|Despot of Serbia|
|Predecessor||Lazar of Serbia|
Kruševac, Moravian Serbia
Glava, Serbian Despotate
|Father||Lazar of Serbia|
|Mother||Princess Milica of Serbia|
Stefan Lazarević (Serbian Cyrillic: Стефан Лазаревић, c. 1377 – 19 July 1427), also known as Stefan the Tall (Serbian: Стефан Високи / Stefan Visoki), was the ruler of Serbia as prince (1389–1402) and despot (1402–1427). The son of Prince Lazar Hrebeljanović, he was regarded as one of the finest knights and military leaders in Europe. After the death of his father at Kosovo (1389), he became ruler of Moravian Serbia and ruled with his mother Milica (a Nemanjić), until he reached adulthood in 1393. Stefan led troops in several battles as an Ottoman vassal, until asserting independence after receiving the title of despot from the Byzantines in 1402.
Becoming an Hungarian ally in 1403–04, he received large possessions, including the important Belgrade and Golubac Fortress. He also held the superior rank in the chivalric Order of the Dragon. During his reign there was a long conflict with his nephew Đurađ Branković, which ended in 1412. Stefan also inherited Zeta, and waged the war against Venice. Since he was childless, he designated his nephew Đurađ as heir in 1426, a year before his death.
On the domestic front, he broke the resistance of the Serbian nobles, and used the periods of peace to strengthen Serbia politically, economically, culturally and militarily. In 1412 he issued the Code of Mines, with a separate section on governing of Novo Brdo – the largest mine in the Balkans at that time. This code increased the development of mining in Serbia, which had been the main economic backbone of the Serbian Despotate. At the time of his death, Serbia was one of the largest silver producers in Europe. In the field of architecture, he continued development of the Morava school. His reign and personal literary works are sometimes associated with early signs of the Renaissance in the Serbian lands. He introduced knightly tournaments, modern battle tactics, and firearms to Serbia. He was a great patron of the arts and culture by providing shelter and support to scholars and refugees from neighboring countries that have been taken by the Ottomans. In addition, he was himself a writer, and his most important work is A Homage to Love, which is characterized by the Renaissance lines. During his reign the Resava School was formed.
Background and family
Stefan was the son of the prince of Moravian Serbia, Lazar, and his wife Milica, a lateral line of Nemanjić. Hrebeljanović's father Prince Vratko was a direct descendant of Vukan, the eldest son of Stefan Nemanja. In addition to Stefan, they had seven other children.
On 12 September 1405, Stefan married Helena Gattilusio, the daughter of Francesco II of Lesbos. According to Konstantin the Philosopher, Stefan first saw his wife on Lesbos, where Francesco II offered him a choice among his daughters; the marriage was arranged "with the advice and participation" of Jelena's sister, Empress Eirene. Surprisingly, there is no mention of Helena after her marriage to Stefan; this led Anthony Luttrell to remark that "apparently there were never any children; nothing is known of her death or burial; and, most unusual, she did not appear in any of the post-1402 fresco portraits of Stefan". Luttrell concludes "Maybe she was too young for the marriage to be consummated, and perhaps she stayed on Lesbos and never traveled to Serbia; possibly she died soon after her marriage."
|Stefan's brothers and sisters|
|Dobrovoj||(Died as a child)|
|Мara||(?—1426)||Vuk Branković, c. 1371|
|Jelena||(?—1443)||1.Đurađ II Stracimirović Balšić (1385 — 1403), c. 1386|
2.Sandalj Hranić (1392 — 1435), 1411
|Dragana||(?—?)||Ivan (1371 — 1395) or his son Alexander, c. 1386|
|Teodora (Jelena)||(?—before 1405)||Nikola II Gorjanski, c. 1387|
|Olivera||(c. 1378 — after 1443/1444)||Bayezid I (1389—1403), 1390|
Ruler of Serbia
Stefan was the son of Prince Lazar, whom he succeeded in 1389. Between 1389 and 1392 his mother Milica ruled as a consort until Stefan was of age. Nikola Zojić attempted to overthrow Stefan at the end of 14th century and used Ostrvica as a haven after his attempt failed, but he was quickly subdued.
Aftermath of Ankara
The Ottoman defeat at Ankara (July 1402) and disappearance of Sultan Bayezid I provided opportunity for the Serbian magnates to take advantage of the turmoil and pursue independent politics. They returned home from the battlefield via Byzantine territory; in August 1402 at Constantinople, as the new conditions made for closer Byzantine–Serbian cooperation, Stefan and his men were not only well-received, but Emperor John VII Palaiologos decided to award him the very high title of Despot.
From Constantinople, Stefan paved the way for an independent Serbia. While staying there, he came to quarrel with another Serbian magnate, his nephew Đurađ Branković. Although the reasons remain unknown, Ragusan chronicler Mavro Orbini (1601) claimed that there were suspicions that Đurađ wanted to join Süleyman Çelebi, Bayezid's oldest son, who held power in Rumelia. Stefan ordered Đurađ imprisoned, but his jail-time was short as he was freed with the help of a friend in September 1402.
