built the Monastery of Saint George near his capital Ras. This monastery was later known as Đurđevi Stupovi. He tried to gain full independence from the Byzantine Empire in 1172, but failed; he was defeated and surrendered himself to the emperor. He came to Manuel with his head and feet bare and gave him his own sword as mark of surrender. He vowed that he would remain loyal to the emperor. Manuel brought him with him and presented him in imperial triumph.
Nemanja remained loyal to Manuel until Manuel's death. He used the next several years to deal with dangerous Bogumil heresy and to strengthen Orthodox faith in people. After the death of Manuel, Nemanja gained independence and conquered the Duklja principality, Korčula, Vis, Niš, Svrljig, Koželj, Ravno, Prizren, and Skoplje. All these territories were predominantly Serbian-populated. He met the Holy Roman Emperor Friedrich I the Barbarosa in 1189, in Niš.
Nemanja finished his magnificent endowment of the Monastery of the Holy Virgin the Benefactor-Studenica Monastery on the river Studenica in 1190. The monastery church is built out of white marble. This monastery is honored as the mother of all Serbian churches. Nemanja also introduced Orthodox Christianity into Duklja. Soon Duklja became, as much as Raška, predominantly Orthodox.
New Emperor Isaac II Angelos 1190, raised a large army against the Serbs and defeated them in the battle of Ravno. Soon a peace treaty was signed and Nemanja gained independence, but the Byzantine Empire was given back Niš, Ravno, and Skoplje. Nemanja's second son and heir Stefan, future Serbian king (later Saint Simon the Monk), married the emperor's niece Eudoxia and received the title of Sebastokrator, second highest after Emperor.
Mariage and family
Stefan Nemanja was married to a Byzantine noblewoman, Ana. They had six children:
- Vukan, Grand prince of Duklja and Travunija,
- Vuka, daughter, monastic name Jeftimija
- Stefan the First-crowned (St. Simon the Monk), King of Serbia,
- unknown daughter,
- unknown daughter, and
- Rastko, (St. Sava), first Serbian Archbishop.
St. Simeon founded monasteries of Saint Nicholas-Kuršumlija in 1165, of the Holy Theotokos on the river Kosanica in 1165, of Saint George-Đurđevi Stupovi in 1171, and of the Holy Theotokos the Benefactor-Studenica in 1190.
He is claimed as founder of Monastery of Saint Nicholac in Kazanovići, the female monastery of Holy Mother of God in Ras, and the Church of Holy Mother of God on the river Bistrica. When he was Lord of Skoplje and Niš, he rebuilt the monasteries of the Holy Archangel Michael in Skoplje and St. Panteleimon in Niš.
He gave large donations to these churches and monasteries: Church of Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, Church of Saint John the Baptist also in Jerusalem, Church of Saint Theodosius in the desert near Bethlehem, Hagia Sophia in Constantinopole, Church of Saint Apostles Peter and Paul in Rome, Monastery of Theotokos Evergethide, Church of Saint Demetrios in Thessalonika, and Church of Saint Nicholas in Bari.
Stefan's father-in-law Alexius became emperor as Alexius III Angelos (1195-1202). Nemanja called a State Council (Serbian: Државни Сабор) on March 25, 1195. He abdicated in favour of Stefan. He gave his eldest son Vukan the principalities of Duklja and Travunija and the counties Hvosno and Toplica. After his abdicaton, Nemanja took monastic vows as Monk Simeon in Studenica Monastery. His wife Ana took monastic vows in the female Monastery of Holy Mother of God in Ras. She took the monastic name Anstasija, and was canonized as Saint Mother Anastasia of Serbia.
Life as monk
After two years Simeon joined his son Sava, who was monk of the Vatopedi Monastery on Mount Athos. The two of them soon visited all the monasteries of Athos and gave large donations to each. Their relative, Emperor Alexius, gave them the ruined Hilandar Monastery in 1198.
He also published imperial chrysobull in which is proclaimed that Hilandar is the monastery for monks from Serbia. Simeon's successor Stefan also published the Hilandar Charter in wihch he granted a large amount of goods in Serbia for a new monastery. Hilandar soon became one of the most important centers of Serbian Orthodoxy.
The last years of his life were ascetic. Sava described the last years of his father's life in his Life of Saint Simeon'. Simeon died in front of the icon of the Theotokos "Hodegetria" which he brought from Serbia. He died on February 13, 1199.
One year after his death, Simeon was recognized as a saint by the community of Mount Athos, for holy oil seeped from his relics. It is written that this miracle didn't occur in the past three centuries. Even today his relics give forth a sweet smell. Serbian medieval writers describe numerous miracles of St. Simeon.
His relics were brought to Serbia by St. Sava in order to end civil war between Stefan and Vukan. Sava put his father's relics in Studenica Monastery. He reconciled his brothers on their father's tomb. Later the relics of his sons Stefan and Vukan, his wife Ana, and his grandson king Radoslav were placed in Studenica.
St. Sava wrote the Life of Saint Simeon and Service to Saint Simeon. There are two other Lives of Saint Simeon', first from Stefan and another from Sava's biographer Domentijan.
Troparion - Tone 4
- You were illumined with the image of Godly grace,
- And after death you have shone with the light of your life,
- By issuing sweet-scented myrrh
- Which flows from the tomb of your relics,
- And sustains your people on this earth,
- O our Father Simeon, discerner of the Way of God,
- Pray to Christ our God that He may grant us His great mercy.