Nemanjić dynasty

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Parent houseVukanović dynasty
FounderStefan Nemanja
Final rulerStefan Uroš V of Serbia
Estate(s)Rascia, Serbia Doclea-Zeta, Travunia, Dalmatia and Hum
Dissolution1371 (see fall of the Serbian Empire)
Cadet branches

The House of Nemanjić (Serbian Cyrillic: Немањић, pl. Немањићи; Serbian Latin: Nemanjić, pl. Nemanjići, pronounced [nɛ̌maɲitɕ]) was the most prominent dynasty of Serbia in the Middle Ages. This princely, royal and imperial house produced twelve Serbian monarchs, who ruled between 1166 and 1371.[1]

Its progenitor was Stefan Nemanja, scion of a cadet branch of the Vukanović dynasty (1101–1166). After Nemanja, all monarchs used Stefan as a personal name, or a ruler's name, a tradition adopted for the royal pretensions.[A] The monarchs began as Grand Princes, and with the crowning of Stefan Nemanjić in 1217, the realm was promoted to a Kingdom, and the Serbian Orthodox Church was established in 1219. In 1346, Stefan Dušan was crowned Emperor of the Serbs and Greeks, and the Archbishopric of Serbia was elevated to a Patriarchate.[2]

The dynasty's rule in Serbia ended in 1371, with the death of childless Stefan Uroš V (r. 1355–1371).[3] This led to the fall of the Serbian Empire. Provincial lords took control of their provinces. The last remaining members of the House of Nemanjić were John Uroš,[4] ruler of Thessaly, titular emperor of the Serbians and Greeks, who died c. 1422-23, and his younger brother, Stefan Uroš, ruler of Pharsalos. Nemanjić descent survived only through maternal lines in several Serbian houses.[5]


Nemanjić dynasty, 14th century fresco from Visoki Dečani

The Serbs, as Slavs in the vicinity of the Byzantine Empire, lived in so-called Sklavinia ("Slav lands"), territories initially out of Byzantine control and independent.[6] In the 8th century, the Vlastimirović Dynasty established the Serbian Principality.[7]

Christianity was adopted as state-religion in circa 870.[8] In the mid-10th century the state had emerged into a tribal confederation that stretched to the shores of the Adriatic Sea by the Neretva, the Sava, the Morava, and Skadar.[9]

The state disintegrated after the death of the last known Vlastimirid ruler – the Byzantines annexed the region and held it for a century, until 1040 when the Serbs under the Vojislavljević Dynasty revolted in Duklja (Pomorje).[10] In the 1090s, the Vukanović Dynasty established the Serbian Grand Principality, based in Rascia (Zagorje), but only in the 11th century Stari Ras became undisputably under Serbian control.[11]

In 1166, Stefan Nemanja took the throne, marking the beginning of Serbia, henceforth under the rule of the Nemanjići (Vukanović branch).[12]

Serbia under the Nemanjić dynasty[edit]

Serbian Empire, 1355

Serbia reached its height of power during the Nemanjić dynasty. The Serbian Kingdom was proclaimed in 1217, leading to the establishment of the Serbian Orthodox Church in 1219. In the same year Saint Sava published the first constitution in Serbia: St. Sava's Nomocanon.[13]

Tsar Stefan Dušan proclaimed the Serbian Empire in 1346. During Dušan's rule, Serbia reached its territorial, political, and economical peak,[14] proclaiming itself as the successor of the Byzantine Empire, and was the most powerful Balkan state of that time. Dušan enacted an extensive constitution, known as Dušan's Code, opened new trade routes, strengthened the state's economy, but its society's integration was unfinished and not unified enough until Ottoman invasion.[14] Serbian medieval political identity has been profoundly shaped by the rule of this dynasty and its accomplishments, that were supported and cultivated by the Serbian Orthodox Church.[15]

Stefan Dušan attempted to organize a Crusade with the Pope against the threatening Turks,[16] but he died suddenly in December 1355.[17] He was succeeded by his son Uroš, called the Weak, a term that might also apply to the state of the empire, which slowly slid into a feudal fragmentation.[3] This was a period marked by the rise of a new threat: the Ottoman Turk sultanate, which spread from Asia to Europe conquering Byzantium and then the other states in the Balkans.


Coat of arms attributed to the Nemanjić dynasty in the Fojnica Armorial, based on the Ohmućević Armorial (late 16th century). The double-headed eagle is attested for the flag of the medieval kingdom of Serbia by Angelino Dulcert (1339).


The Nemanjić dynasty ruled the Serb lands between ca. 1166 up to 1371.

