"Chilandar" redirects here. For the village in Iran, see Chilandar, Iran.

External view of the monastery.
Location within Mount Athos
Monastery information
Full name Holy Monastery of Hilandar
Order Serbian Orthodox Church (Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople)
Established 1198
Dedicated to Three-handed Theotokos (Virgin Mary)
Founder(s) Saint Sava and Saint Symeon
Location Mount Athos, Greece
Coordinates 40°20′46″N 24°07′08″E / 40.346111°N 24.118889°E / 40.346111; 24.118889
Public access Men only

The Hilandar Monastery (Serbian Cyrillic: Манастир Хиландар, pronounced [xilǎndaːr], Greek: Μονή Χιλανδαρίου) is the Serbian Orthodox monastery on Mount Athos in Greece. It was founded in 1198 by the first Archbishop of the Serbian Orthodox Church Saint Sava and his father, Serbian Grand Prince and founder of the Nemanjić dynasty Stefan Nemanja, who, upon relinquishing his crown, took monastic vows to become simple monk Symeon in Hilandar. This monastery represents the focal point of Serbian religious and secular culture,[1] as well as "the first Serbian university".[2] It is ranked fourth in the Athonite hierarchy of 20 sovereign monasteries.[3] The Mother of God through her Icon of the Three Hands (Trojeručica), is considered the monastery's abbess.[4]


Etymological meaning of the name "Hilandar" is probably derived from the Greek word chelandion, which is a type of Byzantine transport ship, whose skipper was called "helandaris".[5]


The monastery was founded in 1198, when, prompted by the Mount Athos monastic community, Byzantine Emperor Alexios III Angelos (1195–1203) issued a golden sealed chrysobulls donating the ancient monastery Helandaris, "to the Serbs as an eternal gift...," thereby designating it, "to serve the purpose of accepting people of Serbian ethnicity, who seek to pursue the monastic way of life, as monasteries belonging to Iberia and Amalfi endure on the Mount, exempted from any authority, including the authority of Protos."[6] Hilandar was thereby handed over to Saint Sava and Saint Symeon with the purpose of establishing and endowing a new monastery, which was elevated to the imperial rank.[5] Since then, the monastery became a cornerstone of religious, educational and cultural life of Serbian people.[7]

The ancient pre-Serbian monastery Helandaris was first mentioned in one Greek manuscript from 1015 as being "completely abandoned and empty" which is why it had to be placed under temporary authority of the Kastamonitou monastery. Certain George Chelandarios (the Boatman), prominent among the Athonites in 980, was probably the original founder of this ancient monastery prior to the arrival of the Serbs. The monastery's church was already dedicated to the Entrance of the Lady Theotokos into the Temple (November 21). Soon thereafter the monastery became a prey of continuous pirate attacks.

Upon securing the Serbian authority within the monastery, Saint Sava and Saint Symeon jointly constructed the monastery's Church of the Entrance of the Lady Theotokos into the Temple between 1198-1200, while also adding Saint Sava's Tower, the Kambanski Tower and Saint Symeon's monastic chambers - cells. Saint Symeon's middle son and Saint Sava's older brother, Serbian Grand Prince Stefan "the First-Crowned" provided financial resources for this restoration. As Hilandar's founder, Saint Symeon issued a special founding charter or chrysobulls, which survived until World War II, when it was destroyed as a result of the Operation Retribution and the notorious April 6, 1941 German bombing of Belgrade that leveled to the ground the National Library of Serbia in Kosancicev Venac. Following 1199, hundreds of monks from Serbia moved to the monastery, while large pieces of land, metochions and tax proceeds from numerous villages were provided to the monastery, especially from the Metohija region of Serbia.[8]

Saint Symeon passed away in the monastery on February 13, 1200 where he was buried next to the main church of the Entrance of the Lady Theotokos. His body remained in Hilandar until 1208 when his myrrh-flowing remains were transferred to Serbia and interred into the mother-church of all Serbian churches the Studenica Monastery according to his original desire, which he previously completed in 1196.[9] Following the relocation of Saint Symeon's remains, what would eventually become the world-famous grapevines began growing on the spot of his old tomb giving to this day miraculous grapes and seeds that are being shipped all over as a form of blessing to childless married couples.[10] Following his father's death, Saint Sava moved to his Karyes hermitage cell, where he finished writing of the Karyes Typikon, a book of directives, which shaped the eremitical monasticism all across the Serbian lands.[11] He also wrote the Hilandar Typikon regulating spiritual life in monasteries, organization of services and duties of monastic communities. The Hilandar Typikon was modeled in part after the typikon of the Monastery of Theotokos Evergetis in Constantinople.[12]

