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Three Millennia of Greek Literature

Vasilief, A History of the Byzantine Empire

The fall of Byzantium

John V, John VI Cantacuzene and the apogee of Serbian power


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For this purpose he confirmed and widened the privileges and increased the endowments of the Greek monasteries in conquered Macedonia, where many estates (μετόχια) which belonged to Athos also came under his power. The peninsula of Chalcidice itself with the Athonian monasteries came into Dushan's hands, and the monks could not fail to understand that the protection of the monasteries had passed from the Byzantine emperor to a new master, upon whom their further welfare would depend. The charters (chrysobulls) written in Greek granted by Dushan to the Greek monasteries of Athos testify not only to his confirmation of their former privileges, exemptions, and possessions, but to the granting of new ones. Besides the charters given to separate monasteries there is a general charter granted to all the Athonian monasteries; in this charter he said: Our Majesty, having received (into our power) all the monasteries situated on the Holy Mountain of Athos, which from all their hearts have had recourse to us and have become subject to us, has granted and accorded to them by this general edict (chrysobull) a great benefaction in order that the monks dwelling therein may fulfil peacefully and without disturbance their pious work.

Easter 1346 brought a momentous day in the history of Serbia. At Scopia (Skoplje, Uskub, in northern Macedonia), Dushan's capital, there assembled the noble princes of the whole kingdom of Serbia, all the higher Serbian clergy with the archbishop of Serbia at their head, the Bulgarian and Greek clergy of the conquered regions, and, finally, the protos, the head of the council of igumens (abbots), which administered Athos, and the igumens and hermits of the Holy Mountain of Athos. This large and solemn council was to ratify and sanctify the political revolution achieved by Dushan: the foundation of a new Empire.

First of all, the Council established a Serbian patriarchate entirely independent from the Constantinopolitan patriarchate. Dushan needed an independent Serbian patriarch for his coronation as emperor. As the choice of that patriarch took place without the participation of the ecumenical patriarchs of the East, the Greek bishops and the hermits of Mount Athos had to substitute for the patriarch of Constantinople. The Serbian patriarch was elected, and the patriarch of Constantinople, who refused to recognize the acts of this council as regular, excommunicated the Church of Serbia.

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