Picture TitleName Reign Notes
Grand Prince
Stefan Nemanja
1166–1196 Nemanja is the eponymous founder of the Nemanjić dynasty. He re-established control over the neighbouring territories, including Duklja, Hum and Travunia. In his last years, he joined his son Sava and took monastic vows, later recognized as Saint Symeon after numerous alleged miracles following his death.
Note: Duklja, Zahumlje and Travunija is reconquered, Nemanja is proclaimed "Grand Prince of All Serbia"
Grand Prince
1202–1204 Eldest son of Stefan Nemanja. He held the appanage of "Duklja, Dalmatia (Zahumlje), Travunija, Toplica and Hvosno" as Grand Prince, by 1190. He was the initial heir presumptive, but his father chose Stefan instead upon the abdication in 1166. With the death of Nemanja, Vukan started plotting against his brother. He found help in Hungary, and together they forced Stefan to flee to Bulgaria. He ruled as a Hungarian vassal, evident in Emeric I's title "King of Serbia". He left the throne in 1204, and continued to rule his appanage, he was later pardoned by the third brother Saint Sava.
Stefan the First-Crowned
Second son of Stefan Nemanja. He inherited the title of Grand Prince in 1196 when his father retired as a monk. His reign began with a struggle against his brother Vukan, who expelled Stefan to Bulgaria. Kaloyan gave him an army of Cumans in exchange for eastern territories. The crisis ended when Sava negotiated a peace between the brothers and Stefan's power was cemented. He was crowned King in 1217, and then Sava gains autocephaly, becoming the first Archbishop of Serbs in 1219, thus Serbia retained full independence.
Stefan Radoslav
1228–1233 Son of Stefan the First-crowned. He ruled Zahumlje during the reign of his father, and also held a governor status of Zeta. He was the co-founder of the Žiča monastery with his father, who would abdicate in 1227 due to illness, taking monastic vows. Radoslav was crowned by his uncle Sava, the Archbishop of Serbia. His marriage to Anna Doukaina Angelina would prove unpopular as she undermined his authority, he lost the loyalty of the people and in 1233 a revolt against them prompted the couple to flee to Dubrovnik.[18]
Stefan Vladislav
1233–1243 Son of Stefan the First-crowned. He succeeded his brother Radoslav in 1233 and ruled for 10 years, before being overthrown by his younger brother Uroš. He continued to rule Zeta. The first known flag design of Serbia was found in his treasury.[19]
Stefan Uroš I
1243–1276 Son of Stefan the First-crowned. He succeeded his brother Vladislav. He boosted trade with Dubrovnik and Kotor, marking a beginning of economic prosperity. In 1253 a war was fought against Dubrovnik, peace was signed in 1254, and in the 1260s a second war begun that ended in 1268. Uroš immediately turned towards Hungary, successfully taking Mačva, he was however captured and peace was ensured between the two Kings through marriage of Dragutin and Catherine, the daughter of Stephen V of Hungary. His oldest son Dragutin would have succeeded his rule, but Uroš favored Stefan Milutin, the younger son, as successor. He was overthrown by Stefan Dragutin in 1276.[20]
Stefan Dragutin
Son of Stefan Uroš I. He overthrew his father with help from the Hungarian royalty (through his marriage to Catherine of Hungary) after the Battle of Gacko. He was injured in 1282, and gave the supreme rule to his younger brother Milutin, but continued to rule what would later become the Kingdom of Srem with the capital at Belgrade. Milutin boosted relations with the Byzantine Emperor, and refused to give the rule to Vladislav II (Dragutin's son), causing a split of the Kingdom. Dragutin continued to rule the northern frontier in Hungarian alliance, but in the last years re-connected with Serbia, acting as a vassal.[21]
Stefan Milutin
1282–1321 Son of Stefan Uroš I. He succeeded his brother Dragutin. Upon his accession, he immediately turned towards Macedonia, conquering the northern part with Skoplje, which became his capital. He continued deep into Bulgarian lands, taking northern Albania and as far as Kavala. He also took Bulgarian Vidin, and later Durres. He was in a succession war with Dragutin after peace was signed with the Byzantines in 1299. Milutin aids the Byzantines against the Ottoman Turks at the Battle of Gallipoli, which ended in a victory. When Dragutin died he put most of his lands with Belgrade under his rule, in the same year his son Stefan Dečanski tried to overthrow him, resulting in him being exiled to Constantinople. In 1319 the Hungarians took all of Dragutin's lands but Braničevo.
Note: Syrmia becomes independent, ruled by the initial heir apparent:
King of Srem (King of the Serbs)
Stefan Vladislav II
1316–1325 son of Dragutin.
Stefan Konstantin
1321–1322 Younger son of Stefan Milutin, defeated in 1322 by his older brother, Stefan Dečanski.
Stefan Dečanski
of Dečani
1322–1331 Older brother of Stefan Konstantin.

