In 1208, Saint Sava wrote about the beginning of the construction of this monastery:
“This, our holy monastery, as is known, was a wasteland, a wild
hunting ground. Yet, upon arriving to hunt, our master and consolidator,
Stefan Nemanja, who ruled the entire Serbian lands, whilst
hunting here, decided to build, on this wasteland, this monastery,
for peace and for the multiplication of the monastic order”.
Saint Sava, Studenica Typikon, ed. T. Rakićević, M. Anđelković, Studenica Monastery 2018, p. 121.
When he decided to found the monastery, the Serbian Grand Prince (Župan) was 70 years old and an experienced high-ranked mediaeval ruler, one of the most powerful historical figures of his time, deeply aware of the ephemeral nature and vanity of this life, familiar with the illusory notion of victory and human fame, as well as the bitterness of defeat. He was paying heed only to his inner urge to build a temple dedicated to the Mother of God, where he would find peace nearing the twilight of his life, and where future generations of monks would pray and praise the Lord in centuries to come.
“And when he saw the building of the temple of the Most Holy [Mother of God in Studenica], this holy lord of mine, believe me, O gentlemen and brothers, that I saw his mind rise in height like an eagle flying to the sky, held on the ground tied with iron ropes, so he tore himself and ascended to the heights to reach that immortal and holy wellspring and to see the shade of the divine city of the Most High Jerusalem, of which, indeed, he became a citizen.”
Saint Stefan the First-crowned, Collected works, Belgrade 1988, p. 75.
Studenica was built by Stefan Nemanja in the period between 1186 and 1196, when he first abdicated the throne in favor of his middle son Stefan, and then became a monk, receiving the name Simeon. He came to the Studenica Monastery, staying there less than two years, and then went to Mount Athos, where he died at the Hilandar Monastery (1199).
Saint Sava, at the request of his brothers Stefan and Vukan, brought the relics of their father, the monk Simeon, to Serbia in 1207. His body was laid in the Church of the Mother of God. From 1207 until the middle of the second decade of the 13th century, Saint Sava lived in Studenica. Under Sava’s tutelage, the Studenica Monastery became the cultural, spiritual and medical center of medieval Serbia. Here Sava wrote Studenica Typikon, in which he described the life of his father Stefan Nemanja, leaving an authentic testimony and historical source about the spiritual and monastic life from the beginning of the 13th century. The works on the completion and painting of the Church of the Mother of God were finished in 1208/1209, as evidenced by the founder’s inscription along the inner rim of pendentives at the base of the dome, in large golden letters:
“This most holy temple of the Purest Lady, our Mother of God, was commissioned by the most glorious… Grand Župan and a marital relative of the Greek Emperor Lord Alexios, Stefan Nemanja, who received angelic image as monk Simeon. It was finished… by the most glorious… Grand Prince Vukan in the year 6717, indiction 12. Mention me, who served here, sinful Sava, as well”.
“I instruct, therefore, to all of you in the name of our Lord God
the Ruler of All that this holy monastery be independent among all
the governing ones, free of any supervision, not subject to any other
rights, but only governed by the Mother of God and Benefactress,
and by the prayer of our venerable father, and consolidator, [by]
the one acting as and Abbot in it”.
St. Sava, Studenica Typikon, chapter XII
The Studenica Monastery Typikon is one of the earliest and most important written works in Serbian Mediaeval literature, a sum of the regulations for monastic life at the Studenica monastery. Saint Sava wrote the Hagiography of his father, monk Simeon, in two intervals, first somewhere between 1200 and 1205, while on the Mount Athos, as part of the Hilandar Typikon, and then around 1208, in Studenica hermitage cell, as part of the Studenica Typikon i.e. an introductory chapter. The Typikon of the Evergetis Monastery in Constantinople had been the template for the Hilandar and Studenica Typikons, but the Constantinople monastery Typikon was adjusted to suit the needs of the Studenica Monastery.
The most appreciable novelty was a ktetor Life of St. Simeon, written as the first chapter of the Studenica Typikon. Unlike the brief hagiography in the Hilandar Typikon, for the needs of the Studenica Typikon Saint Sava wrote a holistic, ktetor hagiography that comprised the entire lifespan of Simeon Nemanja. By the Typikon of Studenica, Sava established the rules and regulations of the monastic life, deciding that the status of this Lavra would be autonomous, that it shall “be independent among all the governing ones, free of any supervision, not subject to any other rights, but only governed by the Mother of God and Benefactress”, that it shall be ranked the highest among all Serbian monasteries, and its Abbott deemed higher in rank than all other Abbotts and be called first of them all. Sava also determined the way in which the sick were to be attended and nursed since in that period there was even a hospital within the Monastery. At Studenica, Sava wrote the Service to Saint Simeon, too.
