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Nomocanon of Saint Sava
Savino Zakonopravilo - Ilovichki prepis, 1262.jpg
First page of St. Sava's Nomocanon, 1262 manuscript
Author(s)Rastko Nemanji? (Saint Sava)
PurposeConstitution (Code)

The Nomocanon of Saint Sava (Serbian Cyrillic: ?), known in Serbian as Zakonopravilo (?) or Krm?ija (?), was the highest code in the Serbian Orthodox Church, finished in 1219. This legal act was written in simple folk language and its basic purpose was to organize continuation and functioning of the Serbian kingdom and the Serbian church. It was originally printed under the name ,,Rules of Speech" (,,? ") in the language of Ra?ka, in two issues, one for Vla?ka and another one for Erdelja in 1640.

Byzantine nomocanons

The first time a church codex like this is mentioned was in 451. in relation to decisions made on the council of Chalcedon. This codex includes a synopsis of all the rules. It is believed that this codex was written by Stefan Efesian which is why it was named The Synopsis of Stefan Efesian. John III Sholasticus, the Patriarch of Constantinople, was the writer of the first church-civil codex in which the subject is arranged systematically considering the questions that it deals with. The twelve Novellae of tsar Justinian that are related to the subject of church and law are also a part of this codex. It is known as the Nomocanon of John Sholasticus (somewhere around the 550.) and the Syntagma of John Sholasticus ( ?). Nomocanons that contain the rules but not the explanations are also called syntagmas. In the beginning of the seventh century two important acts were combined into one. The Canon Syntagma, written by patriarch Sergius, and a codex that was made as a part of Justinian's law, by an unknown author, were taken by a jurist named Julian who turned them into a new codex named Nomocanon in 14 Titles ( ? 14 ?). In the 883. into the nomocanon were added the rules made on the Trullan and Second council of Nicaea, the rules made on the Constantinople assemblies and on a great number of civil assemblies. Patriarch Photios wrote a foreword of this nomocanon which is why it was named after him. The nomocanon of Photios was proclaimed an official law document of the Christian church by the four eastern patriarchs, on their council in Constantinople in 920.

Nomocanon of Methodius

The first slavic nomocanon was written by Methodius (somewhere around 868.). It was mentioned in The Kingdom of Slavs (? ?) by a priest from Bar, written somewhere between 1167 and 1173. This nomocanon got its name, Liber Sclavorum qui dicitur Methodius, after his writer, slavic enlightener Methodius. The Liber Sclavorum qui dicitur Methodius was made out of two codexes- Methodius's translation of Nomocanon by John Sholasticus and Slavic alternation of Eclogue ( ). Eclogue is byzantine codex, dating from the mid of eight century. It was most likely written by Leo III or Constantine V as a short version of Justinian's codex. Methodius's nomocanon was written just before Methodius went off to Donja Panonija to visit Prince Kocelj (869-870 and 873-874) and it applied to all Slavs.

Content of Zakonopravilo

Zakonopravilo consists out of 7 introductory chapters:

1. A word about seven ecumenical councils

2. Interpretation of the line that follows: "Jesus Christ, have mercy on us."

3. Interpretation of the Nicene creed: "We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of all things visible and invisible."

4. Interpretation of the prayer which the Lord Jesus Christ taught the apostles, and us along with them, with which to pray, saying :"Our Father who art in heaven."

5. Prologue of those who reduced the sacred rules to 14 branches

6. Nomocanon in 14 Titles

7. The introduction to the Nomocanon

The 63 more chapters are to follow:

