Stefan Vladislav of Serbia

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For the son of Serbian King Dragutin, who ruled Syrmia, see Vladislav, King of Syrmia.
Stefan Vladislav
Vladislav a Mileseva 002.jpg
A ktitor portrait, Mileševa monastery (1235)
King of Serbia
Reign 1234–1243
Predecessor Stefan Radoslav
Successor Stefan Uroš I
Spouse Beloslava of Bulgaria
Dynasty Nemanjić
Father Stefan the First-Crowned
Mother Eudokia Angelina
Born around 1198
Died after 1264
Burial Mileševa (ktitor)
Religion Eastern Orthodoxy (Serbian Church)
Signature Seal

Stefan Vladislav (Serbian: Стефан Владислав, pronounced [stêfaːn]; c. 1198 – after 1264) was the King of Serbia from 1234 to 1243. He was the middle son of Stefan the First-Crowned of the Nemanjić dynasty, who ruled Serbia from 1196 to 1228. Radoslav, the eldest son, was ousted by the Serbian nobility due to increasing Epirote influence through his marriage alliance to Theodore Komnenos Doukas, and appointed Vladislav as his successor. During Vladislav's reign, his uncle Archbishop Sava went on a pilgrimage and died on the way home in Bulgaria; Vladislav managed to return the remains and bury them in the Mileševa monastery which he had built (and intended for his own burial). Serbia was politically aligned with Bulgaria at the time, since Vladislav married Beloslava, the daughter of Ivan Asen II. Vladislav secured Hum, a maritime province under attack by the Hungarian crusaders. After the death of Ivan Asen II, there was some unrest in Serbia; the Mongols invaded the Balkans, including Serbia, and devastated the lands, and the Serbian nobility rose up against Vladislav. In 1243 he abdicated in favour of his younger brother, but remained in the scene as ruler of Zeta. He was described as very energetic, reliable, and hot-tempered. The Serbian Orthodox Church venerates him as a saint on September 24 [O.S. October 7].

Early life[edit]

Vladislav's father Stefan, and brothers Radoslav and Uroš.

Vladislav was born around 1198. His parents were King Stefan the First-Crowned and Queen Eudokia. He had two full brothers, Stefan Radoslav (b. 1192) and Predislav (b. 1201), and a younger agnate half-brother, Stefan Uroš I (b. 1223). He also had two sisters, Komnena being the only one whose name is known.

King Stefan the First-Crowned, who had become ill, took monastic vows and died in 1227.[1] Radoslav who was the eldest son succeeded as king, crowned at Žiča by Archbishop Sava,[1] his uncle. The younger sons, Vladislav and Uroš I, received appanages.[1] Sava II (Predislav) was appointed Bishop of Hum shortly thereafter, later serving as Archbishop of Serbia (1263–1270).[1] The Church and state was thus dominated by the same family and the ties between the two as well as the family's role within the Church continued.[2]


According to biographer and monk Theodosius, King Radoslav was a good ruler at first, but then fell under the influence of his wife, Queen Anna, daughter of the Epirote ruler Theodore Komnenos Doukas (1216–1230).[2] Radoslav was most likely not beloved by the Serbian nobility due to this Greek influence.[3] Radoslav was probably safe from domestic rebellion as long as Theodore remained strong.[2][3] In 1230, Theodore was defeated and captured by Emperor Ivan Asen II of Bulgaria, after which Radoslav's position seems to have weakened; some of his nobility revolted in fall 1233.[2] Theodosius said that the nobility had left the support of Radoslav and stood itself behind the younger Vladislav.[4] Radoslav fled the country between 1 September 1233 and 4 February 1234, and was unable to regain the kingdom, but eventually returned as a monk.[2] Radoslav fled to Dubrovnik (1233) with his wife, and there are indications that Radoslav had organized some actions against Vladislav and that he thought that he would manage to return to the throne – this is evident from an dated February 4, 1234, regarding a promise to Ragusan trading privileges once he had returned to Serbia.[4] Because of this, Vladislav began threatening Ragusa, which then had to turn to Ban Matej Ninoslav of Bosnia for help, and as the action against Vladislav was unsuccessful, Radoslav joined the court of the Epirote ruler Manuel in Dyrrhachium.[4]

Mileševa (left), built by King Vladislav (middle), was the burial place of Vladislav and Saint Sava (right).

