Hilandar Monastery is located on the Holy Mountain, on the Athos Peninsula in Greece. There are 20 Orthodox monasteries on the Holy Mountain, and it was founded in 963, when the monastery of the Great Lavra was built. The Abbess of Mount Athos is the Most Holy Mother of God herself, and all the monasteries on Mount Athos are AVATON, which means “not to step on”, so as we are talking about men’s monasteries, women’s feet are not allowed to step on them. Also, the arrival of all those who did not announce themselves is forbidden, and members of other religions need a special permit.
Imperial Lavra, ie. the most important bodies of the Holy Mountain are the monasteries of the Great Lavra, Iviron, Vatopedi, Hilandar and Dionysiat.
The Hilandar Monastery was built by a Greek monk. Georgije Helandarios. Stefan Nemanja and his son Saint Sava renovated the monastery in 1198, and shortly afterwards in 1200 Stefan Nemanja died in Hilandar as a monk Simeon.
Many Serbian rulers helped Hilandar. Stefan Uroš I, King Milutin, who in 1320 built a new church dedicated to the Presentation of the Most Holy Mother of God, and during the reign of Emperor Dušan, when during his reign the Holy Mountain was part of the Serbian state, Hilandar experienced the greatest development.
The monastery was also helped by Russian rulers, patriarchs of Peć, but also Bulgarian and Greek monks who managed to preserve Hilandar in difficult times for the Serbs. Later, Prince Miloš Obrenović took care of the monastery, and the monks and the abbot of the monastery often helped the Greek people in the fight for freedom from the Turkish occupier. The monastery was also helped by Prince Aleksandar Obrenović, who was of great help to the brotherhood of the monastery when the dispute with the Bulgarian clergy, which was about the administration of the monastery, was to be resolved. King Peter I Karadjordjevic also visited the monastery.
The monastery suffered a lot in 2004 when a large fire broke out.
It is interesting that the remains of the former Helandarion monastery are still visible today, on the foundations of which the Hilandar monastery was built.
The charter on the founding of Hilandar, written by Saint Sava in his own hand, was preserved until the Second World War. Unfortunately, in the Nazi bombing of Belgrade on April 6, 1941, the National Library and many records of Serbian history were destroyed, including the charter.
After the first charter and the founding of the monastic fraternity, Saint Sava received another charter which equated the importance of the Hilandar monastery with other monasteries of the Holy Mountain. Also, by that charter, the monastery was assigned a convent, the former Zig monastery, which was in ruins and is located in the inner part of the Halkidiki peninsula.
The architecture of the Hilandar monastery does not refer only to the monastery, but also to the walls that surround it. There are defensive ramparts around the whole complex, which are surmounted by piers. Within the monastery complex there are chapels, chapels, dining room, hospital and many other buildings.
All buildings are built in the Byzantine style. Floors and balconies are mostly built of wood. The main monastery church, which was built by King Milutin on the foundations of the old church dedicated to the Presentation of the Most Holy Mother of God in 1320, was also built in the Byzantine style, but also contains elements of other schools, Thessaloniki, Athos and Constantinople. The floor of this church is decorated with mosaics, and a narthex was added to this church in the time of Prince Lazar, around 1380.
In addition to the main church, the complex has 12 smaller buildings, churches and chapels.
The frescoes and icons represent the greatest treasure of the Hilandar monastery. The oldest fresco is from the 13th century, and it is located in the pier of St. George, in its interior on the outer wall.
The frescoes in the attic of the monastic dining room date from the 1920s. Later, it was painted again, and that was done in 1621 by Georgije Mitrofanović, a monk from Hilandar, who was considered one of the most prominent painters of that time.
There are numerous icons in the monastery treasury, as many as 500. Among them are those that are known around the world. Some of them are the icon of the Mother of God Trojerucica, which is located in the Cathedral of the Hilandar Monastery and is one of the most famous Orthodox icons, the icon of the Mother of God Hodegetria, which is believed to have been created in the 13th century. There are icons of Christ Pantocrator, the Presentation of the Most Holy Mother of God, the Holy Archangel Gabriel, the Holy Evangelist Matthew, the Holy Evangelist Luke, Saint Demetrius.
Serbian Empress Jelena, the wife of Emperor Dušan, violated the rule that a woman’s foot must not step on Mount Athos. Tsar Dušan, with Jelena and his son Uroš, stayed on the Holy Mountain from August 1347 to April 1348, thus escaping the plague that ravaged Europe. As women were not allowed to step on the ground, they brought her on a stretcher. Although Tsar Dusan helped many monasteries on Mount Athos, and Empress Jelena renovated the cell of Saint Sava, which is located in Kareja, there is a presumption that violating the rules banning women from entering Mount Athos is the main reason why Tsar Dusan was not canonized a saint.
- Hilandar Monastery, Monasteries in Serbia, manastiriusrbiji.com
- On this day, the Hilandar Monastery was founded, https://mediasfera.rs/2020/06/01/na-danasnji-dan-osnovan-je-manastir-hilandar/
- Hilandar Monastery, Charity, https://dobrocinstvo.rs/tours/manastir-hilandar/
- Greece info, Hilandar Monastery: Serbian shrines on the Holy Mountain, https://www.grckainfo.com/blog/Hilandar- Monastery-Srpska-svetinja-na-Svetoj-Gori