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Medieval Serbian despot Jovan Ugleša, brother of King Vulkašin, may be canonized by the Greek Orthodox Church

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A 14th-century Serbian nobleman who died in battle against the Ottoman Turks could be canonized as a saint, according to the general secretary of the Holy Kinotis of Mount Athos.

The Holy Community consists of the 20 self-governing monasteries of Mount Athos. The General Secretary is currently Fr. Cosmas of the Simonopetra Monastery, who announced the initiative to canonize Jovan Ugleša Mrniavčević during his recent visit to the Church of St. George in Ormenio (Chernomen), Greece.

The initiative enjoys the support of the entire fraternity of the Simonopetra monastery, which honors the despot as its second founder.

Jovan Ugleša Mrnjavčević was a medieval ruler of the Principality of Siar from 1365 to 1371 and brother of King Valkashin Mrnjavčević. After the death of Tsar Stefan Dušan in 1355, he established himself as an independent feudal ruler of the lands along the lower Struma and around 1358 he accepted the title of Grand Duke. In 1365, he was proclaimed despot of Siar, after the reign of Queen Elena of Bulgaria, the widow of Stefan Dušan. Uglesha tries to stop the advancing Ottoman Turks from the west and, together with his brother Valkashin, sets off with an army against them. On September 26, 1371, in the Battle of Chernomen on Maritza, the Ottoman generals Lala Sahin and Evrenos Bey defeated the troops of the two brothers; Uglesha and Valkashin die in battle.

The announcement of Fr. Kozma did during the memorial service for those who died in the Battle of Maritsa, one of whom was Jovan Ugleša.

According to Fr. Cosma, although today the ruler is largely forgotten in Serbia, “he never ceased to arouse lofty feelings in the inhabitants of the area he ruled. Therefore, it is no surprise that the initiative for his canonization initially came from the inhabitants of Ormenio,” says Fr. Cosmas. The monks of Simonopetra are also convinced of his holiness, he stressed:

  “There is also historical evidence of his sanctity – his successful rule, his supranational policy, the donations he made to the Holy Mountain, the monasteries he built, his respect for the church hierarchy and monks, his martyr spirit. That is why we are convinced that the time has come to confirm the sanctity of John Uglesia and that this act will not be postponed in time, so that soon the monks of Simonopetra, instead of praying for him, will be able to turn in prayer to John I burned like a saint.”

Father Kozma spoke in particular about the Serbian nobleman’s great contribution to Mount Athos, including the churches and hospitals he built. One of his most important works was the construction of the Simonopetra stone ensemble on the site of the previous smaller wooden monastery.

“To this day, in the monastery, Jovan Uglesha is honored as the second founder after Reverend Simon Mirotochiv. Every year on September 26, a memorial service is held in his memory. Thanks to Uglesha Mrniavcevic, the Simonopetra monastery became official, like other large monasteries, and remains so until today,” explains the Svetogorski father.

Jovan Uglesha also made significant donations to the Serbian Hilandar monastery and the Russian monastery of Saint Panteleimon. The most significant achievement of his six-year rule was, according to Fr. Cosmas, his work to heal the schism between the Serbian Church and the Patriarchate of Constantinople, which arose during the reign of King Stefan Dušan.

“In the document he issued in March 1368, Jovan Ugleša expressed his unreserved readiness to put an end to the schism. Although he was in power for only six years, he left a big mark in the history of the area he governed as an example of a pious, God-fearing, wise and far-sighted ruler-unifier,” says Fr. Cosmas.

Illustration: Jovan Uglesha Mrniavcevic (fresco). Source: www.novosti.rs.

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