Spreading of the Cult until 1690
The cult of Prince Lazar was established with an agreement between the family of the Lazarević’s and a hierarchy of the Serbian Orthodox Church. One part of the cult’s texts was made by Lazar’s son, a successor of the Serbian throne − Despot Stefan Lazarević (1393−1427).[i] The relatives of the Lazarević’s dynasty have been spreading this cult which was the cult of the new saint who did not trace his origin from the saint Nemanjić’s dynasty.[ii] For example, a nun Jefimia, a relative of the Duchess Milica who was a wife of Prince Lazar, wrote with a golden silk well-known The Praise to Prince Lazar. Even in the charter written by the Lazarević’s in 1395/6 and 1400 issued for the Russian monastery at Athos, the Serbian Prince Lazar is mentioned as the saint Prince. Despot Stefan Lazarević ten years later gave a new charter to the monastery of Chilandar at Athos in Greece and mentioned his father “as my parent and gentleman saint Prince”.[iii] The same attribute Despot Stefan used for his father in his well-known The Mine Law. The fraternity of monastery Rusik at Athos, according to the signed special contract with Despot Stefan, was obliged to give annual celebration to the saint Prince. A family of the Branković’s, the rulers of Kosovo-Metochia in the second half of the 14th c. and the beginning of the 15th c., have been mentioning Prince Lazar as the saint Prince particularly when Prince Lazar’s daughter Mara was alive. However, after her death, Prince Lazar was mentioned in official documents issued by the Branković’s as saint Prince very rarely.[iv] In the official documents issued by the Republic of Dubrovnik (Ragusa) Prince Lazar’s name was accompanied by the attribute saint, but only when those documents were sent to the Lazarević’s, but even in this case not always.[v]
As an extraordinary event, the establishment of Prince Lazar’s cult was expressed mainly in historical works: in genealogies and chronicles. However, for the authors of the older chronicles and genealogies, Lazar was only Prince, Grand Prince or a sovereign with some additional attributes, but not with the attribute saint. On the other hand, this attribute can be found in the texts which are telling us about the transfer of his relics, the act which happened just before the canonization. The authors of the younger chronicles and genealogies used very often together with the name of the Prince and an attribute saint regardless if they were describing the time before or after the canonization. The same is with some inscriptions.
The spreading of Prince Lazar’s cult can be presented and seen also on the wall-paintings at that time or later on. The saint cult of Prince Lazar was cherished on the whole territory of the Morava (Central) Serbia and in several monasteries at the Mt. Athos during the time of the Lazarević’s dynasty. However, at the time of the Lazarević’s, the portrait of Prince Lazar was wall-painted only once. It was in the endowment of Duchess Milica – a monastery of Ljubostinja. As a matter of fact, in the Serbian monastery Chilandar at Athos, it cannot be found portraits of Prince Lazar from that time. However, together with his portrait in the monastery of Ravanica after his canonization, an attribute saint was added.[vi] The Serbian feudal lord Stefan Musić, a founder of Nova Pavlica monastery, did not forget to put attribute saint to Prince Lazar’s title and name beside his portrait on the wall: Blagočastivi i hristoljubivi gospodin Stefan, sin čelnika Muse i gospođe Dragane, sestre velikoga i samodržavnoga gospodina Srbljem i Podunaviju, svetoga kneza Lazara i ktitor svetoga mesta ovoga.[vii] The attribute saint can be found in the church of Saint Nicholas in Chilandar where a portrait of the Serbian Prince Lazar was painted in 1667. It was the first Prince’s portrait in one of several Chilandar’s monasteries.[viii] In some cases, alongside with the name of Lazar and the attribute saint, he received the title of the Emperor too. For example, in the monastery of Gornjak it is written the saint Emperor Lazar, but it is well-known that Lazar had only the title of Prince (Duke), but never he was the Emperor.[ix] In addition, he did not belong to the Nemanjić’s dynasty. According to the opinion given by M. Vasić, this inscription in the monastery of Gornjak dates very after the canonization and, in fact, it is a product of the popular belief.[x]
With regard to the wall-paintings, we can conclude that there was not any Prince’s portrait within the lands which were under his power for more than two centuries after the fall of the Serbian lands under the Ottoman rule in the mid-15th c. It was the first Lazar’s portrait made in Russia. The next one was made in Orahovica in Slavonia (present-day in Croatia) which at that time (1594) was under the Ottoman rule.[xi] A revival of Lazar’s cult happened four centuries later, during the time of the Serbian Patriarch Pajsije. He restored in 1633/34 a wall-painted genealogy of the dynasty of the Nemanjić’s. Beside the portrait of the first Serbian King Stefan Prvovenčani (coronated in 1217), Prince Lazar’s portrait was presented as well. After two or three years later, Prince’s portrait was wall-painted in the next monasteries and churches: Blagoveštenje Kablarsko, in the village of Jeđevica nearby Čačak in Central Serbia and in the village of Brezova nearby Ivanjica in South-West Serbia.