Archbishop Sava tried to stop the conflict, and his sympathies were most likely to Radoslav, as he was the legitimate ruler – however, as to stop a conflict which could become more serious a political move was made and Vladislav was crowned king upon Radoslav's flight.[4] Vladislav married the daughter of Ivan Asen II,[2] much thanks to Sava.[4] Sava then abdicated in favour of his apprentice Arsenije in the end of 1233.[2][4] Radoslav contacted Archbishop Sava who welcomed him back to Serbia; Radoslav then took monastic vows, with the name Jovan (John), according to Theodosius as a way of Sava to protect Radoslav from Vladislav.[4] Sava died while heading home from a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, wile visiting the Bulgarian court in 1235, and was respectfully buried at the Holy Forty Martyrs Church in Tarnovo.[2][4] Sava's body was returned to Serbia after a series of requests,[2] and was then buried in the Mileševa monastery, built by Vladislav in 1234.[2][4] Sava was canonized and his relics were considered miraculous; his cult remained important throughout the Middle Ages and the Ottoman occupation.[2]

The relation between Vladislav and Radoslav after he had returned and became a monk is not fully known, but it is likely he did not disturb his brother. There is a hypothesis that Radoslav even received a part of Serbian land to administrate. In any case, Radoslav continued the rest of his life in peace.[4]

Foreign policy[edit]

The Hungarians conquered Braničevo and Belgrade from Bulgaria by the late 1230s.[5] Hungarian crusaders campaigned in Bosnia between 1235 and 1241.[5] Serbia was never attacked directly by the Hungarians, however, the Hungarian crusaders did threaten Serbian Hum directly – they may even had occupied parts of it.[5] In 1237, Coloman of Galicia-Lodomeria made action on Hum,[4] though it is not made clear whether it was in Serbian Hum (Eastern), or in western Hum between the Neretva and Cetina rivers, where the Serbs had no power at the time.[5] The northern part, which was held by Vladislav's relative Toljen, fell quickly, but Vladislav dispatched an army to secure the region – the crusaders were pushed to the border, and Vladislav came as far as Cetina, though there were no serious encounters.[4] The Serbs had in any case asserted their right to Hum once faced with the situation, and Vladislav added Hum to his title.[5]

These events threatened Serbia, which had severed its ties with Catholicism and was once again fully in the Orthodox camp.[5] The marriage alliance between Vladislav and Ivan Asen II may be a result of the Hungarian threat to the two countries.[5] Some scholars have speculated that Serbia accepted Bulgarian suzerainty under Vladislav, but this is not known,[5] since no contemporary sources speak of Vladislav recognizing Asen as overlord of Serbia.[4] Asen likely had the biggest influence on the politics of Vladislav.[4] The Orthodox alliance founded by Asen seems to have been without Vladislav, possibly Vladislav was afraid of too much ties with Bulgaria, since his brother Radoslav's ties with Epirus had caused dissatisfaction in the Serbian nobility – thus if the Empire fell, he would too.[3] The previous fact shows that Vladislav was not that dependent on Bulgaria, as he was not obliged to join the alliance, which he would likely be forced to do if he had recognized superior rule of Asen.[4]

After having returned Sava's remains, Vladislav signed a treaty with Ragusa regarding trading privileges (with Giovanni Dandolo in 1237[6]), in return of Ragusa committing to never allow any preparation of actions against Serbia on their territory (Ragusa had helped Radoslav upon his exile).[4]

Pope Gregory IX's crusade on the Bogumils (deemed heretics) in Bosnia did not bring that great results for Coloman, as he never managed to conquer central Bosnia, and Bosnian Ban Matej Ninoslav was not preoccupied with his rule, so that in 1240 Ninoslav and his nobility retreated to Republic of Ragusa.[4] In an edict issued to the city of Ragusa (Dubrovnik) on 22 March 1240, Ninoslav promised to provide protection in case of an attack by King Vladislav.[4] At the time, Serbian bands cruised the surroundings of Dubrovnik, and Vladislav himself was with them.[4] The Ragusans may have been reminded by the earlier disputes with Vladislav, and therefore feared him, or Vladislav may have really troubled Ragusa – he posed danger to them.[4]

Mongol invasion[edit]

Further information: Mongol invasion of Europe

Ivan Asen II had been a powerful support to Vladislav, and since the Bulgarian Emperor's death, there were some internal unrest.[7] It is possible that Vladislav would have stopped that unrest if it had not been for the incoming danger to the whole of Europe in the Mongols.[7] In the period between 1206 and 1227, the Mongol leader Genghis Khan conquered territories that none had managed to before him, all over Asia to the Crimea.[7] To the end of 1240, all of Russia was taken, then Poland, Hungary and parts of Croatia and even parts of Bosnia and Serbia were taken by the Mongols.[7] In the winter of 1241, the Mongols crossed the Danube and entered western Hungary, and Bela IV did not manage to organize any resistance.[7] The whole of Croatia burned, and Khan Bata (the grandson of Genghis Khan) hunted Bela IV which at the time was in Split and then moved to Trogir as Split was not safe.[7] The Mongols did not try Split, but unsuccessfully attacked Klis where they had heard Bela was at.[7] Bela had fled to the island of Rab, and although the Mongols had an attempt on taking the island, their contingent was hurt in battles on the sea, and there were no further attempts as they hurried back home to choose the new Khan after the death of Ogatay.[7] During their return home, they crossed Serbia, Bosnia and Bulgaria on the road of Lower Danube, and devastated the lands.[7][8] Although Serbia was destroyed, the Mongol attack was not felt that much since the population had retreated into inaccessible forests and the Mongols had no will to seek for them there.[7] Of the Serbian cities, Kotor, Drivast and Svač were destroyed.[7] The whole drive was essentially plundering, which could be compared to a tide that broke down all before it, but also like a tide it quickly retreated.[7] The Mongol invasion had brought turmoil and shock, but not any further changes, the real shock had been the death of Asen which left Vladislav without significant support.[7] In 1242 Vladislav issued a charter by which he granted village Orahovo to Vranjina Monastery.[9]


