St. Stephen Chrysobull

The St. Stephen Chrysobull (Serbian: Светостефански хрисовуљ/Svetostefanski hrisovulj) or Banjska Chrysobull (Бањска хрисовуља/Banjska hrisovulja) was a chrysobull, charter, issued in 1314–16[a] by Serbian king Stefan Milutin (r. 1282–1321). It was held at the Banjska monastery founded by Milutin. It is currently held at the Topkapi library in Istanbul.[1] The transcript of this charter in the form of a book, was found in 1889 in Old Saraj, Constantinople, whose text was printed in two editions in Belgrade and in Vienna. Serbian King Stefan Uroš II Milutin raised an endowment between 1313 and 1316 as a grave church in the region of Kosovska Mitrovica in Banjska, dedicated to St. Stefan the First Martyr. Upon completion of construction he issued the charter in the form of a rotulus with a gold seal at its end, which was soon written on parchment in the form of a book, because of its wider and better usability. The book next to the text of the charter which ends with the signature of King Milutin, also contains the exposures of King Dragutin and Archbishop Nikodim I. In the Chrysobull, it is described in detail the expansion of estates which King Milutin gifted to the settlements of Ibar, Sitnica, Laba, in Ras, Hvosna, Plava, Budim, Zeta and others. It is also known by a special section by the name of "Law of Vlachs" which covers the regulations of Vlach cattle breeder obligations on that maner.[2] Obligations and privileges of farmers, cattle breeders and craftsman are prescribed in the charter according to monastery Banjska. After the Battle of Kosovo in 1389 the Osmans pillaged Milutin’s endowment and took the charter in the process, which has been kept in Constantinople since the second half of the XV century, in the sultan's treasury of Old Saraj.

Serbian king Stefan Milutin issued the St. Stephen Chrysobull in 1314–16.

Finding and publication of St. Stefan’s ChrysobullEdit

The merit for the finding of St. Stefan’s Chrysobull goes to the Hungarian philologist Armin Vambery. He was a great connoisseur of Turkish language and history, a traveler through Central Asia and the Ottoman Empire and the author of many Turkish dictionaries. Thanks to that he was granted permission to study documents that were moved from Budim to Constantinople several centuries ago. Čedomilj Mijatović and Stojan Novaković found out about that. Stojan Novaković met with the Polish scholar Korzhenovsky who was a member of the expedition that inspected the documents. Korzhenovsky informed Novaković that he found "one Serbian diploma, in the form of a book, issued by two kings, Stefan and Stefan Uroš, that was granted to some monastery". Stojan Novaković immediately assumed that it was St. Stefan’s Chrysobull. Soon after that Novaković met with Vambery and it was agreed that Korzhenovsky would photograph the charter and give it to Hungarian Royal Academy which would later give it to the Serbian Royal Academy. In 1889 Novaković compiled a report about the finding of the Chrysobull, but renounced the honour of printing it. He left the honour to Ljubomir Kovačević who published it in February 1890. Soon after that Vatroslav Jagić wrote about the charter, describing how it was found and published it himself at a later date. A quote of Nikola Radojčić, made on the occasion of publication of Stefan Lazarević’s Mining Law, gives enough information about the importance of St. Stefan’s Chrysobull: "The Serbian historical science has not received a greater and more useful surprise since the finding of St. Stefan’s Chrysobull, until the discovery of this Mining Law by Despot Stefan Lazarević. Let us hope that this is not the last great discovery." The finding of St. Stefans Chrysobull and the discovery of Stefan Lazarević’s Mining Law are the greatest discoveries of historical science since the 19th century to this day. This is the oldest Chrysobull written in the form of a book.