Đurađ went immediately to Süleyman Çelebi whom he asked for troops to fight Stefan. The Lazarević–Branković conflict became an opportunity for the Ottomans, who readied for war, to secure rule in the Balkans. A Serbian contingent that returned home from Asia Minor was abruptly attacked and destroyed near Edirne on the order of an Ottoman commander.
Đurađ and the Ottomans sought to prevent the return of Stefan and his brother Vuk home, so Đurađ's forces were joined by Ottoman bands ordered by Süleyman to take hold of roads and prevent the Lazarević brothers' crossing, which was expected through Branković's lands in Kosovo.
The Lazarević brothers and a detachment of ca. 260 men embarked to the coast of Zeta from Byzantium on ships. Stefan heard of Đurađ's plans. The brothers prepared for fighting and met with their brother-in-law Đurađ II Balšić who supported them militarily, while at the same time an army in Serbia was collected (also by their mother Milica). The Stefan's army began its way into the hinterland at the end of October 1402, detouring on roads towards the Žiča monastery.
The two sides clashed on 21 November 1402 at Tripolje, near the Gračanica monastery. While Stefan engaged the Ottoman troops, Vuk's force engaged Đurađ's force. Upon seeing the brave spirit at the battlefield of Stefan, famed for his bravery at Nicopolis (1396) and at Ankara, it is said that the Ottoman soldiers hoped for escape. Uglješa Vlatković gave important information on Ottoman plans, contributing to the outcome of the battle. Stefan literally "chased Turks by the bunch". Meanwhile, Đurađ caused great damage to Vuk; it was Stefan who decided the battle, having quickly fixed position and completely defeated Đurađ. Constantine of Kostenets wrote how Stefan "bloodied the right hand of his" (slewing), and Orbini wrote that Stefan won the battle "more with strategy than the courage of his soldiers". After the battle, the Lazarević brothers withdrew to the fortified city of Novo Brdo.
Stefan managed to take power in the country with great help from the reputation and work of his mother Milica (who was also politically active). The Lazarević–Branković conflict continued. In December 1402, the Republic of Ragusa expressed great regret over the conflicts in Serbia.
In March 1403, Sultan Bayezid died in Tatar captivity, which ignited a throne war between his four sons. There are accounts that Stefan and Süleyman made a truce shortly after the battle. Through the Gallipoli treaty in early 1403, Süleyman promised to not interfere in Serbia, on the condition that the Lazarević accept obligations in effect prior to the battle of Ankara (tribute and troop support). Stefan, however, continued the war against the Ottomans and the Branković.
Meanwhile, there was a rift between the Lazarević brothers. After the battle at Tripolje, the brothers withdrew to the fortified city of Novo Brdo. Constantine of Kostenets wrote "this one [Stefan] with a victory, and this one [Vuk] as defeated". Stefan complained about the casualties under Vuk's command, and wanted Vuk to train in the art of war.
Vuk took it to heart when Stefan said "some hard words" during instructions. Feeling hurt, with a gap between them, Vuk "waited some time, and finding the right time" ran off to Süleyman in the summer of 1403. Kalić believed there was also a disagreement on the division of lands, while Blagojević believes that Stefan's continued opposition against the Ottomans in light of truce played a role. Vuk had thus decided to leave the country and enter the ranks of Süleyman Çelebi.
In order to retain independence from the Ottomans who closed in to the south, Stefan turned to the Kingdom of Hungary, which could be counted on militarily. After becoming a Hungarian vassal (1403), Stefan was offered peace by the Ottomans on his terms, and the Serbian Despotate was no longer a subject of the Ottoman Empire. Vuk returned home and the brothers ruled in accord. The Ottoman–Serbian peace, Hungarian–Serbian alliance, Hungarian ceding of large territories in the north, and finally joining of Uglješa Vlatković and his province led Stefan to expand his claims on all Serbian lands.
Stefan was receptive when Sigismund of Hungary approached him for an alliance. Sigismund was very generous in his terms. Stefan received Mačva, Belgrade (which became his capital in 1405), Golubac (an important fortress on the Danube) and other domains, such as lands in Vojvodina (Zemun, Slankamen, Kupinik, Mitrovica, Bečej, and Veliki Bečkerek) in 1404, Apatin in 1417, and Srebrenica in 1411. At Belgrade, he built a fortress with a citadel (which was destroyed during the Great Turkish War in 1690; only the Despot Stefan Tower remains today).
Under his rule, he issued a Code of Mines in 1412 in Novo Brdo, the economic center of Serbia. In his legacy, Resava-Manasija monastery (Pomoravlje District), he founded the Resava School, a center for correcting, translating, and transcribing books.
Stefan died suddenly in 1427, leaving the throne to his nephew Đurađ Branković. His deeds eventually elevated him into sainthood, and the Serbian Orthodox Church honors him on 1 August. Stefan is buried in the Koporin monastery, which he had built in 1402, as he did the bigger and more famous Manasija monastery in 1407. In fact, Manasija was intended as his own burial place, but due to the sudden nature of his death in perilous times it was his brother Vuk that is buried there.