1. The rules of the apostles and church fathers imbued with the interpretation of Alexius Aristinos

2. The rules of Saint Paul

3. The rules of both Saints Peter and Paul

4. The rules of all saints apostles

5. Decisions and rules of the First ecumenical council

6. The rules of the holy Synod of Ancyra

7. The rules of the holy Synod of Neo-Caesarea

8. The rules of the holy Synod of Gangra

9. The rules of the holy Synod of Antioch

10. The rules of the holy Synod of Laodicea

11. Decisions and rules of the Second ecumenical council

12. Decisions and rules of the Third ecumenical council

13. Decisions and rules of the Fourth ecumenical council

14. The rules of the holy Synod of Sardica

15. The rules of the holy Synod of Carthage

16. Memoirs transacted in Constantinople concerning Agapius and Gabadius

17. Decisions and rules of the Sixth ecumenical council

18. Decisions and rules of the Seventh ecumenical council

19. The rules of the First and Second councils, held in Constantinople, in the Church of the Holy Apostles

20. The three rules of council in the Hagia Sophia church in Constantinople

21. The rules from the epistles of Saint Basil the Great addressed to Amphilochius, Diodorus and others

22. 26 rules of Saint Basil the Great about time for sinning

23. The rules of Saint Basil the Great about the size and looks of the places for those who do penance

24. A lesson about the divine service, Holy communion, and those who take care of those who do penance, which Basil the Great dedicated to the presbyter

25. A letter by Basil the Great to Gregory of Nazianzus about the establishment of monks

26. The rules from epistle of Saint Tarasios to the Roman Pope Adrian I, forbidding payment for ordination

27. The rules of Saint Dionysius

28. The rules of Saint Peter

29. The rules of Saint Gregory Thaumaturgus

30. The rules of Athanasius the Great

31. The rules from the epistle of Athanasius the Great to Bishop Ruphinianus

32. The rules from the speech of Saint Gregory of Nazianzus

33. The rules of Saint Gregory Nyssen

34. The rules of Saint Timothy

35. Theophilalus' explanation of Epiphany when it falls on a Sunday

36. The rules from the Epistle of Saint Cyril to Nestorius

37. Cyril's rules about orthodoxy, 12 chapters against Nestorius

38. The rules from the epistle of Saint Gennadius

39. The rules from the epistle of the council in Constantinople to Marthiruius, bishop of Antioch, about how to accept heretics who approach the Cathedral

40. Chapters of the great church, Hagia Sophia, sealed with Justinian's golden stamp, about slaves who seek refuge in the church

41. The rules of Dimitrios, metropolitan of Cyzicus

42. The rules about the Bogomils

43. The epistle of archbishop Peter, Antiochian Venetian archbishop

44. The epistle of Beatified Chernorizets Nilus to presbyter Haricles

45. Codex of John Sholasticus in 87 chapters

46. Novella of a pious man, Alexius I Comnenus

47. A branch of tsar Justinian's novellae

48. Regulations of Moses' legislation

49. The epistles of monk Niketas against the Latins, dispraise for introducing fasting on Saturdays

50. The same as 49, dispraise for introducing celibate for the clergy

51. The same as 50, about French and other Latins

52. The same as 51.

53. The same as 52.

54. The same as 53.

55. Translation of Proheiron

56. The rules about forbidden and permitted marriages

57. The same as 56.

58. The same as 57.

59. The same as 58.

60. The same as 59.

61. Articles about heresy

62. The same as 61.

63. The same as 62.

Social justice

Like it was already mentioned, one of the most renowned topics in Zakonopravilo is social justice, which was quite advanced for this age. Saint Sava expands the boundaries of social justice, confronting the norms of Byzantine civil law and slave society. He accentuates the christian teaching about social justice, justifying it by saying that norms should serve a man and not the public interest. There are a lot of rules about social justice in Zakonopravilo but the most significant one hails from the fourth introductory chapter. This chapter was taken from Saint John Chrysostom's interpretation of "Our father" and it goes like this: Because, he didn't say Mine father but Our father.... So nobody  should ever worry only about themselves but also about their neighbours, and nobody should have more than the other: neither the rich from the poor, neither the lord from the servant, neither a prince from those upon he rules, neither a tsar from the soldier, neither the wisest from the unlearned, because to all he gave one gratitude." This regulation proclaims the equality of all people regardless of their financial gain and their social status, it does not allow oppression and it strives for welfare. It is completely in the contrary to the principles that slave society made back then.

