St. Sava’s Day (Savindan) – January 27 (old calendar January 14)

by William Dorich on January 25, 2011

in 1389 (blog admin), education, heroes, history, icons, Montenegro, Orthodox Christianity, Orthodox hymnography, Serbia

St. Sava of Serbia

The Heritage of Saint Sava

Saint Sava founded the autocephalous (self-governing) Orthodox Church in Serbia during the Middle Ages. He was a member of the Serbian royal family, but chose to renounce royal privilege at a very young age, so as to devote his life to the service of God and to the spiritual care and education of the Serbian people.

All but one of the medieval Serbian kings were eventually canonized. Rather than building palaces for themselves, they spent their wealth on churches, monasteries, schools, and other good works that benefited the entire Serbian people.

SerbBlog: Sretna Savindan! Happy Saint Sava’s Day!

Saint Archbishop Sava (Serbian: Свети Сава, Sveti Sava) (1175January 14, 1235), originally the prince Rastko Nemanjić (Serbian: Растко Немањић) (son of the Serbian ruler and founder of the Serbian medieval state Stefan Nemanja and brother of Stefan Prvovenčani, first Serbian king), is the first (12191233), the most important saint in the Serbian Orthodox Church and important cultural and political worker of that time.

Early life

Rastko was born ca. 1175 in Gradina (near modern-day Podgorica, Montenegro).

In his youth (c. 1192), he fled from his home to join the orthodox monastic colony on Mount Athos (Holy Mountain on the Chalkidiki peninsula) and was given the name Sava. He first traveled to a Russian monastery and then moved to the Greek Monastery of Vatopedi. At the end of 1197 his father, who on becoming a monk was named Simeon joined him. In 1198 they together moved to and restored the abandoned monastery Hilandar (Chilandari, in French) which, since that moment, became the center of Serbian Christian monastic life. Hilandar is one of the twenty monasteries on Mount Athos that still function, and its position in the hierarchy is fourth.

St. Sava’s father took the monastic vows under the name Simeon and died in Hilandar on February 13, 1199. He is also canonised, as Saint Simeon.

Serbian Orthodox Church

After his father’s death, Sava devoted himself to the ascetic life and retreated to a skete close to Karyes which he built himself in 1199. He also wrote the Karyes Typicon valid for both for Hilandar and his skete. The typicon has been inscribed onto a marble board at the skete and still stands there. Sava stayed on Athos until the end of 1207.

In 1208, St. Sava returned to Serbia, where the feuding between his brothers had created a state or anarchy. St. Sava set up his base at Studenica monastery, and started to organize the Serbian Orthodox Church. He had brought with him several monks to help him perform his pastoral and missionary duty among the people. St. Sava eventually managed to free the Serbian church from the jurisdiction of the Greek Orthodox Archbishop of Ohrid. In 1219, St. Sava was consecrated the first archbishop of the new Serbian Church by Patriarch Manuel I of Constantinople, who was then in exile at Nicaea.

Saint Sava is considered the founder of the independent Serbian Orthodox Church and Serbian Orthodox Christians celebrate him as patron saint of education and medicine. He is commemorated on January 27 according to the Julian calendar and on January 14 according to the Gregorian calendar. Since the 1830s, Saint Sava has become the patron saint of Serbian schools and schoolchildren. On his day, students partake in recitals in church.

St. Sava died in Turnovo, capital of the Second Bulgarian Empire, during the reign of Ivan Asen II of Bulgaria. According to his Life, he fell ill following the Divine Liturgy at the Feast of the Epiphany on January 12, 1235. Sava visited Turnovo on his way back from the Holy Land, where he had founded a hospice for Syrian pilgrims in Jerusalem and arranged for Serbian monks to be welcome in the established monasteries there. He died of pneumonia in the night between Saturday and Sunday, January 14, 1235. [1] He was initially buried at the St Forty Martyrs Church in Turnovo, but his holy relics remained there until only May 6, 1237 when they were translated to the Mileševa monastery in southern Serbia. 360 years later, in 1595, the Ottoman Turks unearthed his remains and took them to Vračar hill in Belgrade where they were incinerated on a stake.