The most important transcription of Studenica Typikon is monk Averkije’s copy of the Studenica Typikon and Life of St. Simeon, written in 1619 in St. Sava’s hermitage at Studenica. The copy is preserved within a manuscript book in Janko Šafarík’s collection in the National Museum Library in Prague – signature IX H 8 (Š 10).
Troparion to the Mother of God of Studenica Monastery
Serbian tune, voice 3
“Let us rejoice and bow with love
to the Benefactress of Studenica brotherhood
the Protectress of the Serbian people through the centuries
that with maternal warmth
intermediates for us before Her Son
with all the celestial powers.
Let us sing
with one heart, together:
Rejoice, Oh Blessed, Benefactress of our souls!”
* The author of the Troparion is the nun Efrosinija Bakić
** Troparion of the Mother of God of Studenica was performed vocally for the first time by the Choir and Ensemble “Alleluia” from Belgrade under the direction of conductor Milica Radivojević, MA, in 2016 under the auspices of the festival organized by the Musical Youth of Belgrade.
FOUNDER OF STUDENICA MONASTERY
STEFAN NEMANJA – SAINT SIMEON
KTETORS OF THE STUDENICA MONASTERY
Serbian prince, monk, Abbott of the Studenica Monastery, the founder and the first Archbishop of the autocephalous Serbian Orthodox Church, writer of seminal works in Serbian literature who also translated from Greek language, monastic lawmaker, and diplomat, he was born under the name of Rastko Nemanjić, as the third and the youngest son of the Serbian Grand Prince Stefan Nemanja and his wedded wife Ana.
According to the Life of Saint Sava, written by monk Teodosije the Hilandarian, Rastko was born into the world because his parents besought God who answered their prayers when they were already advanced in years. They implored Him to give them “one more baby boy, who would give us comfort and by Thy grace be the heir to our throne and scepter in our old age, so we can lean on him and rest our weary souls”. When baby Rastko was born, both of his parents vowed that in order to show their gratitude to God, they would take monastic vows when the twilight of their lives comes near. As a young man, Rastko briefly ruled the appanage of Hum, which included parts of the Croatian coastline at that time and part of the hinterland of present-day Bosnia and Herzegovina. In 1193, when he was 18 years old, Rastko took monastic vows at the Saint Panteleimon Monastery (Old Rusik) at Mount Athos, after which he went to the Vatopedi Monastery. When Rastko left to become a monk, at first it caused great distress and grieved his parents, but in fact, it marked a true revival and regeneration of the entire Serbian nation. In 1198, together with his father Nemanja, who at that time already became monk Simeon, Sava breathed new life into the deserted Hilandar Monastery, which was placed under Serbian administration and proclaimed autonomous monastery by royal decree on its autonomy issued by the Byzantine Emperor Alexios III Angelos. When Constantinople fell into the hands of the Crusaders from Western Europe, Sava went back to Serbia and reconciled his brothers Stefan and Vukan over their father’s mortal remains. Saint Sava spent ten years at the Studenica Monastery, where he was Abbott from 1207 to 1217. Thanks to his actions and endeavors, the Serbian Orthodox Church was conferred the status of Archiepiscopate in 1219, thus becoming autocephalous, whereby it was granted the right to independently chose Serbian bishops and archbishops. It was decided that the Archiepiscopate would be seated at the Žiča Monastery, which was the memorial of Sava’s brother, King Stefan the First-Crowned. This was the place where, in 1220, according to his biographers, Sava crowned his brother king, at the great ecclesiastical and national assembly that took place in Žiča. Sava Nemanjić is one of the most important writers and greatest authorities in the field of canon law in the 13th century. His most important works are Hagiography of Saint Simeon, Karyes Typikon, Hilandar Typikon, Studenica Typikon, and the first Serbian legislative act, the so-called Nomocanon, a collection of selected civil laws and ecclesiastical ordinances of the Byzantine Empire, which Sava took upon himself to edit and translate in 1220. It was the first code of law of the Serbian Orthodox Church, whereas the Serbian state was given its first constitution of a sort. While in Sudenica, Sava finished writing the Hagiography of Saint Simeon and also wrote the Studenica Typikon, a codex of monastic life, and the Service to Saint Simeon.
Sava Nemanjić traveled a lot. He went twice to the Holy Land. The first time he journeyed there was in 1229, when he erected lodgings for Serbian monks on pilgrimage at the Monastery of the Holy Cross, not far from Jerusalem, built a monastery at the Mount Zion, and bought the Church of Saint George in the port of Akko. On that occasion, he also bought the Monastery of Saint John the Apostle redeeming it from the Saracens, which is the place where the Last Supper took place. The second time Sava travelled to the Holy Land was 1234-1235, when he visited the Saint Catherine’s Monastery at the foot of Mount Sinai, and the Holy Lavra of Saint Sabba the Sanctified, where he was given his abbatial crosier and two valuable and precious icons: the Three-handed Theotokos and the Milk-feeding Theotokos. While travelling back to Serbia, Sava died on 14th January 1236, in the Bulgarian town of Trnovo, when he was 61 years old. In 1237, Sava’s body was taken from Trnovo to the Mileševa Monastery. Sources that have great relevance as accounts of the life of Saint Sava are his two biographies written by monks Domentijan the Hilandarian (1250) and Teodosije the Hilandarian (1290-1292), respectively. More than 350 years after Sava’s death, in retaliation for the Serbian uprising against the Ottoman invader, the Ottoman Turks ordered that Saint Sava’s mortal remains be brought from Mileševa Monastery to Belgrade, where they were publicly burnt in 1594. Now, the magnificent Church of Saint Sava imposingly stands in the place where his remains were burnt at the stake.