In the favor of a spreading and making stronger Prince Lazar’s cult is telling us also several attempts done in order to prove that some person or family could trace its own origin from the Serbian medieval ruling dynasty − the Nemanjić’s. In this case, Prince Lazar was the crucial link whose origin was also derived from the Nemanjić’s. For instance, the origin of the Serbian Jakšić’s feudal family was traced back in their genealogy, that was made between 1563 and 1584, from Prince Lazar who was presented as originated from the saint Nemanjić’s family. This genealogy was made for the Russian Emperor Ivan the Terrible (1533−1584)[xii] who wanted to connect his own origin with the ancient Serbian dynasty who had two Emperors (Душан Силни and Урош Нејаки). Prince Lazar and the Jakšić’s should be the main link between two dynasties – the Nemanjić’s of Serbia and Ivan the Terrible of Russia.[xiii] It is not occasionally that this genealogy was made at the time when Lazar’s cult was established in Russia. During the realm of the first Russian Emperor, Prince Lazar’s portrait was painted in the Archangel Cathedral in Kremlin which was a mausoleum for the Russian Emperors. This church was painted in 1564/65. Among the portraits of all Russian rulers before Ivan IV the Terrible, in this church were also presented portraits of the Byzantine emperor Michael VIII Palaeologus, saint Sava of Serbia, his father Simeon Nemanjić and the saint Serbian Prince Lazar. The Serbian Prince was presented in the clothing of the Russian rulers.[xiv]
For spreading of Lazar’s cult, the literacy was the main distributor of it, more important than anything else. To no one Serbian ruler who was proclaimed as the saint, it was devoted so huge number of texts as it was the case with Prince Lazar. However, the real literal campaign in the glory of Prince Lazar started from the time of the realm of his son Despot Stefan Lazarević. The biggest number of texts dedicated to Prince Lazar in order to firm and spread his glory and holiness was made in the form of the liturgical texts. It is the case, for instance, with both Jefimia’s inscription and the inscription on the marble column. The latter, according to the opinion by the historians of literature, was a work ordered by Despot Stefan Lazarević. A famous Slavonic philologist Pawel J. Šafařik thought that the marble column was erected exactly on the place where Prince Lazar was buried immediately after his death. However, this column was not erected as a tombstone and the inscription on it was not an epitaph.[xv] This column actually was erected on the place of the 1389 Battle of Kosovo and its inscription was pointed against the Turks. It was the main reason for the fact that this column was very early destroyed by the Ottomans.[xvi] One of the crucial literal texts with regard to the spreading of the cult was the Hagiography of Emperor Uroš written by the Serbian Patriarch Pajsije in the mid-17th century. It was, in fact, a revival of the cult from the literal point of view. In this work, a short history with a genealogy of Prince Lazar is written.[xvii] The most important detail is the fact that according to Patriarch Pajsije, the Serbian Emperor Dušan adopted Prince Lazar as a son and, therefore, Prince Lazar became connected with the ruling Serbian dynasty of the Nemanjić’s.
