Simeon the Myrrh-flowing
Our venerable and God-bearing Father Simeon the Myrrh-flowing, in the world Stefan Nemanja, (in Serbian: Преподобни Симеон Мироточиви) 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.
He 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 state of the Serbs), 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, personaly met the powerful emperor. Some historians suggest that Nemanja's wife Ana, later Saint Anastasia, 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 death of Manuel, Nemanja gained independence and conquered the Duklja principality, Korčula, Vis, Niš, Svrljig, Koželj, Ravno, Prizren, and Skoplje. All these teritories 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.
Stefan's father-in-law Alexius became emperor as Alexius III Angelos (1195-1202). Nemanja called a State Concile (Serbian: Државни Сабор) on March 25, 1195. He abdicated in favour of Stefan.