Stefan Dečanski

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Stefan Dečanski
Stefan Decanski ktitor.jpg
The fresco of king Stefan Dečanski with church model, Dečani monastery
King of Serbia
Reign1322–1331
Coronation6 January 1322
PredecessorStefan Konstantin
SuccessorStefan Dušan
Bornbefore 1282
Died11 November 1331(1331-11-11) (aged 46)
Castle of Zvečan
Burial
IssueStefan Uroš IV Dušan
Simeon Uroš
Jelena Nemanjić Šubić
Teodora-Evdokija
Posthumous name
Holy King, Stefan of Dečani
DynastyNemanjić
FatherStefan Milutin
MotherJelena
ReligionSerbian Orthodox
SignatureCoins

Stefan Uroš III Nemanjić (Serbian Cyrillic: Стефан Урош III Немањић, pronounced [stɛ̂faːn ûrɔʃ trɛ̂tɕiː] (About this soundlisten)), known as Stefan Dečanski (Stefan of Dečani; Стефан Дечански, Serbian pronunciation: [stɛ̂faːn dɛ̂tʃaːnskiː]; c. 1276[1][2][3] – 11 November 1331), was the King of Serbia from 6 January 1322 to 8 September 1331. Dečanski was the son of King Stefan Milutin, and he defeated several of his family members vying for the throne. He took his epithet Dečanski from the great monastery he built at Dečani.

Early life[edit]

Stefan Uroš III was the son of King Stefan Uroš II Milutin and his first wife Jelena, a Serbian noblewoman. He was born before his father took the throne in 1282.[1]

While still a youth, he was sent by his father as a hostage with his entourage to Nogai Khan of the Golden Horde, to maintain the peace between the Serbs and Tatars. He stayed at Nogai's court until the Khan's death in 1299.

Exile and return[edit]

In 1314, Stefan quarreled with his father, who sent him to Constantinople to be blinded. Stefan was never totally blinded and was likely not blinded at all.[4] In Constantinople, Stefan was at the court of Andronikos II Palaiologos, indicating good relations between the states.[5] Stefan wrote a letter to Danilo, Bishop of Hum, asking him to intervene with Stefan's father.[6] Danilo wrote to Archbishop Nicodemus of Serbia, who spoke with Milutin and persuaded him to recall his son. In 1320, Stefan was permitted to return to Serbia and was given the appanage of Budimlje,[6] while his half-brother Stefan Konstantin, held Zeta.[7]

Reign[edit]

The coronation of Stefan Dečanski

Milutin became ill and died on 29 October 1321, leaving no formal instruction regarding his inheritance.[6] Konstantin was crowned King in Zeta, but civil war broke out immediately as both Stefan and his cousin, Stefan Vladislav II, claimed the throne. Stefan revealed that his eyesight was still intact, claiming a miracle, and the populous rallied behind him believing the restoration of his sight to be a sign from God.[7] On 6 January 1322, the Archbishop of Serbia, Nicodemus, crowned Stefan as King and his son, Stefan Dušan, Young King.[7] Stefan later granted Zeta to Dušan as an appanage, indicating his intention for Dušan to be his heir.[8] According to one account, Stefan offered to split the realm with Konstantin, who refused.[9] Stefan then invaded Zeta, and Konstantin was defeated and killed.[8]

In the meantime, Vladislav II had been released from prison upon Milutin's death and recovered the throne of Syrmia, which his father had established in northern Serbia. Vladislav also claimed the throne of Serbia upon Milutin's death and mobilized local support from Rudnik, a former appanage of Vladislav's father.[8] Also supported by Hungarians, Bulgarians, and Bosnians, Vladislav consolidated control over Syrmia and prepared for battle with Dečanski.[8]

Stefan Dečanski died in the Zvečan Fortress
A frescoe representing Stefan Dečanski from Jasenovac monastery

