- GRACANICA 2002
On June 28 Orthodox
Serbs celebrate the traditional Feast of Vidovdan (St. Vitus' Day) and
celebrate the memory of St. Prince Lazar and the Kosovo Battle.This
year the traditional Vidovdan Liturgy at Gracanica Monastery was officiated
by His Holiness Patriarch Pavle, Reverend Bishops Artemije and Atanasije
and the visiting clergy. The Serbian Patriarch arrived yesterday evening
to Gracanica under the escort of Italian KFOR. HRH Crown Prince Alexander
II and Princess Katherine arrived from Belgrade earlier this morning
and attended the Holy Liturgy together with members of the Crown Council
and the representatives of the Povratak (Return) Kosovo Serb Parliamentary
Coalition. After the Divine Liturgy the Patriarch and the clergy served
a traditional commemoration service at Gazimestan, the site where the
Serb Christian Prince was slain in a battle against the Ottoman Sultan
6 centuries ago (1389). The commemoration service at Gazimestan was
held under a heavy KFOR and police protection and no incidents were
Bishop Artemije and
Patriarch Pavle at Gracanica Monastery
In his speech to
the congregation Patriarch Pavle made an appeal on Serbs to stand for
the ideals of freedom, faith and justice. "That is what our forefathers
knew and did in the time of freedom as well as during the centuries
of slavery until the present day. The Holy Prince and our forefathers
knew the truth which came to them from Jerusalem - that the earthly
kingdom is transient whereas the heavenly kingdom lasts forever."
on the meaning of Vidovdan and the history of the Kosovo Battle
HRH Prince Alexander
and HRH Princess Katherine of Serbia
approaching the Gazimestan
LAZAR GREAT MARTYR OF KOSOVO
Lazar was born in 1329 in Prilepac to the aristocrat family Hrebeljanovic.
His father Pribac was a Logotet-secretary doing very confidential work
for King Dusan the Powerful in the royal palace. Young Lazar was raised
in the palace, and was respected by the King who entrusted him with
the rule of two parts of his kingdom: Srem and Macva. Lazar married
Milica the daughter of an important aristocrat named Vratko also known
as Yug Bogdan - a very wise and honorable man from the Nemanjic family.
Lazar had three sons: Stevan, Vuk and Lazar and five daughters: Jelena,
Mara, Despa, Vukosava and Mileva.
King Dusan the Powerful died unexpectantly in 1355 at the age of 48.
This led to a weakening of Serbia's central government. Many dukes used
this opportunity to secede from the Kingdom with the land that had been
entrusted to them. The young son of Dusan Uros took over the throne
and soon was killed. Vukasin Mrnjacevic proclaimed himself the King
of Serbia. At this time, Turks were advancing toward the Kingdom of
Serbia. In a battle on the river Marica in 1371, Vukasin was killed
leaving behind him a weakened, poor and torn Serbia. Serbia was in desperate
need of a gifted statesman, rich in virtue and deserving of God's Grace:
a man similar to St.Sava and his father St. Stefan Nemanja who had founded
the Serbian state. The Church recognized just such a man in Prince Lazar.
His talent for leadership, wisdom and experience lifted him above those
who would seize the throne by force and sought their own glory and importance.
Prince Lazar, first sought to consolidate and strengthen the Kingdom.
As was the custom of that day and age, he married his daughters to the
rebellious Serbian aristocrats. This enlarged and stabilized Serbia.
Having thus secured the loyalty of dissident aristocrats, Prince Lazar
turned to those countries which bordered his own, seeking to deepen
Serbia's relationship with them.
Kosovo battle (1389) painted by Adam Stefanovic ,
At this time, the Serbian Orthodox Church was in a dispute with the
Patriarch of Constantinople. King Dusan the Powerful wanted Serbia to
have an independent Church. He single-handedly sought to elevate the
Serbian archbishop to the level of a patriarch. The Patriarch of Constantinople
utterly rejected this act and broke relations with the Church in Serbia.
This was a very serious problem and one which King Lazar managed to
solve by reconciling the Serbian Church and that of Constantinople.
It was a result of this reconciliation that gave the Serbian Church
its first canonical Patriarch.
The expansion of that Ottoman state, and increasingly frequent Turkish
raids into his land, warned Prince Lazar that the time for a decisive
battle was drawing near. Lengthy preparation on both sides preceded
this confrontation. The fact that the armies were led by the Turkish
ruler Murad 1 and by King Lazar of Serbia illustrates the importance
of this battle. It was decided that the site of the battle would be
a field in Kosovo (Kosovo Polje).
- The Kosovo Battle, 1950
Prince Lazar knew that his chances against the Turkish aggressor were
small and on the eve of the Battle of Kosovo he gathered his upper aristocracy
and asked if they should fight for the Holy cross and Golden Freedom
or surrender to their adversaries and live as slaves of the Muslims.
They had to chose between the Heavenly Kingdom and earthly one. In the
true spirit of Christianity they preferred to place their hope in Christ
and Eternal Life. The Prince and all of this warriors took Holy communion
and went into battle on Saint Vitus Day, Tuesday June 15th 1389.
In the beginning of the battle Serbian warriors were able to advance.
Milos Obilic, the most famous hero of this Kosovo Battle, killed the
Turkish King Murad. Despite this unexpected development, the Turkish
army re-grouped and over ran the Serbs. They captured Prince Lazar alive,
but beheaded him shortly thereafter.
Today his earthly remains are amazingly preserved intact and kept in
the monastery Ravanica which was founded by him, along with many others
churches and monasteries. The faithful gather from all Serbia just as
they have through centuries to venerate his Holy relics and to get comfort
and healing and to inspire them in the hope and belief that better days
St. Prince Lazar on a 19c. Serbian painting
The Battle of Kosovo - Serbian Medieval Epic Poems
Medieval Epic Poetry (Battle of Kosovo)
translated into English by Helen Rootham (ed. 1920)
Kosovo Field, June 15, 1389