Destiny has blessed him with a halo of love and blessed him to disseminate that love around him. Stefan-son of the most honorable noble Lazar and the most respectful noble Militza, their sixth child in the order of birth but the very first in spiritual and martial qualities.
Stefan the lofty.
The awarded name has indicated the nature and features of his Crown.
Yefimya, a nun of noble origin, in her former, secular life Yelena Mrnjavchevitch, actually taught him in early childhood what kind of decisions to take.
His education was based on Alexandrida, a romantic history for the brave. He was a dreamer and at the same time a ruler who fought duels with history as challenger, even when the exploit required an effort beyond human possibilities. Constantine the Philosopher, the author of his biography, particularly emphasizes Stefan’s ability to very quickly surpasses his teachers and be perfect in all respects.
He was predestined for his mission of a ruler. He learnt his first lesson in the meaning of life in Saray, where he took his very young sister Olivera, sacrificed to the wild warrior and erotic beast Bayazit – the Thunder.
In the battle of Angora (Ankara) in 1402, Stefan was at the head of the undefeated heavily armored right wing. The defeat in that battle meant for Bayazit shame of slavery and for Stefan the beginning of a new life. The Byzantine court awards him the title of Despot.
The Despot insisted on fostering the martial arts and skills in military tactics. He himself trained his commanding officers and soldiers. His main personal qualities were his great love for people and his soldiers and
generosity in charity. Reading sacred books was his main spiritual preoccupation, but he was fully aware of the difference between humanism and self defense.
He founded the Order of Knights “Ordo Redis” (Order of Orders) whose members were crowned heads only. He was the first in the “Order of the Dragon”, whose members, among other knights, were Milosh Obilitch, Despot Djurdje Brankovitch, Despot Vuk Grgurevitch, the Byzantine Emperor Constantine XI, Duke Vlad Drakula… Many heroes from these lands dreamed of being ordained knight by Despot Stefan himself and of being given the opportunity to serve him.
On the wings of his independent authority in 1404 Stefan Lazarevitch made an agreement with the Hungarian King Zigmund and was granted the right to spread his authority over Machva, Belgrade, Valjevo and Sokol, and in 1411 to exploit the mines of Nadzbanja and Felshebanj. His glassy look from the terrace of his Belgrade fortress was well known all over Europe of that time. Such a unique view was second to none. As if the smell of freedom prevailed in the air around the massive towers in the Upper Town.
By his Charter the Despot dedicated Belgrade to the Holy Mother and put it under her auspices and protection. His majestic court was designed according to very high Byzantine standards.
But his heart was in pain. He had no heir from his wedlock with Yelena Gamiluzi. He had a bad fall from the horse, which prevented him from being a father… Life follows its usual course and his office operates on the models of the Byzantine Empire and Venice. He abundantly exchanges letters with the most powerful dynasties in Europe. Wars and trade alternate. A time of peace alternates with a time of fierce battles.
The Despot’s mother, noble and respectful Princess Militza, at that time nun Yevrosima, died in November 1405 and was buried in her memorial monastery Lubostinja. The Despot starts building the monastery Manasya a mystical subterfuge combining the features of a monastery and a fortress. The works are entrusted to the best builders of that time. Thus Serbia obtained its Camelot and its Athos.
Despot Stefan enjoyed the reputation of a smart man able to see much farther than people of his time. But the nobility had different ideas. They did not like his unswerving confidence in the Hungarians and his openness to foreign customs and foreign culture. Vuk Lazarevitch was at the head of dissatisfied nobility, and particularly irritated by his Order of the Dragon, which he was wearing with pride, because of “some courtesy
commitments to the Catholic Church”.
Serbia becomes victim of the civil war, Sultan Suleiman is triumphing. Zigmund is on the side of Stefan, Suleiman on the side of Vuk. The usual Serbia drama beyond rational understanding.
In the moments of his great suffering Despot Stefan writes his “Slovo ljubve” (Ode to Love). In that same 1409 year he sends a message to his brother Vuk promising to forgive him, in spite of the war. He meant it seriously and honestly. Later on, when the Turkish Heir to the Throne wanted to execute Vuk because of his infidelity, Despot Stefan proved a great love for his brother by saying: “If I am infidel so is he.” Love has generously overshadowed the truth.
On Stefan’s request Vuk crossed to Suleiman, the winner in this conflict. It was Stefan’s magnificent gesture. On the battlefield he was a hero, like in the battle of Angora, and in brotherly love always generous. As a tolerant ruler Stefan embodied Byzantine loftiness and devotion to the nearest and dearest. The living embodiment of his “Ode to love” (Slovo ljubve).
It is only in 1413 that Despot Stefan could close the book of permanent conflicts with the versatile Musa, (who by deceit killed his brother and rival Suleiman). On that occasion the Despot displayed his great talent for military diplomacy characteristic of the greatest among the Knights.
Thanks to that he enjoyed ten forthcoming years of peace. Just sufficient
time to see monastery Manasya completed, to consolidate the frontiers of his state and hand it over to Djuradj Brankovitch, his heir, in a well organized shape.
He died quite unexpectedly, on July 19, 1427, on the day when a thundering storm was raging over Belgrade and thick black clouds covering its sky, deafening the Despot’s last plea: “Bring Djurdje, bring him!”.
People deplored the deathof Despot Stefan as if it were the Doomsday, tearing off their hair and cutting their horses’ manes.
Actually, people deplored the bereavement, the death of their beloved Dragon, apprehending future developments, aware that he was the predestined herald of a new age.
A descendent of the Nemanjitch family, son of Emperor Lazar, the Loft y Despot, like a guardian, he remained a testimony of the strength of faith and devotion to the oath of chivalry taken by his Christ loving people, in the most difficult times in history – at the time of the collapse of the Serbia state and loss of identity.
The Serbs, unfortunately, mostly remember heroes by their single exploit – which overshadows everything done before, good or evil. This approach leads to hasty conclusions, most often relegating to undeserved oblivion all other heroic acts or sins. This raises the question: “And what about the rarest among our forefathers?
What about the princes and knights of unswerving valor, loftiness and kindness – the ones whose every move in life deserves admiration and gratitude of their descendents?”
Unusual and deplorable is their destiny, made up of intertwined secrets and strange omens. “In drinking he was not a drunkard, he never pushed things to the extreme, nor did he kill anyone by cutting him from the waist up to the white neck.”
If before the mirror of eternity we ask what kind of a man Stefan raelly was, the answer is only one, coming by itself: He was a ruler. A knight. A poet. A valorous hero.
A founder of a monastery. A martyr.
A true God blessed saint.