Read it all.

A much longer hagiography of St. Sava is available online at the website of St. Sava Serbian Orthodox Church in St. Petersburg, Florida. Be sure to stop by if you happen to be in the vicinity.

St. Sava Krsna Slava Celebration (Савиндан)

Fr. Dragomir Tuba and the children of St. Archangel Michael parish on St. Sava's Day (Jan.27), Akron, OH , turning the Slavski Kolach, which they celebrated Sunday, January 31, 2010.
Fr. Dragomir Tuba and the children of St. Archangel Michael parish on St. Sava’s Day (Jan.27), Akron, OH , turning the Slavski Kolach, which they celebrated Sunday, January 31, 2010.
Photo from Serbian History 101 by Baba Mim

On her “Heroes of Serbia website, Aleksandra Rebic explains the meaning of “Krsna Slava”:

The Krsna Slava is a Christian holiday specific only to Serbs. It is the day of the family’s Patron Saint. Each family has its own special day, and many Serbs throughout the world share the same patron Saint.

Serbian Orthodox parishes and service organizations have their own patron saints, and celebrate the Krsna Slava of their patron saints in much the same way as Serbian families do. In many ways, St. Sava is the patron saint of all Serbians, both in the Balkans and in the diaspora.

Even when the parish has a patron saint other than St. Sava, Serbian Orthodox parishes generally celebrate Savindan to honor “Sveti Sava” as patron saint of the Serbian people, with a Krsna Slava and with an assembly of the parish children singing hymns and reciting prayers and poetry. Click here to view slide show.

Nina Milosevic & Vojislav Lalich-Petrich offer this explanation here:

Saints Blessing – Krsna Slava

The celebration of the family Patron Saint’s Day (Slava or Krsna Slava) is a uniquely Serbian custom. All members of the same family or community observe together a day set aside to honor their saint or protector. The Saint remains unchanged from the father to the son as a tradition of inheritance. This celebration originated in pre-Christian times, when each family had its particular family God. Later, when the Serbs became Christians, they transferred this observance to the Christian Saints, selecting some Saint with special meaning to the family or the Saint whose cele- bration day was nearest the day when the family accepted Christianity. After coming to the Balkan peninsula, the life of the Serbian people changed. As nomadic people they became farmers, tied to one place and their land. Family life became very important and, as they settled, they accepted the higher, more civilized ideas or religion developed in Greek Christianity. The bloodless sacrifices of the church were then adopted by Serbian families. St. Sava in his reformatory work, definitely abolished blood sacrifices and established the Christian symbols or Krsna Slava, which are the candle (voshtanica), wheat (koljivo) and bread (kolac). Since every part or Krsna Slava ritual describes the life, passion and resurrection of Jesus Christ, bread and wheat were naturally the first elements of the bloodless sacrifices. Wheat (panagija) was established as the most holy and symbolic secret of nativity life. Everything is born from seed. So, in the nativity, the mystical commandment of God is fulfilled. The single wheat grain obtained its name, panagija (All Holy Mother, giver of birth) from the Greek Panagion. Also, wheat was the main source of existence. Even today, the Krsna Slava ritual still involves a series of beautiful symbols in the blessing of the wheat and the breaking of the bread.

In Europe and America, there are many different ways of celebrating the Krsna Slava, depending on the particular region, but the basic idea is the same everywhere: worship of the Patron Saint with a bloodless sacrifice. The most common way of celebrating is in this manner: the host goes to the church to attend the holy liturgy. He takes to the church a Patron’s Saint Cake (Slavski Kolac), a bowl or cooked wheat sweetened with honey or sugar (koljivo) and the “Book in Memoriam” (citulja) from which, during the Holy Liturgy, the priest reads the names of the host’s deceased relatives. The Priest also cuts and blesses the Patron’s Saint Cake, according to a prescribed rite. Koljivo is prepared only in commemoration of patron saints who died. The Holy angels and Saint Elijah did not pass through death. Therefore, koljivo is not prepared for them.

