St Sava of Serbia

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St Sava was the first archbishop of the autocephalous Serbian church. Born in Tirnovo, Bulgaria, in 1173, the third son of prince Stephen Nemanya (who achieved independence for the Serbs from Byzantium), he became a monk on Mount Athos in 1191. His father abdicated in favour of another son, also called Stephen, and join Sava on Mt Athos. Together they founded a monastery there called Khilandari, which became a centre for Serbian religious and cultural life. It still exists to this day as one of the 17 'ruling monasteries' on Athos.

In 1206 Sava returned to Serbia with his father's relics. He evangelised the country, which was still half pagan, and built many churches and monasteries. In 1230 Sava went on pilgrimage to Jerusalem and founded the monastery of St John there.

Always a monk at heart, St Sava had left Mount Athos in order to serve his people, but from time to time he would retire to an inaccessible hermitage near Studenitsa.

St Sava was very important in the development of Serbian literature. He wrote a Life and Office of his father, two rules for his monastery and a number of translations of classic religious works into the Serb language.

St Sava died at Tirnovo in 1236. His shrine was destroyed by Turkish invaders in 1594 but his cult continued to spread and he remains one of the most important saints in the country.

He is remembered on this day by both Orthodox and Latin and Greek Catholics in Serbia and Croatia.

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