Year of issuance of the charterEdit

The time in which Stefan Milutin issued the charter is connected to the time of the construction of St. Stefan’s monastery in Banjska. The question of the charter's publication started soon after it became known to science. The first to engage with this question was Stojan Novaković who dates the construction of St. Stefan’s monastery to the period between 1312 and 1317. The charter had to be issued after the construction of the monastery. The construction of the monastery started after the civil war between Milutin and Dragutin, and was finished soon after the death of Queen Jelena, but before the death of King Dragutin. Archbishop Danilo mentions a meeting of the brothers in Pauni at which mutual issues were regulated. Many historians believe that it was that assembly on which St. Stefan’s charter, which contains both Kings' signatures, was passed. However, the exact year of the meeting is not known. It was preceded by the meeting of Serbian Queens Simonida and Katalina that probably happened in the middle of 1314. The meeting of the brothers came after this, and also after the rebellion and blinding of Stefan Dečanski, son of Milutin. It is certainly known that the charter was issued in the time span between the death of Queen Jelena and Dragutin, thus between 8 February 1314 and 12 March 1316. Whether St. Stefan’s charter passed at an assembly is also not known, because that is mentioned neither in the charter nor in the "Lives of the Kings and Archbishops of Serbia". The charter was not confirmed by the Archbishop Sava, during whose time it was enacted. It was confirmed after Dragutin's death on 12 May 1317, in the time of Archbishop Nikodim.

The appearance of the charterEdit

St. Stephen Chrysobull

St. Stefan’s Chrysobull was preserved in its original form - a parchment measuring 230mm х 290mm. In the past the seals of Milutin and Dragutin were attached to it. On one of the last pages there are Stefan Crnojević’s notes. The saved Chrysobull represents one of the manuscripts created upon acknowledgement in 1317. The signatures of the two Kings were transcribed. Stefan Crnojević bolded/thickened the faded signature of Nikodim, which he stated in a note. The charter contains 180 pages with 2131 rows. In the text the document is named St. Stefan’s Chrysobull or the Banjska charter. The charter does not contain a verbal invocation which is common for charters of that time. At the beginning a symbolic invocation can be found. The arenga is extensive and is dedicated to St. Stefan. In the intitulation Milutin quotes his title and ancestors. From the exposure we can see that there was already a church at the place of the monasteries construction which the Serbian King found in ruin. In the disposition of medieval Serbian charters, as the most important part of the document, are enumerated goods which the founder attaches to his monastery. The same applies to St. Stefan’s Chrysobull. Besides that, the St. Stefan’s Chrysobull is significant because it regulates obligations of the dependent population on monastic property. This part of the disposition is known by the name of "the law to the people of the church" and "Vlach law". In the sanction a penalty is stated for the violators of the royal commandments and charter. The exact date of the issuing of the charter is not known because it does not have a date note characteristic for the charters of that time. This is the only charter that contain the confirmations of two Serbian Kings. Milutin's signature in the Chrysobull reads: "Stefan, by the mercy of God, King and Autocrat of all Serbian and seaside lands".


  1. ^
    It was issued between 1314 and 1316.[3][4][5] Older obsolete suggestions included 1293–1302 (F. Miklosich);[6] 1299–1300;[7] 1302–09 (S. Novaković);[6] before 1313;[6] 1309–16 (D. Janković);[8] 1318 (V. Jagić).[9]


  1. ^ Mirjana Menković (2004). Kosovo i Metohija u svetlu etnologije: zbornik radova. Етнографски музеј у Београду. p. 209.
  2. ^ Mirković 2019, p. 22.
  3. ^ Slobodan Ćurčić (1979). Gračanica: King Milutin's church and its place in late Byzantine architecture. Pennsylvania State University Press. p. 134. ISBN 978-0-271-00218-7.
  4. ^ Balcanica. 39. SANU. 2009. p. 72.
  5. ^ Slobodan Erić (2006). Косово и Метохија: аргументи за останак у Србији. Геополитика. p. 229. ISBN 9788686619006.
  6. ^ a b c Filološki fakultet 1922, p. 97.
  7. ^ SANU (1954). Srpski etnografski zbornik. SANU. pp. 25, 78, 86.
  8. ^ Dragoslav Janković (1961). Istorija države i prava feudalne Srbije, XII-XV vek. Naućna knjiga. p. 99.
  9. ^ Starinar. Arheološki institut. 1964. p. 148.


Further readingEdit