Meanwhile, at home, the table is prepared for the celebration. Returning from church, the host places the cake and wheat on the table and lights a candle which burns all day.Later, relatives and friends gather at the home of the celebrant to share in the festivities and partake of the celebration dinner. The host (always the male head or the household) prays to God and his Patron Saint and then serves his guests. (The host is never seated during the dinner.) Every guest receives a small portion of the Patron’s Saint Cake as well as of the wheat. In many regions, it is the custom to invite the priest to perform the Cutting of the Patron Saint Cake as well as the wheat.

(From St. Sava Serbian Orthodox Church in Florida)

Troparion – Tone 3

Thou wast a guide to the Way of Life, a first Hierarch and a teacher;
thou didst come and enlighten thy home country, O Sava,
and give it rebirth by the Holy Spirit.
Thou hast planted thy children like olive trees in the spiritual Paradise.
O Equal-to-the-Apostles and Saints, pray to Christ our God to grant us His great mercy. [2]

Kontakion – Tone 8

As the first great hierarch and co-worker with the Apostles,
the Church of thy people magnifies thee;
and since thou hast found favor with Christ,
save us by thy prayers from every calamity,
so that we may proclaim to thee: Rejoice, God-wise Father Sava.

Troparion – Tone 8

O guide of Orthodoxy and blessed teacher of virtues,
purifier and enlightener of thy homeland,
beauty of monastics,
most wise Father, Holy Sava,
by thy teaching thou didst enlighten thy people,
O flute of the Spirit, pray to Christ God for our souls.

Fresco icon of St. Sava of Serbia

Traditional Hymn to St. Sava

Serbian chant – Danica Krstic – Himna Svetom Savi

Sveti Sava – Svetosavska himna ♫ – Свети Сава

This video shows the Cathedral of Saint Sava:

The Cathedral of Saint Sava (Serbian: Храм светог Саве or Hram svetog Save) is an Orthodox church in Belgrade, Serbia, the largest Orthodox cathedral on the Balkans, and one of the largest Orthodox cathedrals in the world. The church is dedicated to Saint Sava, founder of the Serbian Orthodox Church and an important figure in medieval Serbia. It is built on the Vračar plateau, on the location where his remains were burned in 1595 by the Ottoman Empire’s Sinan Pasha. From its location, it dominates Belgrade’s cityscape, and is perhaps the most monumental building in the city. The building of the church structure is being financed exclusively by donations. The parish home is nearby, as will be the planned patriarchal building.

It is not a cathedral in the technical ecclesiastical sense, as it is not the seat of a bishop (the seat of the Metropolitan bishop of Belgrade is St. Michael’s Cathedral). In Serbian it is called a hram (temple), which is in Eastern Orthodoxy another name for a church[1]. In English, it is usually called a cathedral because of its size and importance.

Read the rest.



Ускликнимо с љубављу
Светитељу Сави
Српске цркве и школе
Светитељској глави
Српска дика
школска слава
српски Сава
Појте му Срби
Песму и утројте

Војводина, Косово
равна Славонија
Црна Гора, Банија
Лика, Далмација
Босна и Ерцеговина
Светог Саве ђедовина
Сложно славе славу
Светог оца Саву

Да се српске све земље
што пре уједине
Сунце правде, слободе
да нам свима сине
Да живимо сви у слози
Свети Саво ти помози
Почуј глас свог рода
Српскога народа

Various other versions of this Hymn to St. Sava exist. This version of the Hymn to St. Sava, sung by Serbian-Americans, is provided by Baba Mim with translation/notes by Fr. Mateja Matejic:

1. Uskliknimo, s’ljubavlju,Svetitelju Savi, Srpske crkve i skole, svetiteljskoj glavi. Tamo venci, tamo slava, Gde nas srpski pastir Sava:
Pojte mu Srbi, pesmu i utrojte. (Repeat)

Let us sing devoutly to St. Sava, the holy Founder of Serbian churches and schools. Wherever is our Serbian Shepherd Sava, there are wreaths of glory.

