privileged status for its monks. Many individuals were attracted there from outside the empire, some founding religious communities. Almost from the first there were houses of Iberians (Georgians) and Amalfitans, and from the mid-eleventh century special ties linked Athos with the Kievan cave-monastery, whose founder, Anthony, was tonsured there before being directed back to Rus. His monastery on the Dnieper was thought to have 'originated with the blessing of the Holy Mountain'.24 Xylourgou, the Rus house on Athos, was the beneficiary of an imperial chrysobull issued in 1169. It granted the abbot's request that the governing body of Athos set aside an additional house, St Pan-teleimon, to accommodate the numerous and well-funded Rus monks, who were expected to restore and fortify it, to serve God and 'pray for our most excellent holy emperor'.25 By the later twelfth century the hundreds of religious houses and hermits' retreats on Athos exerted at least as great a drawing-power over outsiders as they did over the emperor's subjects. When the seventeen-year-old son of Stefan Nemanja, the Serb ruler, heard the call, he headed for Athos. There he was tonsured and received the monastic name of Sava. A few years later in 1196 his father abdicated and joined him on the Holy Mountain, taking the monastic name of Symeon. The followingJune the Emperor Alexios III Angelos assigned to Symeon and Sava the monastery of Chilandar, which was to receive 'those of the Serb people choosing the monastic way of life' and was to be 'self-governing and autonomous' like the houses 'of the Iberians and the Amalfitans . . . situated on this mountain'.26 Chilandar expressly looked to the Byzantine emperor for protection from predatory tax-officials. By ensuring that the emperor rather than the protos of Athos confirmed newly elected abbots of the monastery, it also saw the emperor as a counterweight to the protos, who exercised a wide-ranging jurisdiction over the monasteries of Athos.27 A kind of'triangulation' emerged: non-Greek-speaking communities could secure their place on 'the Holy Mountain' through imperial title-deeds, even while serving as channels for their own people's access to God, each staking its special claim to divine protection.
The gravitation towards Athos of Sava, followed by his father, occurred while Serb political relations with the empire were fraying. Gifts and titles lost something of their allure in a time of imperial indigence and military impotence. The uprising in Bulgaria led by the Asen brothers against Byzantine
25 Actes de Saint-Pantéléèm&n, ed. P. Lemerle etal. [AA12] (Paris: P. LethieUeux, 1982), 83 (text); D. Nastase, 'Les débuts de la communauté oecuménique du mont Athos', ZûmJsiKTa 6 (1985), 290-2, 294.
26 Actes de Chilandar, ed. M. Zivojinovic étal. [AA 20] (Paris: CNRS, 1998), 1,108-9 (text).
Was this article helpful?