Stefan Dušan
the Mighty
1331–1355 Son of Stefan Dečanski. He was a very skilled military leader, and defeated Bosnia and Bulgaria at the age of 20. As his father was not an able conqueror, Dušan removed him from the throne. Dušan doubled the size of the realm, taking Byzantine lands as far as the Peloponnese. He was crowned Emperor in 1346. The Serbian Empire flourished, and he enacted the constitution - Dušan's Code in 1349.
Stefan Uroš V
the Weak
1355–1371 Son of Stefan Dušan, crowned King of Rascia (1346–1355), succeeds as Emperor after the death of Dušan in 1355. His epithet was given due to his "weak rule".
Note: Succession attempts (titular Emperors):
Despot of Epirus and Thessaly
Simeon Uroš
Uncle of Uroš V. He was appointed governor in the southwestern conquered regions in 1348, and ruled until 1355, when his brother-in-law Nikephoros II Orsini returned and rallied support. Nikephoros was killed in 1359, and Simeon continued his rule until his death in 1371. He proclaimed himself "Emperor of Serbs and Greeks" in 1356, however against the wishes of nobility of Serbia proper and Macedonia. After an unsuccessful invasion of Zeta, he gave up the idea of ruling Serbia.
Ruler of Epirus and Thessaly
Jovan Uroš
Son of Simeon Uroš. Succeeded his father as titular "Emperor of Serbs and Greeks" and ruled an area of Epirus and Thessaly 1370–1373 before taking monastic vows. In 1384–1385 he helped his sister Empress Maria Angelina Doukaina Palaiologina govern Epirus (she was the widow of Thomas II Preljubović, the Despot of Epirus 1367–1384).

Monastery built[edit]

Nemanjic family helped Eastern Orthodoxy to spread around Balkans . They were known to be the builder of a lot of Orthodox monasteries. Religion was of the main characteristic why they were one of the most important Dynasty in Serbia . Because of them Serbia is very rich in historical monuments and churches . The well known monasteries they build include: monastery of Žiča , Studenica Monastery, Gračanica Monastery , Ljubostinja, Banjska Monastery, Mileševa Monastery, Charter of Ravanica, Hilandar, Đurđevi stupovi, Sopoćani, Visoki Dečani, Gradac Monastery, Morača (monastery) , Krka monastery , Gorioč Monastery, Monastery of the Holy Archangels, Matejče Monastery, Our Lady of Ljeviš, King's church in studenica , Papraća Monastery , Tronoša Monastery , Tvrdoš Monastery , Rača monastery , Arilje monastery, Bešenovo Monastery, Davidovica monastery and many more.

Other members[edit]

Family tree[edit]

In popular culture[edit]


  1. ^
    Name: The name Stefan in Serbian is derived from Greek Stephanos (Στέφανος, tr. Stéphanos), meaning "crown". All the rulers from family Nemanjić had one, or more other names (Nemanja, Uroš, ...) with the common name Stefan. That is the main reason why some Serbian historians write, in recent works, that the name Stefan was not personal, but only a common one, or a ruler's name among the rulers from the Nemanjić family.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Ćirković 2004, p. 34-37, 75-80.
  2. ^ Fine 1994, p. 309.
  3. ^ a b Ćirković 2004, p. 75-80.
  4. ^ Ćirković 2004, p. 75.
  5. ^ Beckwith 1986, p. 326.
  6. ^ Ćirković 2004, p. XXIV-XXV, 10.
  7. ^ Ćirković 2004, p. 15.
  8. ^ Ćirković 2004, p. 16.
  9. ^ Ćirković 2004, p. 12, 24–25.
  10. ^ Ćirković 2004, p. 25.
  11. ^ Ćirković 2004, p. 23, 29–30.
  12. ^ Ćirković 2004, p. 34.
  13. ^ Ćirković 2004, p. 28, 40-46.
  14. ^ a b Ćirković 2004, pp. 67–74.
  15. ^ Marjanović-Dušanić 2006, p. 149-158.
  16. ^ Fine 1994, p. 326.
  17. ^ Ćirković 2004, p. 69-71.
  18. ^ Ćirković 2004, p. 38, 44, 46.
  19. ^ Ćirković 2004, p. 38, 46, 58.
  20. ^ Ćirković 2004, p. 47-49, 55.
  21. ^ Ćirković 2004, p. 48-52, 62.
  22. ^ Krstić 2016, p. 33–51.
  23. ^ Talija Izdavaštvo, accessed on 15-Apr-17.
  24. ^, accessed on 15-Apr-17,
  25. ^ Knjižare Vulkan, accessed on 16-Apr-17,[permanent dead link]
  26. ^, accessed on 16-Apr-17,
  27. ^, accessed on 15-Apr-17,
  28. ^, accessed on 15-Apr-17, Archived 2017-11-12 at the Wayback Machine
  29. ^ Blic Online, accessed on 15-Apr-17,


External links[edit]