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Milan Glendza
The Orthodox Metropolitanate of Montenegro

The Orthodox Metropolitanate of Montenegro of the Littoral was founded in 1219, 1220, 1221, 1223?, according to some at Prevlaci kod Tivata, and to some others in Podgorica, which is more likely.

The first head was Saint Sava Nemanjic who also became the first archbishop of the Serbian Autocephalous Orthodox Church.

Today, on the 27th January, is the feast day of Saint Sava. He is recognised by both Catholics and Orthodox Christians. There are a few Montenegrin families who have St Sava as a Slava.

The status of an autocephalous orthodox church was granted to Saint Sava in 1219 in Nicea (and not Constantinopolis!) by the Ecumenical Patriarch Manuel Saranteros and confirmed by Emperor Theodore Laskaris. It should be noted that the Byzantium Empire faced grave dangers since it had lost its capital at Costantinopolis to the western Crusaders and the Nemanjic had paid a huge sum to obtain the autocephalous status from the beleaguered Byzantines who were in need of money. In the Middle Ages we see that money, church and dynastic (state) power were mixed together. 

The church was divided into 9 dioceses. One of these was the diocese of Zeta. The seat of the Zeta Bishops was at the Monastery of St Michael the Archangel in Prevlaka near Tivat. We have already mentioned the possibility of Podgorica. Prevlaka near Tivat was the place of the former Benedictine Monastery from the time of the old destroyed Dukljan dynasty and church. The pre-Saint Sava days, Duklja was predominantly attached to the Roman Latin Christians centered at Bar and before at Doclea. The Orthodox Christians at Drac and Ohrid and of course, ultimately from Constantinopolis had strong influences in Duklja as can be seen by the presence of eastern saints like Saint Tripun, Saint Srdj and Vlach and others in church names. The final clear-cut break with the Eastern Church came when the Dukljan kingdom defeated the Byzantines in 1042, before the 1055 East-West split. What can be said is that Duklja-Zeta-Montenegro lies on a cultural fault line between the Latin and Greek worlds. It has tried to avoid being submerged by both the Latin and Greek worlds and remain Slavic and later on by the Croat and Serbian/Rascian cultural/political worlds.

The first Zetan bishop was to become St Sava’s disciple Ilarion Sisojevic.(1220-1242). Afterwards followed German, Neofit (1250-1270), Jevstatije (1270-78), Mihailo I, Andrija, Jovan (1293-1305), Mihailo II (1305-1319), Jeftimije (1405), Arsenije (1405-17), David (1435), Teodosije (before 1446), Josif (1453), Visarion I (1452-85), Pahomije I (1491), Vavila (1493-95, mentioned in the Oktoihu 1494), German II (1520), Pavle (1530), Vasilije I (present at the Ohrid sabor in 1532), Nikodim (1540), Romil (1530-59), Makarije (1560), Ruvim I (1561), Pahomije II (1569), Gerasim (1575), Venijamin (1582-1591), Nikanor and Stevan (1591, koadjuctor according to D. Vuksan), Ruvim II Boljevic (1593-1636), Mardarije I (1636-47), Visarion II Kolinovic Kornecanin (1659), Ruvim III Boljevic Veljekarski ( 1673-85), ( Nicifor Ducic inserts Vasila II without dates), Visarion II Borilovic Bajica (1685-92), Sava (Savatije) I Kaludjercic (?) (according to some recent research he was a Petrovic) Ocinic (1694-97).

Zetan diocese was elevated to the status of Metropolitanate by the decisions of the state church council of Skoplje in 1346, presided by Emperor Stefan Dusan.

Dr Lazar Tomanovic, president, gave the following speech at the historic event of the coronation of King Nikola I:

“The Metropolitanate of Montenegro is the only diocese founded by Saint Sava which was uninterruptedly preserved until today, and as such represents the lawful throne and a descendant of the Patriarchate of Pec”.

On this feast day of Saint Sava, with the above comments, I conclude with the question, who in present day Montenegro represents the (un)lawful throne? At the moment, pictorially speaking, we have all taken our sides, and are waiting for the results! Perhaps, the issue will be categorically resolved one day by the orthodox citizens and the state structures in Montenegro. We will see!

Until then, God bless you all!

Milan Glendza

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