In spring 1243, there was an uprising that ousted Vladislav; Stefan Uroš I, the third brother, was put on the throne.[5] Scholars have argued that the Bulgarian influence had been strong and unpopular, causing opposition that would bring Vladislav's deposition after the death of Asen.[5] Asen might have prevented Uroš's coup.[5]

The revolting nobility chose the third son of Stefan the First-Crowned, Uroš, as their candidate for King, and from 1242 to spring 1243 a war of the throne was fought.[7] Finally, in the spring of 1243, Vladislav was forced to resign and give up the crown in favour of Uroš.[7] It seems that Uroš quickly managed to catch Vladislav and hold him imprisoned somewhere, so the main resistance was described at the time as being Vladislav's wife Beloslava.[7] Beloslava had spent some time exiled in Ragusa, and the fact that she was the organizator of the resistance against Uroš from Ragusa is seen from an edict dated to the summer 1243, where the Ragusans swore to King Uroš that they would in no way support Beloslava's work against him.[7] The fact that she is the only one mentioned suggests that resistance existed and that Queen Beloslava managed it, and since Vladislav is not mentioned anywhere it means that he was imprisoned.[7]

Fortunately, the situation did not last long, and the brothers very quickly settled.[7] Uroš proved himself to be courteous towards Vladislav, and gave him the administration of Zeta and left him the right to use the royal title of King.[7] The conflict between the brothers is very little known, as is the cause of the nobility's dissatisfaction towards Vladislav's rule.[7]

Jireček thought that Vladislav lived in Skadar.[10]

Vladislav died in ca. 1269 and was buried in Mileševa.


Fresco from Krušedol, depicting Stefan Nemanja, Stefan the First-Crowned and Vladislav (1750).

According to the few mentions on his person, it can be concluded that he was very energetic, reliable, and hot-tempered.[11]

Name, epithets and titles[edit]

His given name was Vladislav, while Stefan was a name adopted by all Nemanjić dynasty monarchs. The tradition of the name Stefan in medieval Serbian rulers is thought to be ultimately connected with the Byzantine Imperial association of the martyrdom of Saint Stephen;[12] a symbol of the Empire.[13] The name is derived from Greek Stephanos, meaning "crown". The tradition began with Stefan Nemanja, and continued consecutively until the last ruler.[12] St. Stephen was the patron saint of the Serbian state and royal government, and he was depicted on the reverse of the royal seals of the early Nemanjić rulers, and on their basic coins.[14] According to Popović, the name was more of a title than name in the Serbian rulers, and according to Ćirković, the name had a special symbolical meaning to the Serbian state.[13] In The Life of St. Sava, Vladislav is constantly mentioned as "the Faithful", "the God-Loving", "the Christ-Loving", "the Great", "the World-Loving", and always as alive and as a king.[15] He is scarcely indexed as "Stefan Vladislav I" in some modern sources to disambiguate from the later Vladislav, son of Dragutin, who ruled Syrmia.

The introduction of Vladislav's charter says: "Stefan Vladislav, with the help and grace of God, crowned King of All Serbian and Maritime Lands"; while the signature reads: "Stefan Vladislav, by the grace of God, the King and Autokrator of All Serbian and Maritime Lands".[16] He also sometimes signed as "Stefan Vladislav, with the help of God, the Serbian King".[17] One seal of his reads "King of all Rascian lands.[18] With the canonization of Serbian royalty, some had their born names used by the church, such as Stefan Vladislav ("Св. Стефан Владислав, краљ српски"), Milutin, Stefan Uroš I, Stefan Uroš II, Urošica, and others.[19]

Flag of Serbia[edit]

Design used in the past, but now abandoned FIAV reconstructed.svg Flag of Serbia described in the 1281 document.