The Nemanjić period and late Byzantine Empire

After the Fourth Crusade and Crusaders' sack of Constantinople in 1204, the whole Athos came under the Latin Occupation which exposed the Athonite monasteries to an unprecedented pillage. As a result, Saint Sava travelled to Serbia to secure more resources and support for the monastery. He also undertook a voyage to the Holy Land where he visited The Holy Lavra of Saint Sabbas the Sanctified in Palestine. There he received Hilandar's most revered relic, the miraculous icon of Three-handed Theotokos (Trojeručica) painted by St. John of Damascus. According to St. John of Damascus' last will, he ordered the Mar Saba monastery brethren to add this miraculous icon to the old prophesy made by the monastery's founder Saint Sabbas the Sanctified. Saint Sabbas the Sanctified adjured his monks centuries earlier to donate the icon of the Milk-feeding Theotokos and his hegumen cane to the "namesake monk of royal blood from a faraway land" who would experience, during his pilgrimage to the monastery, the fall of his hegumen cane to the floor, previously affixed above his grave, while venerating icons and praying on that spot.[13]

Serbian kings Stefan Radoslav and Stefan Vladislav, who were Saint Sava's nephews, significantly endowed the monastery with new land possessions and proceeds. In order to effectively deal with consequences of the Crusader Latin plunder, King Uroš the Great constructed a large fortification surrounding the monastery with protective tower named after the Transfiguration of Christ. King Dragutin also expanded proceeds to the monastery and land or metochion income. He participated in improving and reinforcing the defensive fortifications. Following the end of the Latin Occupation of this part of Byzantium, the new wave of raids hit the monastic republic. In the early years of the 14th century, pirate mercenaries of the Catalan Grand Company repeatedly raided the Holy Mountain, while looting and sacking numerous monasteries, stealing treasures and Christian relics, and terrorizing monks. Of 300 monasteries on Athos, Hilandar was among only 35 that survived the violence of the first decade of the 14th century. The monastery owes this fortune to its very experienced and capable deputy hegumen at the time Danilo, who later became Serbian Archbishop Danilo II.[14]

Consequently, Serbian King Milutin is considered the greatest and most important builder of the Hilandar monastery complex. In 1320 he completely reconstructed the main church of the Entrance of the Lady Theotokos which finally took its present shape as it became the symbol of Hilandar. The monastery complex was expended further north to encompass new monastic cells and fortifications. King Milutin also added the new main entrance gate which contains a chapel dedicated to Saint Nicholas, in addition to the new monastery dining chamber. During his reign several towers were completed, the Milutin Tower, located between monastery's docks and eastern wall, and the Hrussiya Tower situated on the shore. An unmatched iconographic work took place in Hilandar during Milutin's era starting from the main church, through the dining chamber, to the cemetery church. At that time the number of Serbian monks exponentially increased and monasticism developed even more as Byzantine Emperor Andronikos II Palaiologos further donated large pieces of land to the monastery's estate in Greece.

At the time of Serbian King and Emperor Dusan, the whole Mount Athos came under his sovereign power. This is the period of Hilandar's greatest prosperity. The Emperor significantly supported the monastery and bequeathed a number of land possessions in Serbia and Greece to it. Ever since his reign and until today, Hilandar owns one fifth of the whole landmass on Athos. In addition to the Emperor, Dusan's aristocracy also supported the monastery like Sebastokrator Vlatko, Grand Duke Nikola Stanjevic, Despot Dejan (magnate), etc. In 1347 Emperor Dusan sought refuge in Hilandar while escaping the plague epidemics that devastated the Balkans. He also took his wife Empress Helena of Bulgaria with him, thus creating a precedent and violating the strict tradition that bars women from stepping into Mount Athos. In memory of Emperor Dusan's visit, the Hilandar monks erected a big cross and planted the "imperial olive tree" on the spot where they welcomed him. Serbian Emperor also built the Church of St. Archangels and expanded the monastery's hospital around 1350, while Empress Jelena endowed the Karyes monastic cell dedicated to St. Sava which belonged to Hilandar. Both Hilandar and Mount Athos already enjoyed tremendous reverence in Serbia as the monastery's deputy hegumen Sava became Serbian Patriarch Sava IV. Following Emperor Dusan's death in 1355, the monastery prospered even further. In addition to Dusan's son Serbian Emperor Uros V, powerful noblemen also supported Hilandar, such as Prince Lazar Hrebeljanovic who built narthex along the west side of the main Entrance of the Lady Theotokosi into the Temple Church in 1380. By the end of XIV century, Hilandar served as a refuge to numerous members of Serbian nobility.

