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Stephen Štiljanović – from a castellan to a despot and saint (Part 2)

Petar Seletković orcid id

Puni tekst: hrvatski pdf 1.594 Kb


str. 9-44

preuzimanja: 165



Unlike his notable contemporaries, compatriots and members of the same social class such as Paul (Pavle) Bakić, Radič Božić or Radoslav Čelnik, Stephen (Stefan) Štiljanović had as well as his earthly, a significant posthumous career, that is, he became a saint of the Serbian Orthodox Church and to his saintly figure the title of despot was added, although he had not borne it during his life time; thus the hagiographic story of the holy Serbian despots in the territory of Syrmia was in a way completed. It should be added that, unlike in the case of the cults of the Syrmian Brankovićes, who established and promoted themselves within the same family and the institutions of the Serbian Orthodox Church for the purpose of exercising the symbolic power, authority and dynastic representation of the Brankovićes among the Serbian population, the cult of Despot saint Stephen Štiljanović emerged and developed exclusively within the Serbian Orthodox Church. The beginning and development of the cult of St Stephen Štiljanović occurred during the period of great social transformations when, in accordance with the current reality, new sacred cults were born and the old ones transformed. The existence of the cult of St Stephen was registered as early as the 16th century in the record of Šišatovac monastery as well as in the Ottoman census of 1566/67. According to the record from 1560 in Šišatovac monastery the body of St Stephen Štiljanović is buried and he is referred to there as a duke; this title had in the late Middle Ages a wide scope of application. It referred to representatives of the local authorities and even the heads of pastoral communities. The cult texts on St Stephen Štiljanović, i.e. the Eulogy (Pohvalno slovo) and the Historical discourse (Povesno slovo) as well as the Service (Služba) of St Stephen Štiljanović evolved gradually and their earliest known version dates from 1631. For the understanding of the cult, the iconographic depictions of St Stephen Štiljanivić are also significant; the earliest date back to the 17th century. During the first period of the development of the cult, Stepen’s saintly attribute as a benefactor who gave the hungry grain from his granaries, was especially emphasized. Hence, the iconic records accentuated the analogy to Patriarch Joseph from the Old Testament, who in Egypt also provided grain for the hungry during the famine. However, from as early as the mid-17th century Stephen’s role as ruler becomes noticeable. This is especially apparent in the earliest depiction of St Stephen Štiljanović on the fresco in the Hopovo monastery in Syrmia dating from 1654 where Štiljanović was portrayed as one of the Serbian rulers and despots in sequence. During the Ottoman rule Štiljanović’s cult became more significant due to the endeavours to tighten the bonds of Orthodoxy on the periphery of new areas inhabited by the Serbian population with its centre in Pécs. After the Austro-Hungarian wars in the late 17th and early 18th century and the great migration of the Serbs into the Habsburg Monarchy, the monasteries of Fruška Gora were not the periphery but the centre of the newly formed institution of the Serbian Orthodox Church, the Karlovac Metropolitanate, and after the Ottomans during their withdrawal had burnt the relics of the Syrmian Brankovićes, the importance of the cult of St Stephen Štiljanović and the significance of his relics and the seat of the cult, the Šišatovac monastery rose. In order to strengthen the reputation of the Šišatovac monastery within the Metropolitanate of Karlovci, it was necessary to put extra emphasis on Štiljanović as a figure of authority. Since that time St Stephen Štiljanović has mostly been presented as one of the Serbian despots which is evident from the Short historical discourse (Kratko povesno slovo) of 1767 and from most of the iconographic depictions of St Stephen Štiljanović from the 18th century. The Short historical discourse shows that Stephen’s curriculum vitae had become more precise with much more detail. A very significant motif in the Slovo from 1767 was the way how the dignity of despot was transmitted to Stephen Štiljanović after the death of despotess Jelena Jakšić. Considering the above and other motifs, it is possible that in time the legend of St Stephen Štiljanović accreted elements from the biographies of two historical individuals, Ivan, the husband of despotess Jelena, and their son Stephen, from the Berislavić Grabarski family, who in the early 16th century assumed the title of despot. Along with these two, it is possible that additional elements were added to the Štiljanović legend from the biography of the last Serbian despot Pavle Bakić as well as from those of some other historical figures, Štiljanović’s Serbian compatriots, from the first half of the 16th century who carried out significant military duties in the territory of southern Hungary. The Orthodox cult of St Steven Štiljanović was tied to the cult of the Catholic St John Capistran. The legends of Capistran’s and Štiljanović’s presence on Göntér Hill near Šikloš testify to this; according to these legends, on this hill was Štiljanović’s former tomb, and according to the Franciscan legend from the Catholic shrine of Máriagyűd, in 1456 Capistran urged the population in his sermons on Göntér Hill to defend Belgrade. Tending to confirm the links of the cults of the two saints are the suspicions of certain Catholic circles from the 17th and 18th century that the body of St Stepen Štiljanović in fact belonged to St John Capistran whose body dissapeared during the Ottoman invasion of Ilok in 1526. Further confirmation is provided by their shared attributes as fighters for the purity of faith as well as the fact that both saints were at the peak of their lives and activities and met their deaths at the very end of the Middle Ages in the geographic area of former southern Hungary.

Ključne riječi

Saint Stefan Štiljanović; Šišatovac monastery; Serbian Orthodox Church; cult of saints; Syrmia

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