Shelter of the poor and the role of noble homes

Shelter of the poor and the role of noble homes is mentioned in the 48. chapter of Zakonopravilo in the section named "about court and justice" that was taken from the third and fifth book of Moses. What Sava wanted to emphasize with this section was philanthropy. He stresses that more attention should be paid to laws than to words, and that laws should be interpreted in a way that encourages philanthropy. Shelter and assistance for the most endangered (the poor) was defined as ethical and just while looking up to rich and powerful was unethical and unacceptable. Some regulations of Zakonopravilo underline that people and institutions which are most likely to be asked to provide protection of the weak are bishops, deacons and presbyters (basically the church as an institution). Zakonopravilo contains two canons which tell us more about this:

-59. apostles' canon provides excommunication from the church for bishops or presbyters who won't give a poor cleric what he's in need of and taking away their rank if they remain merciless (because they are murderers of their own brother)

-7. canon from Synod of Sardica includes not only the poor but also the ones who are unprotected from violence. Those can seek the help from bishop who is obliged to assist as much as he can or to go to tsar personally and ask him for help if needed.

The more population grew the more grew poverty. Since bishops had to perform their church duties they weren't able to protect that many powerless people from abusers and famine. The solution was to establish services that the church representatives (ecdics) chosen by tsar would carry out. Ecdics were not only executors of the church but also judges in a way because it was expected of them to defend interests of the church even in the courtroom. However, some ecdics were responsible for more than only church questions. This is known from some tsar's decrees, for instance: tsar Theodosius the First wrote to Constantinople's ecdic saying he shouldn't let peasants and citizens be oppressed by taxes, that he should help repressing arrogance of archonts and should take care of his folk as of his children. Because of the importance of his role, participation of respectable citizens leaded by bishop and clergy in ecdic elections is regulated by law.

Another mechanism of help and protection of the poor is mentioned in the second chapter of Zakonopravilo which was taken from Proheiron: "If the self-supporting man is involved in a  lawsuit with his guardian, it is necessary he seeks help."

Proheiron also answers the question of who is considered to be poor-" the one who has less than 50 gold coins in his belongings is poor.

One of the most important ways of protecting the poor and helpless is building the noble homes (churches, monasteries, hospices, public kitchens, residences of the impoverished, hospitals). Regulations referring to noble homes are mostly taken from John Sholasticus' Canon in 87 chapters or Justinian's Novellae. Here are some of them:

-If the testator informs in writing that he has a wish of founding a noble home, a bishop or a head of that area is obliged to make that happen in a 5 year period and to do as the testator specified in his will (for instance if he selected the administrators he finds suitable).

-Possessions inherited by the church are used for feeding the poor.

-Those who ask to have back their possessions which were already designated for feeding the poor are never to be forgiven.

Noble homes could have been leased but only under the strict surveillance so malpractice and damage infliction are avoided. Every damage just worsens the position of the poor. Lease could be granted for an unlimited period of time. At the same time, ways of making a lease contract were specified, for example by having administrative staff of the noble home swear an oath in front of a bishop promising there will be no damage caused.

Mutual responsibilities of parents and children

Mutual responsibilities of parents and children make another important section of Zakonopravilo that refers to the question of social justice. The author strived to highlight the importance of families, in which life evolves and social awareness awakens. He believed that respecting the parents is one of the greatest family values. This is why those who disrespect it and abuse their mothers or fathers are punished severely-with the death penalty. Proheiron prescribes a milder punishment-those who are guilty shall be disinherited. In case of sickness, children also have obligations to their parents. If parents are mentally or physically ill and their children refuse to look after them, then they, as legal heirs, could be disinherited. Children have one more obligation concerning inheritance law. They should not disinherit their parents or alienate their property which could be bequeathed- it is strictly forbidden in all but the following situations: when parents give up their children for execution, when parents practice witchcraft to harm their children, when the father seduces son's wife or concubine or when parents endanger each other. Children who abandon their parents and excuse themselves with nothing but piety while showing no respect, will be doomed, and vice versa (for parents who abandon their children before adulthood). Certain civil regulations were influenced by these canon norms. Parents are not allowed to disinherit their children nor children to disinherit their parents when leaving for the monastery, if the motive for disinheriting appeared before the monastic life. Zakonopravilo also regulates the way property of those who enter the monastic life should be divided. If a monk has children, he can bequeath his property before or after leaving for the monastery so his children are provided with heritage. If he dies before making a will, children are to take what is their legally while the rest of the property is given to the monastery. Zaokonopravilo lays down the rules of inheritance for children whose father (if he did not live in the monastery) died and who now live with a poor mother or mother in law. In this case, if de cuius has three children or less the wife gets a quarter of the property, whether children are hers or from the previous marriage. If he has more than three children then the wife gets just as much as one child gets for use (owners of that property are their own children).