Ottoman and modern period

Hilandar Monastery during King Aleksandar Obrenović's visit in 1896.

The Byzantine Empire was conquered in the 15th century by the newly established Ottoman Empire. The Athonite monks tried to maintain good relations with the Ottoman sultans and therefore when Murad II conquered Thessaloniki in 1430 they immediately pledged allegiance to him. In return, Murad II recognized the monasteries' properties, something which Mehmed II formally ratified after the fall of Constantinople in 1453. In this way the Athonite independence was somewhat guaranteed. Two medieval Bulgarian royal charters, the Virgino Charter and the Oryahov Charter, have been found in Hilandar's library, attesting to the allegiance.

In 1426 Gjon Kastrioti, an Albanian lord, and his three sons (one of whom was Skanderbeg) donated the right to the proceeds from taxes collected from the two villages of Rostuša and Trebište (in Macedonia) and from the church of Saint Mary, which was in one of them, to the Hilandar where his son Reposh retired and died on 25 July 1431: in his honor the Tower of St. George of Hilandar was known as the "Albanian tower" (Serbian: Arbanaški pirg).[15][16] By the end of the 15h century according to the Russian pilgrim Isaiah, the monasteries in the area were both Albanian and Serb.[17]

The 15th and 16th centuries were particularly peaceful for the Athonite community. This led to relative prosperity for the monasteries. An example of this is the foundation of Stavronikita monastery which completed the current number of Athonite monasteries. According to author Georgi Gulabov-Roshavski of the history of Zograf Monastery, following the conquest of the Serbian Despotate by the Ottomans many Serbian monks came to Athos. The extensive presence of Serbian monks is depicted in the numerous elections of Serbian monks to the office of the protos during the era. In the 17th century the number of Serbian monks dwindled, and the disastrous fire in 1722 saw a decline: in his account of 1745, Russian pilgrim Vasily Barsky wrote that Hilandar was headed by Bulgarian monks.[18] Ilarion Makariopolski, Sophronius of Vratsa and Matey Preobrazhenski had all lived there, and it was in this monastery that Saint Paisius of Hilendar began his revolutionary Slavonic-Bulgarian History. The monastery was dominated by Bulgarians until 1902.[19]

A view of the Hilandar Monastery in 2006, after the Great Fire, and during first stages of the reconstruction process.

However, in 1913, Serbian presence on Athos was quite big and the Athonite protos was the Serbian representative of Hilandar.[20]


In the 1970s, the Greek government offered power grid installation to all of the monasteries on Mount Athos. The Holy Council of Mount Athos refused, and since then every monastery generates its own power, which is gained mostly from renewable energy sources. During the 1980s, electrification of the monastery of Hilandar took place, generating power mostly for lights and heating.

On March 4, 2004, there was a devastating fire at the Hilandar monastery, with approximately 50% of the walled complex destroyed in the blaze. The blaze damaged the northern half of the walled complex, including the bakery. The library and the monastery's many historic icons were saved or otherwise untouched by the fire. Vast reconstruction efforts are underway, to restore Hilandar.

Sacred objects

Icon of the Theotokos, "The Three-handed" (Trojeručica)

Among the numerous relics and other holy objects treasured at the monastery is the Wonderworking Icon of the Theotokos "Of the Akathist", the feast day of which is celebrated on January 12. Since Mount Athos uses the traditional Julian Calendar, the day they name as January 12 currently falls on January 25 of the modern Gregorian Calendar.

A sculpture on a rock presenting Saint Symeon, the founder of Hilandar Monastery

The monastery also possesses the Wonderworking Icon of the Theotokos "Of the Three Hands" (Greek: Tricherusa, Serbian: Тројеручицa), traditionally associated with a miraculous healing of St. John Damascene. Around the year 717, St. John became a monk at Mar Sabbas monastery outside of Jerusalem and gave the icon to the monastic community there. Later the icon was offered to St. Sava of Serbia, who gave it to the Hilandar. A copy of the icon was sent to Russia in 1661, from which time it has been highly venerated in the Russian Orthodox Church. This icon has two feast days: June 28 (July 11) and July 12 (July 25). Also Emperor Stefan Dušan's sword is in monastery treasure.

