St Sava of
Memory celebrated January 14 (27)
Sava at Mount Athos
Rastko, youngest son of the Serbian district judge,
STEFAN NEMANJA, was different than his two brothers, Vukan
and Stefan, in that he was modest, quiet, retiring and
pious; he enjoyed very much to read good books and to
meditate in solitude. His brothers on the other hand, like
many other sons of aristocrats, preferred a life of
recreation and play; liked gentlemanly apparel and good
At one time there came to the home of Stefan Nemanja, in
Serbia, a group of monks from Mount
Athos, who were seeking financial aid for their
monasteries. Greatly impressed by their narrations of the
beauties of Mount Athos, and of the pious life led by the
monks, Rastko ran off with these monks to Mount Athos, where
he promptly entered the monastery, and was given the name of
SAVA. He lived in the monastery as a most modest monk,
praying to God and fasting regularly, but, above all else,
he liked to read the holy books and to listen to the
instructions of the monks.
After an interim of several years, and at the invitation
of Sava, old Stefan Nemanja, who had relinquished his throne
to his son, Stefan, came to Mount Athos and entered the
monastery as a monk, SIMEON, by name. The devout father and
son founded the Serbian Monastery HILANDAR, in Mount Athos,
where they then settled, and where, shortly thereafter, St.
Simeon died in the arms of his son, St. Sava. The death of
his father was beautifully and touchingly described by St.
The Monastery Hilandar became the fount of Serbian
Orthodoxy and Serbian education. Here books were translated
and written; icons fashioned, as well as other church
articles, thence to be dispatched to every Serbian village
and hamlet. To the monastery, too, came many of the youth of
Serbian heritage, to be taught and eventually to become
priests of the church.
The work of St
With their father now gone, Sava's brothers, Vukan and
Stefan, were at strife over the throne, and as a result of
their discord, the Serbian State, as well as the Orthodox
faith, was gravely threatened with extinction.
In the face of these difficult circumstances, Stefan
remembered his youngest brother, Sava, and asked him to
return to his homeland and to bring with him the body of
their father. Bearing the remains of St. Simeon, St. Sava
returned to his country, coming to the Monastery of
STUDENITZA, the endowment of Nemanja, and over the remains
of their father, effected the reconciliation of his warring
Following this, he was appointed Superior of the
Monastery of Studenitza, instructing and training many of
the monks to become Serbian priests and teachers, and in
addition, assisting his brother Stefan, in affairs of state,
counselling him wisely at all times.
The Serbian State had progressed to the point of being
respected and powerful. Thus, at this time, Stefan,
proclaiming himself king and placing the royal crown upon
his head, became the first Serbian king, STEFAN, THE
There was a need also, that the Serbian Church become
independent, for, up to the time of St Sava, the church
superior or BISHOPS in the Serbian State, had been Greeks,
who, to the Serbs were considered aliens. Realising the
necessity for the Serbs to have their own archbishops and
bishops, St. Sava, in accord with his brother, King Stefan,
departed for the city of NICEA (Asia Minor), where lived the
Greek king and PATRIARCH. Sava requested the appointment of
a Serbian bishop, which would further strengthen the
Orthodox Faith, whereupon the Greek Patriarch elevated St.
Sava to the office of the first Serbian ARCHBISHOP. Thus,
the INDEPENDENCE OF ARCHBISHOPRIC of the Serbian Church was
established in the year of 1219.
Upon his return to Serbia, St. Sava, in agreement with
his brother Stefan, divided the Serbian land into bishoprics
and appointed Serbs as bishops. For himself he chose as his
seat, the endowment of King Stefan, the Monastery of ZITCHA.
In this, the Monastery of Zitcha, St. Sava, with great
solemnity, crowned his brother as king. Thus, the coronation
of the first king of Serbia, Stefan, the First-Crowned, took
place in an Orthodox Church, by a Serbian Archbishop. St.
Sava worked especially toward the enlightenment of the
Serbian people. Numerous churches and monasteries were
erected everywhere, throughout the state. Monasteries in
that time served as schools, in which the Serbian youth were
taught to read and write. Following completion of their
learning, they were appointed priests and teachers.
Thus, thanks to the efforts of St. Sava.
In his declining years, St. Sava made a pilgrimage to
Jerusalem, there to visit Christ's grave. Prior to his
return, he stopped at TRNOVO, to be the guest of his friend,
the Bulgarian emperor. St.
Sava, celebrating the Divine service of Theophany,
on a chilly day, caught cold, became ill and died on January
14, (27) in the year of 1235.
The Bulgarian emperor insisted that the body of St. Sava
remain in Bulgaria. Consequently, the Serbian king,
VLADISLAV, nephew of St. Sava, with great difficulty
succeeded in claiming the body of his uncle and interring it
in Serbian soil at the Monastery of MILESHEVO, an endowment
of St. Sava.
To the Serbs, the grave of St. Sava was most sacred.
During the time of Turkish dominance, the Serbs came from
all sides to his grave, offering prayers to God, and seeking
consolation in their suffering, and strength in their hope
for liberation. Realising to what extent the Serbs revered
their saint, the Turks disinterred the body of St. Sava from
Mileshevo, taking it to BELGRADE at a place called VRACHAR,
where on a pyre, his body was burned to ashes, in the year
In burning the body of St. Sava, the Turks believed that
the people would forget entirely their great benefactor and
enlightener, even that his name would be for- gotten. But
they were wrong !
Albeit centuries have passed since the cremation of his
remains, there does not exist today, a Serb who is not
familiar with his name, nor is there a Serbian school
existing which fails to venerate him every year.
By reason of his meritorious and holy life, Sava was
proclaimed a Saint. The Serbian Church celebrates St. Sava
as their greatest saint and enlightener. His memory is
commemorated by the Orthodox Church on January 14 (27).
from Orthodox Messenger, February
published bi-monthly by the SA Central Youth
PO Box 269, GLENELG SA 5045 AUSTRALIA