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Stefan the First-Crowned Secured Church and State Independence


The first Serb king, Stefan Nemanjić First-Crowned (1166-1228), the second son of the great perfect Stefan Nemanja, during whose rule Serbia gained both state and church independence, died on this day in 1228.

Before his father, Stefan Nemanja became a monk in 1196, he ceded the throne to him, and not to his eldest son Vukan, whose statesmanship he valued less, and also because Stefan was the son-in-law of the Byzantine emperor Alexius III the Angel.

The brothers then clashed sharply but were reconciled by Nemanja’s youngest son Rastko – monk Sava.

During his reign, Stefan developed strong trade ties with the people of Dubrovnik and Venice, and towards the end of his life he wrote “The Lives of Saint Simeon”.

His father was Stefan Nemanja, the great prefect of Raska, who is considered the founder of the Serbian state and the ancestor of the Nemanjić dynasty, and who, together with his youngest son Sava, laid the foundations of the Serbian Orthodox Church and became a monk before his death, taking the name Simeon.

Stefan the First-Crowned was a great prefect and king from 1217 to 1228.

His younger brother Sava was the founder of the autonomous Serbian archbishopric, and during his reign, the monastery of Žiča was built.

After the defeat by Byzantium in the battle of Morava in 1190, a peace was concluded according to which the middle son Stefan, and not the firstborn Vukan, inherited the great prefect Nemanja, received the title of sevastokrator ( a senior court title in the late Byzantine Empire) and the Byzantine princess Evdokia for a wife.

At the same time, Byzantium recognized the independence of Raška in 1190.

In 1196, at the state assembly near St. Peter’s Church in Ras, Stefan Nemanja abdicated in favor of his middle son Stefan, who became the great prefect of Raška.

Stefan Nemanja left his eldest son Vukan in charge of Duklja, Travunija, Hvosno and Toplica, and soon after that Vukan proclaimed himself king of Duklja.

In 1198, Stefan Nemanjić entered into negotiations with the Roman Pope Innocent III, seeking the crown in order to become the king of Raška, probably to match Vukana, who already had the papal crown.

Through the Hungarian king Emeric, Vukan influenced Pope Innocent III not to award the crown to Stephen.

After the death of Stefan Nemanja, in 1199, there was an increasingly open struggle for power in Raška between Vukan and Stefan.

On the eve of the crusades against Constantinople, around 1201, Stephen expelled the Byzantine princess Evdokia, allegedly because of infidelity in marriage.

Armed conflicts soon broke out between Vukan, assisted by Croatian-Hungarian King Emeric, and Stefan, assisted by Bulgarian Emperor Kaloyan.

Hungary and Bulgaria were at war then. The conflict of the brothers over the throne caused enormous damage to Raška and the destruction in the civil war was terrible.

At the beginning of 1202, Vukan, with the help of Hungary, took power in Raska, and Stefan fled to the territory of Bulgaria. Vukan was soon proclaimed the great prefect.

Around 1205, with the help of the Bulgarian Tsar Kaloyan, Stefan took power over Raška.

He then wrote to Sava to come to Raška and bring Nemanja’s relics, and in the letter he reminded him of his father’s will for him to be the ruler, claiming that Vukan’s disobedience was the cause of the civil war.

Stefan reports that he won the war temporarily, but that Vukan has not been defeated yet, so he needs symbolic support.

Sava responds to Stefan’s invitation and hurries to Raska with a group of monks and Nemanja’s relics, where he arrives at the beginning of 1207, to support Stefan, whom he calls “God-chosen”, while Vukana is called “the great prince”.

According to church tradition, Stefan and Vukan, just above the relics of their dead father, finally reconciled, after which Stefan became the ruler of Raška.

By 1216, Stefan Nemanjić had taken control of Zeta.

With the conquest of Zeta and the coastal areas, Stefan gained closer contacts with the Catholic Church, and he also entered into closer relations with Venice.

Around 1216 or 1217, he married Ana Dandolo – the grandson of the Venetian doge Enrico Dandolo, and since then Venetian and Catholic influence in Serbia has grown.

Stefan Nemanjić reached an agreement with the Roman Pope Honorius III to recognize him as the king of Raška. After expressing his readiness to submit to Rome, Stephen was granted the royal crown/wreath / by the pope.

The papal crown represented the international legal recognition of Raška as an independent state. Stefan Nemanjić, called the First-Crowned, became a crowned king, and Raška became a kingdom.

Stefan Nemanjić died on September 24, 1228, while immediately before his death he became a monk and took the name Simon.




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