In 1323, war broke out between Stefan and Vladislav. In autumn, Vladislav still held Rudnik, but by the end of 1323, the market of Rudnik was held by officials of Stefan, and Vladislav seems to have fled further north.[8] Some of Vladislav's supporters from Rudnik, led by Ragusan merchant Menčet, took refuge in the nearby Ostrovica fortress, where they resisted Stefan's troops.[8] Stefan sent envoys to Dubrovnik, capital of Ragusa, to protest the support of Vladislav.[8] Dubrovnik rejected Stefan's complaint, claiming Ostrovica was held by Serbs.[8] Stefan was not satisfied, and in 1324 he rounded up all the Ragusan merchants he could find, confiscated their property, and held them captive.[8] By year's end, Rudnik was restored to Stefan, who released the merchants and returned their property.[8] Vladislav was defeated in battle in late 1324, and fled to Hungary.[10] Tensions between Dubrovnik and Serbia continued: in August 1325 Vojvoda Vojin plundered Dubrovnik, resulting in a brief trade ban.[8] On 25 March 1326 Stefan reaffirmed privileges previously granted to Ragusa by Milutin.[8] Tensions began again, however, when Bosnia and Dubrovnik took actions against the Branivojevići.[8]

Stefan generally maintained an alliance with Andronikos II, aside from occasional disruptions.[11] He avoided taking a position in the Byzantine civil war between Andronikos II and Andronikos III Palaiologos. Nevertheless, as Andronikos III gained control, he developed an alliance with Tsar Michael Asen III of Bulgaria.[12] Michael Asen III divorced Stefan's sister Anna and married the Byzantine princess Theodora Palaiologina instead. The allies intended to join forces for a major invasion of Serbia in 1330. In the most significant event of Stefan's reign, he defeated and killed Michael Asen III in the Battle of Velbazhd (1330). Prince Stefan Dušan also contributed to the victory.[13]

Hearing of Michael's defeat, Andronikos III retreated. Stefan's subsequent conquests pushed the Serbian border south into Byzantine Macedonia. Some of his courtiers, however, were discontented with his policies and conspired to dethrone him in favour of Stefan Dušan. In 1331, Dušan came from Skadar to Nerodimlje to overthrow Stefan, who fled to Petrič.[14] On 21 August 1331 Dušan captured Petrič after a siege and imprisoned his father in Zvečan Fortress, where he was strangled to death on 11 November 1331.[15]

Family[edit]

By his first wife, Theodora of Bulgaria, Stefan Dečanski had two sons:

  • Stefan Uroš IV Dušan, who overthrew him and took royal title, and
  • Dušica (or Dušman), who died before 1318.

By his second wife, Maria Palaiologina, daughter of John Palaiologos, Dečanski had:

Legacy[edit]

Stefan is seen as a noble character in epic poetry, and the Serbian Orthodox Church had him canonized; his feast day is 24 November. His remains are venerated at the church of the Visoki Dečani monastery, which he built, in Kosovo.

Dečanski's royal crown has been preserved until the present and is now kept at the Cetinje Monastery, in Montenegro.[16][better source needed]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b Veselinović & Ljušić 2008, p. 44.
  2. ^ Станоје Станојевић Историја српскога народа 3rd edition, reprint of the 1926 edition) Belgrade. Stefan Dečanski
  3. ^ -{Genealogy.eu}-
  4. ^ Fine 1994, p. 260,263
  5. ^ Fine 1994, p. 260
  6. ^ a b c Fine 1994, p. 262
  7. ^ a b c Fine 1994, p. 263
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Fine 1994, p. 264
  9. ^ Fine 1994, pp. 263–64
  10. ^ Fine 1994, p. 265
  11. ^ Fine 1994, p. 270
  12. ^ Fine 1994, p. 271
  13. ^ Fine 1994, pp. 271–72
  14. ^ Fine 1994, p. 273.
  15. ^ Sedlar 1994, p. 53.
  16. ^ "Cetinje". Cetinje-mojgrad.org. 2013-02-03. Retrieved 2015-06-05.

Sources[edit]

Further reading[edit]

Stefan Dečanski
Born: 1285 Died: 11 November 1331
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Helen of Anjou
Prince of Zeta
1309–1314
Succeeded by
Stefan Konstantin
Preceded by
Stefan Konstantin
King of Serbia
1322–1331
Succeeded by
Stefan Dušan
  1. ^ Slobodan Mileusnić (1994). Medieval monasteries of Serbia. Prometej.