Saint Sava, known as the Enlightener, was a Serbian prince and Orthodox monk, the first Archbishop of the autocephalous Serbian Church, the founder of Serbian law, and a diplomat. Sava, born as Rastko, was the youngest son of King Stefan Nemanja (founder of the Nemanjić dynasty).
As a young boy, Rastko left home to join the Orthodox monastic colony on Mount Athos and was given the name Sava. In 1197 his father, King Stefan Nemanja, joined him. In 1198 they moved to Athos and restored the abandoned monastery Hilandar, which was at that time the centre of Serbian Orthodox monastic life.
St. Sava’s father took the monastic vows under the name Simeon, and died in Hilandar on the 13th of February, 1200. He is also canonized a saint of the Church.
After his father’s death, Sava retreated to an ascetic monastery in Kareya which he built himself in 1199. He also wrote the Kareya typicon both for Hilandar and for the monastery of ascetism. The last typicon is inscribed into the marble board at the ascetic monastery, which today also exists there. He stayed on Athos until the end of 1207, when he persuaded the Patriarch of Constantinople to elevate him to the position of first Serbian archbishop, thereby establishing the independence of the archbishopric of the Serbian Orthodox Church in the year 1219. In the same year, he authored the oldest known constitution of Serbia – the ”Zakonopravilo” (The Nomocanon of Saint Sava was the Civil law and its basic purpose was to organize continuation and functioning of the Serbian kingdom and the Serbian church ), thus securing full independence, both religious and political.
He is widely considered as one of the most important figures of Serbian history. Saint Sava is venerated by the Serbian Orthodox Church as its founder on the 27th of January. Many artistic works from the Middle Ages to modern times have interpreted his career. He is the patron saint of Serbia, Serbs, and Serbian education.
The Cathedral of Saint Sava in Belgrade is the largest active Orthodox temple in the world today. It was built on the site where his holy relics were burned.