The old, the powerless and those with physical deformities

Saint Sava paid attention to the old, the powerless and to those with physical deformities too. Since ageing usually comes along with diseases, weakness, sadness...the author's aim was to provide respect and legal protection for this category of people. That is why in the chapter 48 of Zakonopravilo under the "about respecting the graybeards" heading there is to be found a regulation from the books of Moses: "Before the face of the gray-haired stand up and respect the face of the old."

Saint Sava wrote an interpretation of the whole canon, including Aristinos' comments, regarding this topic. He also added that: "If any Clergyman imitates or ridicules the blind, the deaf or the lame, or those crippled in any other way-he shall be deposed because he is an offense to God who created him."

Another way to protect these people was to give them a opportunity of inheritance. Besides this, the only way for their relatives to inherit them is to manage their property during lifetime. Also, the law dictates that the blind can name their own heir verbally, by having seven or five witnesses present.

The position of women

The position of women actually represents one of the most important indicators of social awareness in society. Roman marriage law enables a relatively easy divorce by written statement (labellum repudii) or by an agreement (divortum ex consensu). Byzantine marriage law had difficulty in freeing itself from its Roman heritage, until tsar Justinian made important limitations to the novellae in 542. which were later transferred to Nomocanon in 14 titles (47th chapter of Zakonopravilo). With this law marital security of women was also strengthened in both families of priests and secular families. When it comes to families of priests, Zakonopavilo dictates that if a presbyter or a deacon banishes his wife (for example by excusing himself with piety) and decides not to take her back, his title will be taken away. The rule in secular families is that if a man leaves his wife, for any reason other than the ones regulated by law, and weds another he will be denied holy communion, while a woman that leaves her husband will be cursed. The only legitimate reason for a divorce, according to canonical teaching, is adultery. Nevertheless, Saint Sava couldn't stay within the boundaries of church teaching when it came to reasons for divorce. He prescribes part of a novella written by tsar Leo VI the Wise which states that if a man has an insane wife that doesn't get better within 3 years, he has the right to divorce her. After that, in the 11th chapter of Proheiron is a list of reasons from which a woman can ask for a divorce: if the husband is working against the state or knows anyone else that might be without revealing it, if he does anything to harm the wife in any way, if he forces her to be unfaithful... For a divorce to happen, in the case of the wife committing adultery, doubt alone is not enough but a proof is needed. If it is determined that the wife was in fact unfaithful, the husband gets the premarital gift and the dowry, but if its proven otherwise the woman can get a divorce and take her dowry and premarital gift back. If they had no children the woman also has the right to her husband's possessions worth up to a third of the premarital gift. In the case of the husband being unfaithful, the woman can choose not to leave her husband if he stops living with another woman after his wife requests it. If a slave was involved in the adultery, the punishments are a little bit more rigorous:

When the husband commits adultery with a slave the act will be revealed to the public, the husband will be punished by beating and the slave will be sold to another region.

When a married woman commits adultery with her slave, she will get punished by beating, cutting her hair, cutting off her nose, banishing and confiscating her belongings and the slave is punished by the sword.

The difference in punishment for men and women for the same act of deviancy is quite apparent. Nevertheless, there are situations in which they will be punished equally - when a man puts the woman's life at risk, or the other way around, the crime will be revealed to the public and an immediate retaliation is requested.

