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Stefan Lazarević
Fresco of Stefan Lazarević from Manasija monastery
Despot of Serbia
Preceded by Lazar of Serbia
Succeeded by Đurađ Branković
Personal details
Born 1374
Kruševac, Moravian Serbia
Died 1427 (aged 52–53)
Glava, Serbian Despotate

Stefan Lazarevic (Serbian language: Стефан Лазаревић) known also as Stevan the Tall (Стеван Високи; c. 1374 / 19 July 1427) was the son of Prince Lazar Hrebeljanović (кнез Лазар Хребељановић) and a ruler of Serbia. He held a title of prince (1389-1402) and despot (1402-1427). In his time he was regarded as one of the best knights and military leaders, and because of his literature works he is regarded as one of the best Serbian writers in the Middle ages. After the death of his father on the Kosovo Field in 1389, he became ruler of Moravian Serbia and ruled with his mother Milica Hrebeljanović (Милица Хребељановић), until he reached adulthood in 1393.

As an Ottoman vassal, Lazarevic was leader of Serbian auxiliary squads in battle of Rovine, Nicopolis and Angora. After the battle of Angora, Lazarevic received, from Byzantines in Constantinople, the title of despot in 1402. In the year 1403-1404 he became vassal of Hungarian king Sigismund and received Mačva, Belgrade (which became Lazarevic's capital in 1405), Golubac and other domains, such as Srebrnica in 1411.

After the Ottoman defeat on Angora, civil war erupted in the empire and also clashes among Serbian nobility. First, between Lazarević and Branković, secondly between Stefan and his younger brother Vuk. Clashes in Serbia has ended in 1412, with the conciliation of Stefan and his nephew Đurađ. After the death of Balša III Balšić, he inherited kingdom of Zeta and waged the war against Venetians. Since he didn’t have any children, on the assembly in Srebrnica (1426), Stefan proclaimed his nephew Đurađ Branković as his heir.

On the domestic front, he broke the resistance of the Serbian nobles, and used the periods of peace to strengthen Serbia politically, economically, culturally and military. On the 29th January 1412 he issued the "Code of mines" (Законик о рудницима), with a separate section on governing of Novo Brdo – the largest mine in the Balkans at that time. This code increased the development of mining in Serbia, which has been the main economic backbone of Serbian Despotate. At the time of his death, Serbia was one of the largest silver producers in Europe. In the field of architecture, he continued development of Morava school.

He was a great patron of the arts and culture by providing shelter and support to scholars from Serbia, and refugees from neighboring countries that have been taken by the Ottomans. In addition, he was himself a writer, and his most important work is "The Word of Love," which is characterized by the Renaissance lines. Beside despot’s literature work, in this period there were other authors such as Constantine the Philosopher and Gregory Tsamblak. During his reign Resava copying school has been formed.

Background and family

Stefan was the son of Lazar and his wife Milica, a lateral line of Nemanjić. Hrebeljanović's father Prince Vratko was a direct descendant of Vukan, eldest son of Stefan Nemanja. In addition to Stefan, they had seven other children.[1][2][3]

Stefan Lazarević married Jelena in September 1405. Jelena was daughter of Francesco II Gattilusio, Genovesian lord of Lesbos and a sister of Irene Gattilusio, empress of Byzantium empire and a wife of John VII Palaiologos. This marriage was arranged during his stay in Constantinople in 1402, at a time when the city and the Byzantine Empire ruled John VII in the name of his uncle, Manuel II (1373-1391 ruler, Emperor 1391-1425). Jelena and Stefan had no children and Jelena is not shown on any frescoes in monasteries built by Stefan.[4]


