Back to title page
Back to section index
Previous page


However, both Western and Eastern Christendom were still subject to much in the way of political upheavals and wars, including now in the East an ambition on the part of the Bulgarians in the eleventh century and of the Serbs in the twelfth century, through marriage and through war, to occupy the imperial throne. As a consequence of the Bulgarian attempt, Bulgaria (previously occupying much of modern day Greece) was incorporated into the Empire:

Note also the Western intrusion into the Eastern space in the shape of Hungary, which would soon take Croatia. By 1092, The Eastern Empire had lost Anatolia to Islam, in the form of the Seljuk Turks.

With this map, I am jumping a century, to 1173. The Eastern Empire has absorbed Bulgaria and Serbia and also recovered part of Anatolia, including Antioch.

A Serb revolt in 1172 gives us the interesting story of a warlike King, Stephen Nemanja whose son, Sava, in 1190, aged fifteen, ran off to become a monk in Mount Athos:

His father followed him, becoming his son's disciple, in 1196, adopting the name 'Symeon'.

'Portraits' of Sava and Symeon both from wall paintings in the Studenica monastery, Serbia.

Together SS Sava and Symeon founded on Mount Athos the Serb monastery of Chilander:

Unfortunately the victim in 2004 of a terrible fire:

St Symeon died in 1200 and, to quote the Synaxarion of Monk Makarios of Simonos Petra 'not long after his body began to exhale a balm which worked many miracles'. Sava returned to Serbia with his father's relics to successfully put an end to a war that had broken out between his two brothers, Stephen and Vukan. After Stephen (in the wake of the fall of Constantinople) accepted papal authority over Serbia his father's relics ceased giving myrrh and only resumed when Serbia, on the intercession of Sava, was restored to Orthodoxy. Serbia won ecclesiastical independence (from the Emperor and Patriarch in exile in Nicaea) in 1219 and Sava was the first Archbishop.

A Bulgarian revolt in 1185 put an end to the direct rule of the Emperor in the region, soon followed in 1204 by the catastrophe of the Fourth Crusade (followed in turn by the further catastrophe of the fall of Kiev to the Khanate of the Golden Horde, led by Batu, grandson of Genghiz Khan, in 1240).  

This is a detail taken from 1212, showing also the Latin kingdoms on the coastline of what is now called Israel. The Romans ('Byzantines') continue in Anatolia with rival Emperors in Nicaea and Trebizond. Michael VIII Palaiologos took Constantinople from Nicaea in 1262 but the substantial power of the Empire was now broken for good. Politically and militarily the centre of action as far as Eastern Christendom was concerned moved to Bulgaria and Serbia, both of them claiming the imperial title. 

This is from 1360. We might notice that the Empire of Trebizond still has a precarious existence, Georgia and Armenia have both continued as Christian principalities independent of Constantinople.  As an indication of things to come a small 'Ottoman sultanate' has appeared facing what is left of the 'Byzantine' Empire. Also we may note the appearance of Moldavia and Wallachia (present day Romania). When finally the whole area was taken by the Ottomans, they (Wallachia followed by Moldavia) surrendered voluntarily with the result that they were allowed a greater degree of independence than the areas that had been conquered. They thus became an important centre for the continuation of Orthodox culture.