According to the church, widows and poor women were the most socially endangered group so they were accordingly given the most protection. An article was carried over from The Second Book of Moses to Zakonopravilo stating: "You must not mistreat any widow or orphan. If you do mistreat them, and they cry out to Me in distress, I will surely hear their cry. My anger will be kindled, and I will kill you with the sword; then your wives will become widows and your children will be fatherless". The first way of protecting a widow is the inheritance she will get (if her deceased husband has up to three children), which is ¼ (one fourth) of the husband's assets, which can not be over 100 liters of gold. The second way is that the church is obliged to feed and take care of the widow if she were to request it.

Just like the widows, poor women were also protected. According to the book of tsar, a person that defamed a virgin will get their nose cut off and will be obliged to give a third of all their assets to the woman in question. Proheiron states that if a person were to have a relationship with a girl younger than 13, that person would have their nose cut off, and will be obliged to give half of all their assets to the girl in question. If a person were to abduct an engaged woman, they would be obliged to give her back to her fiancée, and if they were to abduct a woman that was not engaged, they would be obliged to give her back to her family (parents, guardians, brothers...), which would later decide if she was to marry her captor. This regulation was adopted in Synod of Ancyra. Saint Basil later made some significant changes to this regulation with the 22. cannon. However, the book of tsar and the Proheiron were not in agreement with the idea of a woman marrying her captor, they even strictly forbid it (according to the Proheiron, a parent that wishes his daughter marries her captor will be imprisoned). Civil legislation in the Proheiron states the following in the case of a person defiling a woman with her consent, but without the consent of her parents: If the woman is not engaged, the man who defiled her can marry her if he chooses to do so, but only with the consent of her parents. If the parents do not consent, and the man is wealthy, he is obliged to give the woman a liter of gold. If the man is poor, he is obliged to give the woman half of his property. If the man is disabled, he is to be beaten and banished. In the case of the woman being engaged there are two possibilities. If the woman consented the man will be punished by getting his nose cut off. If the woman did not consent, apart from getting his nose cut off, the man will also be obliged to give her a third of his property.

In the case of poor women, Zakonoprailo protects them with the following articles:

Marriage between a guardian (and his closest relatives) and a poor woman is forbidden, so that she can protect herself from being abused by the people in whose care she is.

If moribund parents appoint a guardian for their daughter, he can not marry her off or abrogate a previous marriage without her consent.

Captives, exiles and prisoners

Prisoners were considered the most socially endangered of all because in exchange for their freedom even censers were allowed for sale. The importance of freeing prisoners is represented in one specific regulation that says that monks who, when leaving the monastery, ask to have their possessions back even though they were used to release prisoners, will never be forgiven. Anyone could bequeath their property to prisoners for the sake of their release. Prisoner's heirs (especially children) are bound by the law to use the heritage in order to help the prisoner make free. If not, the church shall take away the property and use it with that purpose. If children are to neglect their imprisoned parents, and they manage to free themselves, they have the right to choose whether children will become a part of their will or not. If they fail to free themselves or die while in captivity because of their children's neglect, the children shall be disinherited and the property will be given to the church with the aim of paying ransom for others. The same is the case with relatives who are named as heirs. When a child is taken to captivity, parent's obligations are not much different. Parents are disinherited if their child passes away in captivity because of their neglect. In the aim of releasing captives it was allowed for anyone (older than 18) to take gold as a loan and pawn his own or prisoner's belongings. A male minor is not obliged to have a custodian if his father is held captive, but he needs to have a property guardian. After the father is released the son is back in his power. A woman could also be held in custody and if someone was to pay her ransom she would become his wife and their children would be legitimate.A dying soldier is also considered socially endangered. If a soldier realizes his end is near he can bequeath his property in front of two witnesses and his will be accepted as valid. Exiles and captives were also considered socially endangered. A woman could also sell her dowry in order to feed her exiled father, brother or husband. Those who were captivated temporarily did not lose their inheritance rights.