The son of King Stefan Vladislav, župan Desa, sent delegates from Kotor to Ragusa (Dubrovnik) to bring back things from the king's treasury; the inventory list included, among other things, "a flag of red and blue colour"[20] ("vexillum unum de zendato rubeo et blavo" - a flag of fabric red and blue, zendato or čenda being a type of light, silky fabric[21]). This is the first and oldest information on the colours of Serb flags.[20] The oldest known Serb flag, thus, was red and blue.[20] Note that, as Vladislav ruled from 1233 to 1243 and died after 1264, the flag predates the time of the description.


By his marriage with Beloslava, daughter of Ivan Asen II of Bulgaria, Stefan Vladislav had the following children:[7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Fine 1994, p. 135
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Fine 1994, p. 136
  3. ^ a b c Fajfrić 2000, ch. 17
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t Fajfrić 2000, ch. 18
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Fine 1994, p. 137
  6. ^ Sarkic, S. (1992), "The influence of Byzantine ideology on early Serbian law", The Journal of Legal History (Taylor & Francis) 
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v Fajfrić 2000, ch. 19
  8. ^ Fine 1994, p. 155
  9. ^ Damjanović, Nikola (1974). Virpazar, Bar, Ulcinj. Obod. p. 20. Орахова (из повеље краља Владислава ко)ом 1242. поклања црмничко село Орахово Врањинском манастиру ... 
  10. ^ Matica srpska (1911). Летопис Матице српске. 273–284. Novi Sad, Serbia: У Српској народној задружној штампарији. p. 78. 

    "али ^е факат, да се Владислав доцвпце спомивье увек као крал, поред брата Уроша I. Лпречек мисли да ^е Владислав становао у Скадру. Интереса нтнн су иодатци, коде де Лиречек- прибрао о жени и децн Владислава.

  11. ^ Vuković-Birčanin, Momčilo (1981). Dinastija Nemanjića, žene vladara, zadužbine i crkva (1168-1371). Izdanje pisca. p. 17. 

    Колико се по оно мало сачуваних података о његовој личности може судити,Владислав је био врло енергичан,поуздан и прек човек". Историчар новијег доба др.Миодраг Пурковић у свом делу Српски

  12. ^ a b Maguire, Henry (2004). Byzantine court culture from 829 to 1204. Dumbarton Oaks. pp. 61–62. ISBN 978-0-88402-308-1. 
  13. ^ a b Matica srpska (1975). Proceedings in history, Issues 11–12. Novi Sad: Odeljenje za društvene nauke, Matica srpska. 

    Душан Ј. Поповић каже да је име Стефан код наших средњо- вековних владара више титула него име. Ади, С. ћирковић каже да је име Стефан „у Србији имадо одрећено државно симбодично значењеї” У Византији је св. Стефан био симбод царства

  14. ^ Srpska akademija nauka i umetnosti (1959). Glasnik (in Serbian) 11. Srpska akademija nauka i umetnosti. p. 203. 
  15. ^ Filološki fakultet (1958). Prilozi za književnost, jezik, istoriju i folklor. 24–25. Državna Štamparija. p. 212. 

    Владислав се стално помиње као „благоверни" (295, 333, 338), „богољубнн" (335, 344), „христољубни" (335), „велики" (338, 344), „богољубац — светољубац" (344), увек као жив и као крал.; о његовој смрти и силаску с престола не ...

  16. ^ Arhivski vjesnik 9–12. 1967. p. 207. 

    Intitulacija glasi: »Stefan Vladislav pomoću i milošću božjom venčani kralj svih srpskih zemalja i pomorskih«, a potpis: »Stefan Vladislav po milosti božjoj kralj i samodržac svih srpskih zemalja i pomorskih.«1" To ne znači da vladari u XIII st.

  17. ^ Popov, Čedomir (2000). Istorija srpske državnosti. p. 146. Слично је чинио и његов син краљ Владислав, међутим, у неким случајевима он се потписивао као „Стефан Владислав помоћу Божијом краљ српски", па је и у интитулацији истицао да ... 
  18. ^ Вемић, Мирчета (2007). Атлас старе Србије: европске карте Косова и Метохије. ISBN 9788676600557. Владислав (1238) је имао печат са натписом „Стефан Владислав краљ свих рашких земаља". Назив „рашка земља" био је у титулатури и за време Уроша I. 
  19. ^ Srpska Pravoslavna Crkva, Sveti Arhijerejski Sinod (2001). Službeni list Srpske pravoslavne crkve. p. 55. 
  20. ^ a b c Stanoje Stanojević (1934). Iz naše prošlosti. Geca Kon. pp. 78–80. 
  21. ^ Dragana Samardžić (1983). Vojne zastave Srba do 1918. Vojni muzej. 


Stefan Vladislav of Serbia
Born: ca. 1198 Died: after 1267
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Stefan Radoslav
King of Serbia
Succeeded by
Stefan Uroš I
Title last held by
Stefan Radoslav
King of Zeta
1243 – ?