Interested in the art of warfare, Stefan showed great prowess in battle at a young age. At first, he fought as the Ottoman vassal in the Battle of Rovine (1395); the Battle of Nicopolis (1396), where he led a decisive charge to end the battle; and the Battle of Ankara (1402), where he drew the admiration of Timur himself. His knights were described as wearing heavy black plate armour, which proved effective against Timurid arrows. In the aftermath of Ankara and the death of Bayezid, Stefan capitalised on a chance to break away from Ottoman vassalage, becoming a prominent ally of Sigismund of Hungary. His brother Vuk defected to the Ottoman court and tried to stop Stefan from returning to Serbia, but he was beaten by Stefan at Tripolje in 1402.
Stefan held the superior rank in the chivalric Order of the Dragon. He reformed the medieval Serbian army, relying on increased usage of light cavalry squadrons armed with lances, known as Gusars, to counter the mobile advantage of the Turkish light cavalry. He expanded Belgrade, building one of the best engineered fortifications in the Balkans.
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Apart from the biographical notes in charters and especially in the Code on The Mine Novo Brdo (1412), Stefan Lazarević wrote three original literary works:
- The Grave Sobbing for prince Lazar (1389)
- The Inscription on the Kosovo Marble Column (1404)
- A Homage to Love (1409), a poetic epistle to his brother Vuk.
Stefan was a great patron of art and culture providing support and shelter to scholars from Serbia and exiles from surrounding countries occupied by the Ottomans. He was educated at his parents’ home, he spoke and wrote Serbo-Slavic; he could speak Greek, and was familiar with Latin.
He was an author in his own right, and his main works include "Slovo ljubve" ("Letter of Love") that he dedicated to his brother Vuk, and "Natpis na mramornom stubu na Kosovo" ("Inscription on the Marble Pillar at Kosovo").
Some of the original works he wrote during his reign have been preserved. During his reign, rich transcribing activity – The Transcription School of Resava – was developed in his foundation, the Manasija Monastery. More Christian works and capital works of ancient civilization were transcribed there than in all times preceding the Despotʼs ruling.
During the short time the life of the founder and monastery coincided (1407-27), so much was achieved in Resava that it remained an important and outstanding monument in the history of Serbian and Slavic culture in general. It was there that Bulgarian-born Constantine the Philosopher, a reputable "Serbian teacher", translator and historian established the famous orthographic school of Resava to correct errors in the ecclesiastical literature incurred by numerous translations and incorrect transcriptions, and to thoroughly change the previous orthography.
Constantineʼs essay on how Slavic books should be written recommended a very complicated orthography that subsequently many authors adopted and used for a long time. Regardless of subsequent criticism of this endeavour, the very fact that in Serbia in the 15th century an essay was written on orthography and its rules is very important. Until the very end of the 17th century documents confirm the outstanding reputation of translations and transcripts originating from the Resava School.
- "Lord of all the Serbs and Podunavlje" (господар свих Срба и Подунавља), inherited through his father.
An inscription names him Despot, Lord "of all Serbs and Podunavlje and Posavje and part of Hungarian lands and Bosnian [lands], and also Maritime Zeta" (свим Србљем и Подунављу и Посавју и делом угарске земље и босанске, а још и Поморју зетском).
- "Despot of the Kingdom of Rascia and Lord of Serbia" (Stephanus dei gratia regni Rassia despotus et dominus Servie). After 1402.
- "Despot, Lord of Rascia" (Stephanus Despoth, Dominus Rasciae), in the founding charter of the Order of the Dragon (1408). He was the first on the list.
- "Despot, Lord of all Serbs and the Maritime" (господин всем Србљем и Поморију деспот Стефан).
- Serbian Despotate
- House of Lazarević
- Order of the Dragon
- List of Serbian monarchs
- History of Serbia
- Nicodemus of Tismana
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У jедноj хиландарс^' пове- л>и деспот Стефан истиче да jе постао господар свих Срба и Подунавља
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На основу досадашњег излагања са сигурношћу можемо рећи да деспот Угљеша , господин Константин , Вук Бранковић , Вукови синови и кесар Угљеша никада нису носили титулу " господар Срба и Подунавља " , јер је ова ...
- Jovan Janićijević (1996). Kulturna riznica Srbije. Izd. Zadruga Idea.
У натпису се каже да је деспот, господар "свим Србљем и Подунављу и Посавју и делом угарске земље и босанске, а још и Поморју зетском"
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Stephanus dei gra- tia regni Rassia despotus et dominus Servie
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The first name to appear is Stephanus Despoth, Dominus Rasciae
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"Милостију Божијеју господин всем Србљем и Подунавију деспот Стефан"; "Милостију Божијеју го- сподин всем Србљем и Поморију деспот Стефан"; "Ми- лостију Божијеју господин всој земљи ...
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Stefan LazarevićBorn: circa 1372/77 Died: 19 July 1427
Lazar of Serbia
| Serbian Prince
Title next held byĐurađ Branković
|New creation|| Serbian Despot|