Stefan was the son of Prince Lazar, whom he succeeded in 1389. Nikola Zojić attempted to overthrow Stefan Lazarević at the end of 14th century and used Ostrvica as haven after his attempt failed.[5] Lazarević participated as an Ottoman vassal in the Battle of Rovine in 1395, the Battle of Nicopolis in 1396, and in the Battle of Ankara in 1402.[6] He became the Despot of Serbia in 1402 after the Ottoman state temporarily collapsed following Timur's invasion of Anatolia with the Battle of Ankara, where he and his Serbian Knights fought well and a good portion of his forces survived.Then stopping at Constantinople on his way home,he was well received by the Emperor who granted him the title of Despot by which he was to be known from then on and by which his successors were also to be known. At first Stefan's policy seems to have been to take advantage of Ankhara to shed Ottoman vassalage and to assert Serbia's independence. Stefan's nephew George Brankovic who had no love for Stefan soon lined up with Suleyman a son of Bayezid (Ottoman Sultan 1389-1402) against Stefan. Not surprisingly Stefan was receptive when Sigismund of Hungary approached him for an alliance.Sigismund was very generous in his terms. He offered Stefan Lazarevic Macva including Beograde for Stefans lifetime if he would accept Hungarian suzerainty for it. In the interim, In November 1402 Stefan defeated Brankovics's forces (which included troops from Suleyman) at Tripolje. At this time Stefan also acquired from Sigismund the important fortress of Golubac on the Danube.In 1403 he proclaimed Belgrade his capital. He built a fortress with a citadel which was destroyed during the Great Turkish War in 1690; only the Despot Stefan Tower remains today.[7]

Stefan II became an ally of the Kingdom of Hungary and a knight of a special order, so when the Hungarian king Sigismund renewed the Order of the Dragon (Societas draconistrarum) in 1408, Despot Stefan Lazarević was the first on the list of members. In 1404, Sigismund gave Lazarević land in the present-day Vojvodina (and Pannonian part of present-day Belgrade), including Zemun (today part of Belgrade), Slankamen, Kupinik, Mitrovica, Bečej, and Veliki Bečkerek. In 1417, Apatin is also mentioned among his possessions. Under his rule, he issued a Code of Mines in 1412 in Novo Brdo, the economic center of Serbia. In his legacy, Resava-Manasija monastery (Pomoravlje District), he organized the Resava School, a center for correcting, translating, and transcribing books.[7]

Stefan Lazarević died suddenly in 1427, leaving the throne to his nephew Đurađ Branković. His deeds eventually elevated him into sainthood, and the Serbian Orthodox Church honors him on August 1. Despot Stefan is buried in the monastery Koporin which he had built in 1402, as he did the bigger and more famous Manasija monastery in 1407. In fact, Manasija was intended as his own burial place, but due to a sudden nature of his death in perilous times it was his brother Vuk that is buried there.[7]

Apart from the biographical notes in charters and especially in the Code on The Mine Novo Brdo (1412)

Stefan Lazarević wrote three original literary works:

  • The Grave Sobbing for prince Lazar (1389)
  • The Inscription on the Kosovo Marble Column (1404)
  • A Homage to Love (1409), a poetic epistle to his brother Vuk.[7]


In 1405, Stefan married Helena Gattilusio. She was a daughter of Francesco II of Lesbos and Valentina Doria. They had no known children.[7]


See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 Ivić, Aleksa (1928). Родословне таблице српских династија и властеле. Novi sad: Matica Srpska. p. 5. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 "Genealogy - Balkan states: The Lazarevici". Retrieved 25 February 2010. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 "Medieval Lands project - Serbia: ''Lazar I [1385]-1389, Stefan 1389-1427''". Retrieved 25th february 2010. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 Андрија Веселиновић Радош Љушић, „Српске династије“ , Нови Сад, 2001. ISBN 86-83639-01-0
  5. Đurđe Bošković (1956). Arheološki spomenici i nalazišta u Srbiji: Centralna Srbija. Naučna knjiga. p. 54. Retrieved 5 July 2013. 
  6. The Balkans, 1018-1499, M. Dinic, The Cambridge Medieval History, Vol. 4, Ed. J.M.Hussey, (Cambridge University Press, 1966), 551.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 Fine, The Late Medieval Balkans (1987)

Further Lecture

  • Constantine the Philosopher wrote a biography to Stefan in ~1431. Constantine was a Bulgarian scholar who following his arrival in Serbia in 1411, made a career for himself at Stefan's court.
  • Fine, John V.A. The Late Medieval Balkans: A Critical Survey from the Twelfth Century to the Ottoman Conquest. University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor, 1987.

External links

Stefan Lazarević
House of Lazarević
Born: circa 1372/77 Died: 19 July 1427
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Lazar of Serbia
Serbian Knez
Title next held by
Đurađ Branković
New creation Serbian Despot

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