Many regulations of Zakonopravilo represent a great contrast between the slave society and Christian teaching. Christian teaching proclaims freedom and equality of all, including both slaves and masters. However, slavery was so deeply rooted that it took a couple of centuries for people to start perceiving slaves as more than things (res). Chapter 55 of Zakonopravilo (Prochiron) states that slavery is opposing to nature which made everyone free, but the need for wars created slavery since the law of war states that victors are to rule the losers. Also, a person is either born a slave or becomes a slave (in captivity) and all slaves are equal-nobody is more or less of a slave. On the one hand, slaves could be tortured by masters but on the other hand, the greatest punishment would ensue for the slave that tries to endanger his master's life. A master could be convicted if he tortures his slave for a long time before killing him, but if he murders him without torture he will get away with no punishment. Two rules were taken from Moses' legislation:

1. A master who murders a slave by his own hand is to be punished

2. A slave has its monetary value

Because of the second rule, it's worse to hit a slave than to hit a freeman. Both master and slave benefit from this- master makes profit out of it and a slave is protected from injuries that would cause his price to drop. More favorable are church regulations. Masters are mentioned in a mindful way so their anger towards the slaves would be reduced, while slaves are not encouraged to rebel or slaughter. Instead they are asked to be loyal and serve their masters in order to make them more willing to grant freedom. Slaves could be named as priests only with their master's consent and if it was given to them they would be set free. If it wasn't, and if the slave decided to leave church and start living a worldly life, a master was allowed to regain power over him in a one year period. Master's consent was necessary when a slave wanted to become a monk too. Those who encouraged slaves to leave their masters, excusing themselves with piety, would be convicted and the slaves who would, would be doomed. This regulation shows how careful and strict slave society was when it comes to releasing slaves, but also when it comes to protecting the real and pure significance of piety. For a very long time, freeing the slaves was possible only in tsar's chambers until the Synod of Carthage where ,,the fathers of the synod" asked the tsar to allow the slaves to be freed in churches too. Next regulation with whom slaves were protected stated that when a master frees his slave before two witnesses, the slave can no longer be enslaved by anyone. Chapter 40. of Zakonopravilo is named "Chapters of the great church, Hagia Sophia, sealed up with Justinian's golden stamp, about slaves who resort to church" and it contains six rules from which only one does not regard slaves.

1. If a freeman is enslaved and he turns to church, his master will be invited and if he doesn't come than the slave will be freed.

2. If a master or someone else tortures the slave with hunger or nudity, and the master does nothing to stop it, the slave must be sold to somebody else so he wouldn't die from hunger.

3. Not related to slaves.

4. If a slave resorts to church for no reason, he will be punished and returned to his master.

5. If a slave asked for the master to come and take him home himself, and the master sent a representative instead, in that way disobeying slave's wishes, the church is obliged to handover the slave nevertheless (for instance- to lord's most loyal servant).

6. Masters of slaves who escape to church should always be notified to come and take them since running away is offensive and it requires a punishment.

One of the most important strides in establishing a more humane relationship towards slaves was to give them a possibility to become heirs. An heir could be their own slave, but they could also be someone else's. The social status of slaves was also improving when it came to family law. A child conceived between a free mother and a slave father is free upon birth because his mother was free while giving birth, even if she was a slave when the child was conceived. It also goes the other way around, if the mother was a free woman when the child was conceived, but a slave while giving birth, the child will be a free person. In Alexius I Comnenus's novella (46. chapter of Zakonopravilo) in the year 1095. slaves are no longer defined as things and their marriage is declared equal to marriage of free people. Until then, slaves would get married without a church ceremony, because their owners were afraid that would make their slaves in to free people. Tsar declared that the church ceremony should same for everyone, and that without it the marriage would be considered an obscenity. Alexius explained his decision by stating: "There is one Lord for everyone, one faith, one baptism for both slave and master, but what is the difference in faith - we do not know; therefore, all of us are slaves as well to the one that got us out of our slavery".


