Priest Predrag Puzovich

Historical significance of the Monastery of Milesheva

pages: 89-118

Abstract

This monastery was founded by Vladislav, King of Serbia, son of Stephan the First-Crowned and grandson of Stephan Nemanja, founder of the Serbian mediaeval dynasty. The erection of Milesheva (n. Priepolye on the railway road Belgrade — Bar) started immediately after Vladislav’s accession to the throne in 1234. However, according to some indications, Milesheva might have been constructed even some ten years earlier at the time when Vladislav was only a royal prince in that region.

King Vladislav had Milesheva built as his burial-church. Having spent ten years on the throne, he gave it over to his younger brother Urosh in 1243. He aied in the eighties of the 13th C. and was buried in Milesheva.

The church is one-nef building with two lower chantries, a wide central ap- sid, two small side apsids. It had originally one dome and later on, probably in the 19th C ., it got one more over the outer narthex. This narthex was built by Vladislav cca. 1235 in order to bury there his uncle Archbishop Sava, who at that time died in Bulgaria on his way back from the pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Because of the tomb of St. Sava, Milesheva acquired enormous prestige in the eyes of the Serbian nation, while under the Turkish yoke it was a source of hope and courage for the enslaved people. In order to suppress the spiritual ascendancy of St. Sava, the Turks took away his relics from Milesheva and burnt them at the stake near Belgrade (today an enormous memorial church is being built on the site, which is quite near the centre of the city).

It was in Milesheva in 1377 that Stephan Tvrtko was crowned king of Bosnia and Serbia, since M. was within the territory of his state. In the year of 1446 Stephan Vukchich Kosacha, ruler of Zaholmye, added to his title that of »Herzeg (Duke) of St. Sava«, and hence, his dominion, which extended even to the monastery of M., got the name »Herzegovina«.

The author exposes at length the significance of the printing-works, which published some liturgical books in Slavonic from 1544 to 1557 (The printing-works were brought as far as from Venice on horse-backs within six months!).

He also presents the relations between the Milesheva monks and the Russian Court, as well as with Valachian and Moldavian dukes. The monastery had good commercial relationship with the Republic of Dubrovnik selling cattle, sheep and goats. Much attention is devoted to what the foreign visitors wrote about the state of the monastery in those troublesome times under the Turkish occupation.

Towards the end of the 17th C., during national uprisings against the Turks, and the later migrations to the Northern Serbian lands, suffered also this monastery. For that reason the monks had often to leave it. The well-known Russian diary-keeper Hilferding found M. in ruins in 1857. The church, as well as the refectory, was rebuilt in 1863. This action saved the church from further decaying.

Nowadays M. is mainly known for its frescoes. They are reckoned among the most beautiful achievements not only of the Serbian, but even of the European painting in the Middle Ages.

In our days the renown of M. has been mostly spread out by the figure of the Angel on Christ’s tomb. The portrait of St. Sava has an extraordinary significance for the Serbian people, since it was panted during his life-time.

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