The monastery of Ravanica, as the main endowment of Prince Lazar, was the crucial center for spreading and further firming of his cult. The relics of “Kosovo’s great martyr” of Prince Lazar were kept and preserved in this monastery for three centuries − from 1390/91 till the First Great Serbian Migration to Hungary in 1690. In the monastery of Ravanica an ancient inscription devoted to Prince Lazar beside his portrait became more respected after his canonization in the way that the attribute saint was added. Every year the church service is devoted to Prince Lazar as the most important obligation by the monastery towards its founder up today.[xviii]
One of the most important points in relation to the spreading and making stronger of Lazar’s cult is the oral tradition, namely the so-called “Kosovo’s Legend”. This oral tradition is written in several texts as, for instance, in the Janičareve uspomene ili Turska hronika by Konstantin Mihajlović from Ostrovica, or in the works by Benedikt Kuripešić and Ludovik Crijević Tuberon from Dubrovnik. The final version of “Kosovo’s Legend” is shaped in De Regno Sclavorum written by Mavro Orbin (Mauro Orbini) from Dubrovnik in 1601 that is a general history of the Slavs with particular accent to the history of the South Slavs (but mainly of the Serbs) with the claim that all Slavs are originating from the Balkans.[xix]
Generally, the cult of Prince Lazar was stronger during the Lazarević’s than after the death of Despot Stefan in 1427. There are no literal works devoted to Prince Lazar after the time of Despot Stefan Lazarević. During the first two centuries of the Ottoman lordship in the Balkans, genealogies and hagiographies were containing more facts in regard with Prince Lazar as a ruler than as a saint. In a popular tradition, Prince Lazar was presented mainly as a hero. Nevertheless, the longest period of interruption of spreading of the cult happened in the fine arts. For example, from the period of the Branković’s, it was not saved any portrait of Prince Lazar and his name was absent from the genealogies of this family. However, a revival of spreading of Lazar’s cult occurred after the First Great Serbian Migration of 1690 from Kosovo-Metochia to South Hungary (at that time part of the Habsburg Monarchy).[xx]
Reposts are welcomed with the reference to ORIENTAL REVIEW.
[i] Stanoje Stanojević is mistaken in his claim that Despot Stefan Lazarević ruled Serbia since 1389 as it was, in fact, since 1393 [С. Станојевић, Сви српски владари: Биографије српских (са црногорским и босанским) и преглед хрватских владара, Београд: Отворена књига, 2015, 69].
[ii] Lj. Stojanović, “Stari srpski zapisi i natpisi”, Zbornik za IJK SAN, I, 56, 175, Beograd−Sremski Karlovci, 1902−1926.
[iii] S. Novaković, Zakonski spomenici srpskih država srednjeg veka, Beograd, 1912, 462.
[iv] Ibid., 223.
[v] Lj. Stojanović, Stare srpske povelje i pisma, I-1, Beograd−Sremski Karlovci, 1929, 1934, 180, 182, 184, 186, 190−193, 196, 200, 201, 216, 219, 224, 227.
[vi] G. Babić, Vladarske insignije kneza Lazara, Beograd, 66.
[vii] V. Petković, Starine, Beograd, 42.
[viii] D. Bogdanović, Hilandar u srednjem veku, Hilandar−Beograd, 1978, 46, 48; S. Petković, „Kult kneza Lazara i srpsko slikarstvo XVII veka”, Zbornik za likovne umetnosti, Vol. 7, Beograd, 1971, 90.
[ix] In the Serbian language and the medieval tradition, the title Emperor was used as car (цар) – a term derived from the personal name of Gaius Julius Caesar [С. Ћирковић, Р. Михаљчић (приредили), Лексикон српског средњег века, Београд: Knowledge, 1999, 789].
[x] M. Vasić, Žiča i Lazarica, Beograd, 1928, 112.
[xi] S. Petković, “Kult kneza Lazara i srpsko slikarstvo XVII veka”, Zbornik za likovne umetnosti, Vol. 7, Beograd, 1971, 94–95.
[xii] About Russia in the time of Ivan the Terrible, see in [J. Anisimov, Rusijos istorija nuo Riuriko iki Putino: Žmonės. Įvykiai. Datos, Vilnius: Mokslo ir enciklopedijų leidybos centras, 2014, 128−146].
[xiii] S. Petković, “Ivan Grozni i kult kneza Lazara u Rusiji”, O knezu Lazaru, Beograd, 1975, 312−314.
[xv] R. Mihaljčić, Lazar Hrebeljanović, Istorija, kult, predanje, Beograd: BIGZ, 1989, 165.
[xvi] L. Mirković, “Šta znači mramorni stub podignut na mestu kosovske bitke i šta kaže natpis na ovom stubu?”, Zbornik Matice srpske za književnost i jezik”, IX−X, 1961−1962, 5−6.
[xvii] Stare srpske biografije, Beograd, 146; S. Radojičić, Portreti srpskih vladara u srednjem veku, Skoplje, 1934, 50, 80.
[xviii] S. Troicki, “Ktitorsko pravo u Vizantiji i nemanjićkoj Srbiji”, Glas SKA, Beograd, LXVIII, 1925, 121.
[xix] M. Orbin, Kraljevstvo Slovena, Beograd, 1968, 101.
[xx] About this migration, see in [R. Samardžić i drugi, Kosovo i Metohija u srpskoj istoriji, Beograd: SKZ, 1989, 127−142; С. Чакић, Велика сеоба Срба 1689/90 и патријарх Арсеније III Црнојевић, Нови Сад: Добра вест, 1990].