The library holds 181 Greek and 809 Slavic manuscripts, about 20 000 printed books (3 000 in Greek language).

The monastery contains about 45 working monks.

See also


  1. Ken Parry (10 May 2010). The Blackwell Companion to Eastern Christianity. John Wiley & Sons. pp. 233–. ISBN 978-1-4443-3361-9.
  2. Om Datt Upadhya (1 January 1994). The Art of Ajanta and Sopoćani: A Comparative Study : an Enquiry in Prāṇa Aesthetics. Motilal Banarsidass Publ. pp. 65–. ISBN 978-81-208-0990-1.
  3. "The administration of Mount Athos". Retrieved 2016-04-06.
  4. Hilandar – The Blackwell Dictionary of Eastern Christianity
  5. 1 2 Tibor Zivkovic - Charters of the Serbian rulers related to Kosovo and Metochia. p. 15
  6. "За спас душе своје и прибежиште свом отачеству". Retrieved 2016-04-05.
  7. John Anthony McGuckin (15 December 2010). The Encyclopedia of Eastern Orthodox Christianity, 2 Volume Set. John Wiley & Sons. pp. 560–. ISBN 978-1-4443-9254-8.
  8. "Хиландарски поседи и метоси у југозападној Србији (Кособу и метохији)". hilandar.info. Retrieved 2015-07-21.
  9. Vlasto, The Entry of the Slavs Into Christendom: An Introduction to the Medieval History of the Slavs, p. 219
  10. "The Monastery of Hilandar". Retrieved 2016-04-04.
  11. Bogdanović 1999, Предговор, para. 13, Карејски типик
  12. Bogdanović 1999, Предговор, para. 14
  13. "Miraculous Icon - The Virgin with three hands (Bogorodica Trojeručica)". hilandar.info. Retrieved 4. 21. 2016.. Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  14. Vásáry, István. Cumans and Tatars: Oriental Military in the Pre-Ottoman Balkans, 1185–1365. Cambridge University Press=Cambridge, UK. pp. 109–110. ISBN 1139444085.
  15. Slijepčević, Đoko M. (1983). Srpsko-arbanaški odnosi kroz vekove sa posebnim osvrtom na novije vreme (in Serbian). Himelstir. p. 45. Retrieved 7 July 2011. Заједно са синовима Константином, Репошем и Ђурђем приложио је Иван Кастриот манастиру Хиландару село Радосуше са црквом св. Богородице и село Требиште....Због тога је и пирг св. Ђорђа прозван »арбанашки пирг». Репош је умро у манастиру Хиландару 25. јула 1431. године и ту је сахрањен. (Together with his sons Konstantin, Repoš and Đurađ, Ivan Kastriot donated village Radosuše with church of saint Mary and village Trebište to the monastery Hilandar... Therefore the tower of Saint George was named "Albanian tower". Repoš died in Hilandar on July 25, 1431 and he was buried there.
  16. Petković, Sreten (2008) [1989], Hilandar (in Serbian), Belgrade, p. 21, ISBN 978-86-80879-78-9, ... a Ivan Kastriot sa sinovima iz Albanije otkupljuje jedan pirg od Hilandara da bi po potrebi tu mogao naći utočište. (... and Ivan Kastriot with his sons from Albania bought one tower of Hilandar to provide a shelter for them in case of need).
  17. A. E. Bakalopulos (1973). History of Macedonia, 1354-1833. [By] A.E. Vacalopoulos. p. 166. At the end of the 15th century, the Russian pilgrim Isaiah relates that the monks support themselves with various kinds of work including the cultivation of their vineyards....He also tells us that nearly half the monasteries are Slav or Albanian. As Serbian he instances Docheiariou, Grigoriou, Ayiou Pavlou, a monastery near Ayiou Pavlou and dedicated to St. John the Theologian (he no doubt means the monastery of Ayiou Dionysiou), and Chilandariou. Panteleïmon is Russian, Simonopetra is Bulgarian, and Karakallou and Philotheou are Albanian.
  18. "Chilandari". Mount Athos. Retrieved 2008-10-09. In the 17th century the number of monks coming from Serbia dwindled, and the 18th was a period of decline, following a disastrous fire in 1722. At that time the Monastery was effectively manned by Bulgarian monks.
  19. "Хилендарски манастир" (in Bulgarian). Православието. Retrieved 2008-10-09.
  20. Panagiotis Christou, "To Agion Oros", Patriarchal Institute of Patristic Studies, Epopteia ed., Athens, 1987 pp. 313-314


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