Holy rulers and the integration of the medieval Serbian space

Nemanjic Dynasty - Serbia

Nemanjic Dynasty - SerbiaHoly rulers and the integration of the medieval Serbian space

Boris A. Todorov

Centre for Advanced Study: Working Paper Series No. 5, Sofia, Bulgaria (2013)


This paper proposes a new line of analysis of the rich body of medieval Serbian royal hagiography. It suggests that this hagiographical tradition is not so much a strategy of rationalizing the Serbian past, particularly the history of the Nemanjići dynasty (in power from the third quarter of the twelfth century to the third quarter of the fourteenth), and the creation of a primarily intellectual ideological frame-work for the sake of the dynasty’s legitimacy, as it is the textual reflection of the real practice of royal power in the medieval heartland of Serbia.

The sanctification of the lineage, the commemoration of the royal dead, and the foundation of numer- ous pious institutions in the mountainous region immediately to the north and west of the old Christian center of Ras (present-day Novi Pazar) in fact constructed the space of Nemanjić Serbia, and provided it with a nucleus where the overlap- ping of their private patrimony and the public authority they held did not allow competition. This nucleus would remain the backbone of the dynasty well after the expansion of the kingdom towards the plains of the northeast, the Adriatic coast to the west and the Byzantine and Bulgarian dominions to the south and southeast. Piety and property were intrinsically associated and offered the basis for power.


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