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Serbian Monastery Hilandar

Photo credit: S. Matejić / Foter / Public Domain Mark 1.0
Serbian Monastery Hilandar
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A Serbian monastery in Greece, with great importance to the history of Serbia


It is hard to imagine the Serbian country and nation without the Hilandar monastery. This monastery is located on the Greek peninsula of Halkidiki on Mount Athos and it is 2,5 kilometers away from the coast. Saint Sava and his father had renewed the old orthodox monastery at the end of 12th century, and, since then, Hilandar has been the center of Serbian religious life and probably its first university. The word Hilandar is derived from Byzantine word for transport ship – ‘chalendion’, while the skipper on that kind of boat was called – helandaris.


History of Hilandar

The Hilandar history takes 980. as the year of its foundation and a certain George Chelandarios as its founder. After a while, the monastery was abandoned until Emperor Alexios III Angelos donated it to the Serbian ruler, Stefan Nemanja. Stefan Nemanja, together with his son Saint Sava, started the renewal of Hilandar during 1198. Monastery didn’t change much even when Ottomans captured Constantinople, with Hilandar continuing to be the Orthodox monastery, with Serbs, Bulgarians and Russians. A very interesting thing is that Ottoman rulers did not try to shut down Hilandar and other Orthodox monasteries on Mount Athos, which goes to show that Turks were aware of its importance to Balkan nations. You should know that in medieval times, the centers of culture and education were the monasteries, which means that in that period they had more functions which were of great importance for a nation. The next couple centuries on Mount Athos were peaceful, which led to prosperity for Hilandar and other monasteries nearby. One more thing must be mentioned and that is a big fire at the Hilandar monastery, on March 4th, 2004. About 50% of walled complex was destroyed, but the library and many historical icons were saved. Restoration of Hilandar is in progress, but in my opinion damage is really big and loss is irrecoverable.


Monastery Importance for Orthodox Christianity

In Hilandar we can find a lot sacred objects such as the Wonderworking icon, Theotokos “Of the Three Hands” and the sword of Emperor Stefan Dusan. But one of the biggest treasure this monastery has is the library, which contains about 20 000 printed books, 181 Greek and 809 Slavic manuscripts. The legacy of a whole nation is in that library. In my opinion, there are probably some things in those books that we presently consider to be a mystery or unclear historical facts. Value of that library is really immense and cannot be measured. It should also be mentioned that Hilandar houses 45 monks. So I recommend finding the time and visiting this monastery, as you will certainly feel the holiness of that place and you will feel closer to God and our history, at the same time.


Monastery Hilandar was and still is the keeper of Serbian Orthodox tradition, and, in a certain period of history, it had a key role for the preservation eastern Christianity. Serbs should never forget how important this monastery was throughout the history. Also, who knows what information is hiding in those manuscripts.

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