Simeon the Myrrh-flowing

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Our venerable and God-bearing Father Simeon the Myrrh-flowing, in the world Stefan Nemanja, (in Serbian: Преподобни Симеон Мироточиви) was a Serbian ruler, monk, and saint in the 12th century. He is the father of St. Sava of Serbia. His feast day is celebrated on February 13.

Early life

He was born in 1113 or 1114 in town of Ribnica (today Podgorica, Montenegro). His father Zavida, a member of ruling dynasty of Raška (the most important state of the Serbs), was exiled in principality of Duklja, a minor Serbian state. Nemanja was baptized by a Roman Catholic priest because there was no Orthodox priest in Ribnica. When Zavid came back in Raška, his youngest son was re-baptized by the bishop of Ras Kalink.

Vassal prince

In 1163 the grand prince of Raška Desa, Nemanja's kinsman was replaced by Nemanja's eldest brother, Stefan Tihomir. This took place by the will of Emperor Manuel I Komnenos (1143-1180).

Tihomir's brothers became minor princes. Nemanja was a prince in counties of Ibar, Toplica, Rasina, and Reke. Later, the emperor granted him the county of Dubočica and imperial rank (sometimes mistranslated as imperial dream). Nemanja, several years before, personaly met the powerful emperor. Some historians suggest that Nemanja's wife Ana, later Saint Anastasia, was a Byzantine noblewoman. This could explain the emperor's sympathy for him.

Nemanja was popular among the people because he was a good ruler and a pious man. He soon built two monasteries: the Monastery of Holy Mother of Godon on the rivers Kosanica and Toplica, and the Monastery of Saint Nicholas-Kuršumlija. His brothers called him to council and imprisoned him and held him in a nearby cave. Saint George freed Nemanja from the cave. Nemanja soon, with support of the people, nobility, and the Church, deposed Tihomir and became the grand prince in 1166.


Nemanja's brothers raised a mercenary army, made up of Turks, Franks, and Greeks. Nemanja defeated them in the Battle of Pantin, near Zvečan, in 1168. Tihomir drowned himself in the river Sitnica, and Nemanja captured two other brothers: Stefan Miroslav and Stefan Stratimir. He reconciled with them and they were given back their principalities.

Nemanja built the Monastery of Saint George near his capital Ras. This monastery was later known as Đurđevi Stupovi. He tried to gain full independence from the Byzantine Empire in 1172, but failed; he was defeated and surrendered himself to the emperor. He came to Manuel with his head and feet bare and gave him his own sword as mark of surrender. He vowed that he would remain loyal to the emperor. Manuel brought him with him and presented him in imperial triumph.

Nemanja remained loyal to Manuel until Manuel's death. He used the next several years to deal with dangerous Bogumil heresy and to strengthen Orthodox faith in people. After death of Manuel, Nemanja gained independence and conquered the Duklja principality, Korčula, Vis, Niš, Svrljig, Koželj, Ravno, Prizren, and Skoplje. All these teritories were predominantly Serbian-populated. He met the Holy Roman Emperor Friedrich I the Barbarosa in 1189, in Niš.

Nemanja finished his magnificent endowment of the Monastery of the Holy Virgin the Benefactor-Studenica Monastery on the river Studenica in 1190. The monastery church is built out of white marble. This monastery is honored as the mother of all Serbian churches. Nemanja also introduced Orthodox Christianity into Duklja. Soon Duklja became, as much as Raška, predominantly Orthodox.

New Emperor Isaac II Angelos 1190, raised a large army against the Serbs and defeated them in the battle of Ravno. Soon a peace treaty was signed and Nemanja gained independence, but the Byzantine Empire was given back Niš, Ravno, and Skoplje. Nemanja's second son and heir Stefan, future Serbian king (later Saint Simon the Monk), married the emperor's niece Eudoxia and received the title of Sebastokrator, second highest after Emperor.


Stefan's father-in-law Alexius became emperor as Alexius III Angelos (1195-1202). Nemanja called a State Concile (Serbian: Државни Сабор) on March 25, 1195. He abdicated in favour of Stefan. He gave his eldest son vukan principalities Duklja and travunija and counties Hvosno and Toplica. After abdicaton Nemanja took monastic vows as monk Simeon in Studenica Monastery. His wife Ana took monastic vows in female Monastery of Holy Mother of God in Ras. She was taken monastic name Anstasija. She is also canonised as Saint Mother Anastasia of Serbia.

Life as monk

After two years Simeon joined his son Sava, who was monk of Monastery Vatopedi in Mount Athos. Two of them soon visited all monasteries of athos and gave large donations to each. Their relative emperor alexius gave them ruined monastery Hilandar 1198. He also published Imperial chrisobulion in wich is proclaimed that Hilandar is monastery for monks from Serbian Nation. Simeon's succesor Stefan also published Hilandar Charter in wich he granted a large goods in Serbia to new monastery. Hilandar soon became one of the most importnant centers of Serbian Orthodoxy.

Last years of his life were ascetic. Sava described last years of his father's life in his Life of saint Simeon. Simeon died in front of icon of Theotokos Hodegetria wich he brought from Serbia. He died Februry 13, 1199.


One year after his death Simeon is canonisated by comunity of Mount Athos. Reason for canonisation was fact that holy oil seeped from his relics. It is writen that this miracle didn't ocured in past three centuries. Even today his relics are giving sweet smel. Serbian meadevel writers described numerous miracles of Saint Simeon. His feast day is February 13 in Julian calendar.

His relics were brought to Serbia by Saint Sava in order to end civil war between Stefan and Vukan. Sava put his father's relics in Studenica Monastery. He recociliated his brothers on their father's thomb. Later in Studenica was put relics of his sons Stefan and Vukan, his wife Ana, and his grandson king Radoslav.

St. Sava wrote Life of Saint Simeon and Service to Saint Simeon. There are another two Lives of Saint Simeon first from Stefan and another from Sav's byographer Domentijan.


St. Simeon fonded monasteries of Saint Nicholas-Kuršumlija 1165, Holy Theotokos on river Kosanica1165, Saint George-Đurđevi Stupovi 1171, Holy Theotokos the Benefactor-Studenica 1190. He is claimed to be founder of Monastery of Saint Nicholac in Kazanovići, Female monastery of Holy Mother of God in Ras, Church of Holy Mother of God on the river Bistrica.

When he was Lord of Skoplje and Niš, he rebuilt monasteries of Holz Archangel Michael in Skoplje , and Sait Panteleymon in Niš. He was giving a large donations to this churches and monasteries: Church of Holy Sepulchure in Jerusalem, Church of Saint John the Baptist also in Jerusalem, Church of Saint Theodosius in Desert near Bethlehem, Hagia Sophia in Constantinopole, Church of Saint Apostles Peter and Paul in Rome, Monastery of Theotokos Evergethide, Churh of Saint Demetrios in Thessalonika, Church of Saint Nicholas in Bari.

Mariage and family

Stefan Nemanja was married to a byzantine noblewoman Ana. They had six children:

  1. Vukan, Grand prince of Duklja and Travunija
  2. Vuka, daughter
  3. Stephan the Firscrowned(Saint Simon the Monk), King of Serbia
  4. unknown daughter
  5. unknown daughter
  6. Rastko,Saint Sava, first Serbian Archbishop.

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