2. Blagodarna Srbijo, puna si ljubavi. Prema svome pastiru svetitelju Savi. Bosna i Hercegovina, Svetog Save dedovina,
S’tobom slave slavu, Svetog oca Savu.

O grateful Serbia, you are filled with love for your Shepherd Saint Sava. Bosnia and Hercegovina, St. Sava’s patrimony, celebrate together with you, our Patron, Saint Sava.

3. Voyvodina pitoma; Srem, Banat i Backa, Slavonija, Banija, Lika i Krbava, Crna Goro sestro mila, Zdravo i ti, s’nama bila,
Da slavimo slavu, Svetitelja Savu.

Welcome Srem, Banat and Backa, and you, Old Serbia! O, Fruska Gora, take good care of the relics of Prince Lazar. Montenegro, our dear sister, you are welcome too! Join us in celebration of our Patron, holy Father Sava.

4. Milesevo slavi se telom svetog Save, Koga slave svi Srbi s ove strane Save. Sinan pasa vatru pali, Telo Svetog Save spali,
Al’ ne spali slave, niti spomen Save.

Milesheva monastery is famous because of the relics of Saint Sava, who is honored by all the Serbs in the areas along both sides of the river Sava. Sinan Pasha set the fire which consumed the relics of Saint Sava, but failed to destroy the glory and memory of St. Sava.

5. Pet vekova Srbin je u ropstvu camio, Svetitelja Save ime je slavio. Da zivimo svi u slozi, Sveti Savo Ti pomozi.
Pocuj glas svog roda, srpskoga naroda.

For five centuries the Serbs suffered in slavery, but even then they honored the name of Saint Sava. O, Saint Sava, help us to live in unity! Hear the voice of your nation, your Serbian people.

6. I mi, tvoji Srpcici, s ove strane mora, Srpske krvi, imena; srpskoga govora, Slavimo te Sveti Savo, Srpske skole mudra glavo,
O dicnoga slavlja, Oche Svetosavlja.

And we, your Serbs on this side of the ocean, who are of Serbian origin and speak the Serbian language, honor you, O, Saint Sava, luminous glory of Serbian schools. O, what a wonderful celebration, O, Father of Svetosavlje.

Fr. Matejic provides one more verse, which I could not find in the original Serbian:

O, beloved Serbia, the sister of the Holy Mount, cast your glances upon the courts of Saint Sava; there is the beginning of Serbian glory. O, Serbs, sing a threefold hymn to Saint Save, the wise Head of the Serbian church.

More versions are given (in Serbian Cyrillic) on the Верујем forum. This one seems fairly complete:


Ускликнимо с љубављу светитељу Сави
Српске цркве врховној свештеничкој глави.
Тамо венци, тамо слава
где наш српски пастир Сава.
Појте му Срби песму и утројте!

Ти из Свете Горе дође, оче Саво,
браћу своју измири Немањића славо.
Свештениче цркве сјајне,
духовниче свете тајне,
Саво спаситељу међу апостоле!

Милешево слави се телом Светег Саве
кога славе сви Срби с обе стране Саве.
Синан-паша ватру пали
тело Светог Саве спали,
ал’ не спали славе, нити спомен Саве!

Данас слави све Српство светог оца Саву
Српске цркве и школе светитељску главу.
Добри пастир Свети Сава
српској деци школска слава.
Појте му Срби пecмy и утројте!

Војводина питома-Срем, Банат и Бачка,
Славонија, Барања, Лика и Крбава.
Једним срцем славе славу
свога светог оца Саву.
Појте му Срби песму и утројте!