“The tomb of Simeon Nemanja was, after the sanctuary, the most important holy spot in the Studenica Monastery main church. People came to bow in reverence or brought their sick to be healed; special rituals were held, and not only on the day of the commemoration of Nemanja’s passing; and myrrh flowed from his relics. Sometime in the 15th century, a wonderworking vine grew out of the tomb-like in Hilandar, which is recounted in an inscription carved on the pilaster it climbed (‘This vine sprouted in the year 1482/1483). Above the tomb, there was a kind of canopy, destroyed over time, which gave a distinctive mark to this cult place.
In the first decades following Simeon Nemanja’s canonization, his closest descendants secured more modest resting places around his tomb. Like bees around their queen, the deceased members of the House of Nemanjić lay around their progenitor, ever-present in his prayers, to await the Second Coming, the Day of Judgment and of weeding out the righteous and the sinners. Next to his tomb, to the west, but in the narthex, nun Anastasija, who had been Nemanja’s wife Ana in her secular life, was laid to rest. Alongside Nemanja’s tomb, in the western bay, lie his son, Grand Prince Vukan, and his great grandson Stefan, the son of King Uroš I, who died in infancy. Inscriptions and modest ledger stones mark their graves. Across from Nemanja’s tomb, after the death of Nemanja’s second son Stefan the First-Crowned, an ornate stone sarcophagus was made, but only its carved marble pedestal survives. Near the grave of nun Anastasija, in the narthex, under the paved floor lies the body of monk Teodosije, the son of Grand Prince Vukan, who was called Rastko before taking the vow, after his uncle Archbishop Sava I. This is unassumingly recorded on a marble cornice on the southern wall. Dionisije, the first hegoumenos of Studenica, was also buried alongside Nemanja’s tomb, but not inside the church: his grave is located on the outer side of the same wall along which Nemanja’s sarcophagus lies in the church. His successor Ignjatije and hegoumenos Simeon, who had the frescoes of Studenica restored in 1568, were laid to rest alongside the tomb of St. Anastasija, again on the outside. King Radoslav and his wife, who commissioned the large narthex along the Church of the Holy Virgin and had their tombs placed there, were not the last members of the House of Nemanjić to secure final resting places in the foundation of their forefather. This act expressed their belief in the holy power of the progenitor of the dynasty, who died as an Athonite monk, a fact that certainly played a major role in the rise of his cult. In addition to its dedication to the Virgin, Studenica soon became known as the Lavra of St. Simeon the Myrrh-streaming (Myroblytos).”
Vojislav J. Đurić, STUDENICA MONASTERY – THE TABERNACLE OF THE SERBIAN PEOPLE, in: Spiritual and Cultural Heritage of the Monastery of Studenica: Past, Perseverance, Contemporaneity, Belgrade: Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts – Studenica Monastery 2019, p. 21
VENERABLE SIMON – KING STEFAN THE FIRST-CROWNED
Ana herself decided to accept the monastic vows in agreement with her husband: on the same day, they entered the monastic order with the blessing of the bishop Kalinik on March 25, 1196. The venerable Simeon went to Studenica, and Anastasia went to the monastery of the Most Holy Mother of God in Toplica near today’s Kuršumlija, which she had founded with Nemanja.
Venerable Anastasia died on June 21. Her holy relics are laid in a silver and gilded coffin at the church of the Virgin Mary the Benefactress in Studenica, where she was also depicted in a fresco (1568) while kneeling and praying to the Virgin Mary enthroned: “Oh, Holy Virgin and Mother of our Lord Jesus Christ, receive this prayer of Your servant Anastasia”.
St. Sava, Studenica monastery abbot and the first Serbian Archbishop, 27/14. January
Venerable Simeon the Myrrh-gusher, founder and monk of the Studenica Monastery, 26/13. February
Venerable Anastasia, July 4/21. Jun
Dormition of the Most Holy Mother of God, 28/15. August (Main Monastery Patron Feast – Slava)
Holy Righteous Joakim and Anne, the dedicatory feast of the King Milutin’s Church, 22/9. September
Venerable Simon the Monk, October 7/24. September
Holy King Milutin, the ktetor of the “King’s Church”, November 12/30. October
Sundays and holidays:
Holy Liturgy at 8 o’clock
Holy Liturgy at 6:45 p.m.