|King of all the Serbian and Maritime Lands|
The fresco of king Stefan Dečanski with church model, Dečani monastery
|King of Serbia|
|Coronation||6 January 1322|
|Issue||Stefan Uroš IV Dušan
|Father||Stefan Uroš II Milutin|
|Died||11 November 1331
Castle of Zvečan
|Burial||Visoki Dečani monastery (now Kosovo)|
Stefan Uroš III (Serbian Cyrillic: Стефан Урош III, Serbian pronunciation: [stɛ̂faːn ûrɔʃ trɛ̂tɕiː]), known as Stefan Dečanski ("Stefan of Dečani"; Стефан Дечански, Serbian pronunciation: [stɛ̂faːn dɛ̂tʃaːnskiː]; c. 1285 – 11 November 1331) was the King of Serbia from 6 January 1322 to 8 September 1331. He was the son of King Stefan Milutin. Dečanski defeated several of his family members who wanted to take the throne. He took his epithet Dečanski from the great monastery he built at Dečani.
While still a youth, he was sent by his father as a hostage with his entourage to Nogai Khan of the Golden Horde, to maintain the peace between the Serbs and Tatars. He stayed at Nogai's court until the Khan's death in 1299.
Exile and return
In 1314, Stefan Dečanski quarreled with his father, who ended up sending Dečanski to Constantinople, to have him blinded. Dečanski was never totally blinded and perhaps was not blinded at all. He was at the court of Andronikos II Palaiologos.
After 1317, Stefan Dečanski wrote a letter to Danilo, the Bishop of Hum, asking Danilo to intervene with Dečanski's father. Danilo then wrote to Archbishop Nicodemus of Serbia, who spoke with Milutin and persuaded him to recall his son.
In 1320 Dečanski was permitted to return to Serbia, and was given the appanage of Budimlje. His half-brother and crown heir, Stefan Konstantin had the title King of Zeta. Their father became ill and died on 29 October 1321, and Konstantin was crowned King. Konstantin refused to submit to Stefan Dečanski, who then invaded Zeta. In the ensuing battle, Constantine was killed.
After the victory, on 6 January 1322, the Archbishop of Serbia Nicodemus, crowned Dečanski King and his son, Stefan Dušan, Young King. By appointing Dušan to be co-regent of Zeta, Dečanski indicated that Dušan was Dečanski's intended heir.
In the meantime, Dečanski's cousin, Stefan Vladislav II, was released from prison upon Milutin's death and recovered the throne of Syrmia, which Vladislav's father had carved from northern Serbia before handing the Serbian throne to his brother, Milutin. Vladislav also claimed the throne of Serbia upon Milutin's death and mobilized local support from Rudnik, a former appanage of Vladislav's father. Also supported by the Hungarians, Bulgarians and Bosnians, Vladislav consolidated control over Syrmia and prepared for battle with Dečanski.
In 1323, war broke out between the cousins. In autumn, Vladislav still held Rudnik, but by the end of 1323, the market of Rudnik was held by Dečanski's officials and Vladislav seems to have fled further north. Some of Vladislav's supporters from Rudnik, led by Ragusan merchant Menčet, took refuge in the nearby Ostrovica fortress, where they resisted Dečanski's troops. Dečanski sent envoys to Dubrovnik (capital of Ragusa), protesting the Ragusans' support of Vladislav. Dubrovnik rejected Dečanski's complaint, claiming Ostrovica was held by Serbs. Dečanski was not satisfied, and in 1324 he rounded up all the Ragusan merchants he could find, confiscated their property and held them captive. By year's end, Rudnik was restored to Dečanski, who released the merchants and returned their property. Vladislav was defeated in battle in late 1324, and fled to Hungary. Tensions between Dubrovnik and Serbia continued; in August 1325 Vojvoda Vojin plundered Dubrovnik, resulting in a brief trade ban. On March 25, 1326, Dečanski reaffirmed privileges previously granted to Ragusa by Milutin. Tensions began again, when Bosnia and Dubrovnik took actions against the Branivojevići.
The claimants enjoyed foreign support, and the victorious king was faced with the alliance of Tsar Michael Asen III of Bulgaria and Byzantine Emperor Andronikos III Palaiologos. Michael Asen III divorced Dečanski's sister Anna and married the Byzantine princess Theodora Palaiologina instead. The allies intended to join forces for a major invasion of Serbia in 1330. In the most significant event of Dečanski's reign, the Battle of Velbazhd (1330), he defeated and killed Michael Asen III. In the Battle of Velbazhd, the heir to the throne, Prince of Serbia Stephan Dushan, contributed decisively.
Hearing of Michael's defeat, Andronikos III retreated. Dečanski's subsequent conquests pushed the Serbian border south into Byzantine Macedonia. Some of his courtiers, however, were discontented with his policies and conspired to dethrone him in favour of his son Dušan. In 1331 Dušan came from Skadar to Nerodimlje to overthrow Dečanski who fled to Petrič. On 21 August 1331 Dušan captured Petrič after the siege and imprisoned his father in Zvečan Fortress, where he was strangled on 11 November 1331.
|Ancestors of Stefan Dečanski|
By his first wife, Theodora of Bulgaria, Stefan Uroš III had two children:
- Stefan Uroš IV Dušan, who overthrew him and took royal title
- Dušica (or Dušman)
- Simeon, later tried to usurp imperial title from his nephew, and ruled as independent ruler in Thessaly
- Jelena, who married Mladen III Šubić
- Teodora, who married Dejan
Stefan is seen as a noble character in epic poetry, and the Serbian Orthodox Church had him canonized, his feast day is 24 November. His remains are venerated at the church of the Visoki Dečani monastery, in Kosovo, built by him.
- Primary sources
- Secondary sources
- Fine, John Van Antwerp, Jr. (1994), The Late Medieval Balkans: A Critical Survey from the Late Twelfth Century to the Ottoman Conquest, University of Michigan Press, ISBN 978-0-472-08260-5
- Sedlar, Jean W. (1994). East Central Europe in the Middle Ages, 1000–1500 III. Seattle: University of Washington Press. ISBN 0-295-97290-4.
- Veselinović, Andrija; Ljušić, Radoš (2008). Srpske dinastije. Službene glasnik. ISBN 978-86-7549-921-3.
Stefan DečanskiBorn: 1285 Died: 11 November 1331
Helen of Anjou
|Prince of Zeta
|King of Serbia
Stefan Uroš IV Dušan
- Slobodan Mileusnić (1994). Medieval monasteries of Serbia. Prometej.