Херцег-Босно с Крајином, гнездом соколова,
стара наша Србијо и Македонијо.
Црна Горо, сестро милa,
здраво и ти с нама била
да славимо славу светитеља Саву!

Мила наша Србијо, земљо племенита,
са свих страна сви Срби с мора и Дунава.
К небу главе подигните
Саву тамо угледајте.
Саву, српску славу, пред престолом Творца!

Благодарна Србијо пуна си љубави
према своме пастиру светитељу Сави.
Цело Српство слави славу
светог оца Светог Саву,
Саву, српску славу пред престолом Творца!

Да се српска сва срца с Тобом уједине,
сунце мира, љубави, да нам свима сине,
да живимо сви у слози,
Свети Саво ти помози.
Почуј гласе свога рода, српскога народа!

Savindan ’08 (Serbian language newscast)

Note: Serbian Internet domains that ended in .yu – as shown in the above video – are obsolete. Change the domain to .rs in order to access the site.

Also see:

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Hesperado January 26, 2011 at 1:45 pm

Thanks for posting this. The wealth and depth of information, through the history and life and experience of the Serbs is amazing. Most Westerners, I dare say, are ignorant of most of it. I still only know a fraction of the story (but at least I know enough to know that the Serbs, like Israel, represent the outpost of the West against the Muslims, and since the unraveling of the Communist order, we have betrayed them terribly.

From the Hymn to St. Sava:

“For five centuries the Serbs suffered in slavery”

It’s amazing that the very core and substance of the story of the Serbs is historically constituted by the perennial assaults on, and oppression of, them by Muslims; and yet the West remains ignorant of that massive fact. I recall, when I was still a dim-witted teenager, happening by accident to chance upon a paperback novel called “The Bridge on the Drina” by the Serbian novelist Ivo Andric. At the time, it seemed to be simply a fantasy or fairy tale about an exotic time and place where evil “Turks” were besieging some people. Only in the last few years have I graduated along the “Learning Curve” to know the grimly real history (and ongoing present) behind that tale.

Two questions for 1389: specifically in terms of peoples or ethnography, my sketchy impression of the Balkans is that there are many different peoples there.

1) Are there any non-Serbian Christians who live in the Balkans as well? Who are they?

2) Would you say that the entire Balkans “should” belong to the Serbs? Or would you agree that some of it belongs to others?


2 1389AD January 27, 2011 at 1:58 am

There are indeed non-Serbian Christians who live in the Balkans. There are Catholics in Croatia, Albania, and Hungary. There are also some Protestants in Hungary.

Macedonia, Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia proper, Montenegro, and Republika Srpska (within the artificial state of Bosnia and Hercegovina) are, as far as I know, majority Orthodox Christian. There are a few members of other Christian denominations, but I don’t have detailed and accurate demographic breakdowns by religion for those areas.

Nobody that I know of, including myself, suggests that all of the Balkans belongs to Serbia. That said, I firmly believe that Kosovo rightfully belongs to Serbia, and Republika Srpska should rightfully belong to Serbia as well.

3 Hesperado January 27, 2011 at 1:06 pm

Thanks 1389.

Some time ago, I wrote an essay on my blog about how many of the processes in Western history had an Islamic component now forgotten by the West. Some of my examples included the voyage of Columbus — his voyage to find a new trade route was, apparently, mainly due to the fact that Muslims had for centuries made the traditional trade route eastward perilous.

Another example is how Muslim invasions and attacks helped to foster, by reaction, the creation of Russia. When I learned it in history class in college, it was only in terms of “Asiatic hordes” or “huns” — never was the word “Muslims” mentioned, who played a great part in the roiling chaos of central Asia for centuries.

Anyway, the reason I mention this is that I recently realized that the genesis — the spark — that set off World War One, may have had some connections to Islam, insofar as it happened in Serbia. Even though the assassin of Archduke Ferdinand was a non-Muslim, that doesn’t mean there wasn’t some kind of Islamic factor or precursor in the political turmoil of Serbia at the time.

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