St. Simeon – The Eternal Ruler of the Serbs Cover Image

Св. Симеон – вечният владетел на сърбите
St. Simeon – The Eternal Ruler of the Serbs

Author(s): Nina Gagova
Subject(s): History, Political Theory, Political history, Middle Ages, Theology and Religion, Politics and religion, 13th to 14th Centuries, History of Religion
Published by: Instytut Slawistyki Polskiej Akademii Nauk
Keywords: Middle Ages; Serbia; hagiography; political ideology; biblical quotations;

Summary/Abstract: The article discusses the development of the cult of St. Simeon (Stefan Nemanja, ca. 1113–1199) in the thirteenth century as a core of the ruler’s ideology and a mirror of the political changes in Serbia. The main task is to discover when, how and why the founder of the Nemanidi dynasty became the first and eternal ruler of the Serbs, analyzing the choice of the biblical motifs and quotations in the introductions and in a number of other selected places in the main ideological texts of the period: two Hilandar Monastery charters, one written from the Grand Zhupan Stefan Nemanja himself in 1198, the other – written in 1207/8 by his son, Stefan the First-Crowned as well as three Vitae of St. Simeon, written by his sons St. Sava and St. Stefan and by the Hilandar’s hegumenos Domentian. The study applies the approach of biblical thematic clues, proposed by Ricardo Picchio, hitherto unused for these sources, and takes into consideration also some results obtained through the investigation of early Slavic Orthodox texts from the point of view of the same concept. One conclusion which was arrived at is that the same tradition of biblical exegesis concerning the concepts of the Unfailing Mercy and Continuity of the Apostleship and the motifs of Conversion/New Nations and the Blessed Generation of the Upright, is consistently used in Serbian text for the same purpose – the affirmation of one’s own saints and, through their cults, confirmation of own “institutions of salvation” (ruling dynasty, church organization, liturgical language) as proceeding directly from God. In the three Vitae of St. Simeon different inherited models and patterns are adopted, corresponding to different versions of Ideal Ruler and of legitimization in changing political circumstances in Serbia and in European South-East in the thirteenth century. The last version, long lasting in Serbian political ideology, can be found in Domentian’s Vita (1265), commissioned by the grandson of St. Simeon, Urosh I (1243–1276) to re-confirm the legitimacy of his reign and the independence of the Serbian state after the reconquest of Constantinople in 1261. In this Vita, St. Simeon is presented as the First and Eternal Ruler of the Serbs through development of apostolic connotations in his cult, based on the concept of Unfailing Mercy, with an addition of the motifs of the Conversion/New Nations and the Blessed Generation of the Upright. As a result, St. Simeon becomes the True Baptizer of the Serbs and the First Subject of the Covenant made between God and Serbs ensuring their Salvation through the Christian Rule.

  • Issue Year: 2016
  • Issue No: 16
  • Page Range: 262-310
  • Page Count: 49
  • Language: Bulgarian