During the Nemanji? dynasty (1166-1371), the Serbian medieval state flourished in the spheres of politics, religion and culture. A large number of monasteries were built, far more than in previous centuries. The country was expanding between three seas and urban life became highly developed. Trade, mining and manufacturing were significantly expanded. Serbia and the Nemanji? dynasty became well known and respected. The ruling family, despite becoming prosperous, was widely known for piety and religious dedication and was praised and celebrated by following generations. Formal establishment of a kingdom (1217) and religious independence (1219) came after extensive political efforts by Stefan Nemanja (founder of the dynasty) and his sons, Stefan Nemanji? (first Serbian king) and Sava Nemanji? (first Serbian archiepiscope). To create a lasting foundation for this independent state it was necessary to produce a legal system that established regulations for the Serbian kingdom and Serbian church. During this period, only the tsar could establish legal acts and laws, which would fill the gaps in common law. As the state developed, so did industry, and thus the legal system had to regulate various relations. Therefore, with the development of an economy, Roman Law was adopted. It is important to note that prior to the Nemanji? era, Serbia was not ruled by a Tsar, so its ruler could not create a code of laws which would regulate the relations in the state and church. Serbian rulers reigned with single legal acts and decrees. In order to overcome this problem and organize the legal system after acquiring religious independence, Saint Sava finished his Zakonopravilo in 1219.

Zakonopravilo is inseparably connected to gaining religious independence. Saint Sava most likely brought an already written nomocanon to Nicaea, when he went there in 1219. to request independence for the Serbian church from the Patriarch of Constantinople. It is hardly believable that Patriarch would have accepted the creation of Serbian independent church, before he had seen the nomocanon book that would regulate the functioning of the new church. After that, on his way back to Serbia, Saint Sava spent short time in Thessaloniki where he completed the nomocanon. It is most likely that he began the work on the Serbian nomocanon in 1208. while being at Mount Athos, using the Synopsis of Stefan the Efesian, Nomocanon of John Scholasticus, Nomocanon in 14 Titles, Ecumenical Councils' documents, which he modified with the canonical commentaries of Aristinos and John Zonaras, local church meetings, rules of the Holy Fathers, the law of Moses, translation of Prohiron and the Byzantine emperors's Novellae (most were taken from Justinian's Novellae).

Zakonopravilo was a completely new compilation of civil and religious regulations, taken from Byzantine sources, but completed and reformed by Saint Sava in order to function properly in Serbia. Beside decrees that organized the life of church, there are various norms regarding civil life, most of them were taken from Proheiron.[1]

It consisted out of 70 chapters: 6 in the introduction, 44 dedicated to church law and 20 to civil law. Despite being based on byzantine codexes, Zakonopravilo contained Sava's own interpretations which increased its value. Saint Sava dedicated a great number of regulations to the protection of the poor and disempowered. He also accentuated the equality of state and church which lead to the acceptance of Symphonia, the orthodox theory which posits that church and state are to compliment each other.

Multiple transcripts were preserved until this day:

-The transcript of Ilovica dates back to 1262. It was written in the Monastery of Saint Archangel Michael (today the Monastery of Saint Archangels next to Tivat) where the headquarter of [[Ze bishopric was located. It consists out of 398 parchment pages and is today kept in the library of Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts.

-The transcript of Ra?ka became in the year 1305. in Peter's church in Ras. It is written on parchment and it contains 427 pages. It is kept in the Museum of History in Moscow.

-The transcript of De?ani was also written on parchment in the 1340. It has 284 pages and is kept in the library of De?ani Monastery.

-The transcript of P?inj dates back to 1370. Unlike the previous ones, it was written on paper. It has a leather bind and 305 pages. It is kept in the Serbian Academy of Science and Arts.

-The transcript of Mora? became around the year of 1615. It consists out of 347 paper pages. It is kept in the Museum of Serbian Orthodox Church.

-The transcripts of Sarajevo and Hilandar became in the XIV century.

-The transcript of Belgrade became in the XV century.

-The transcripts of Pe? and Savina became in the XVI century.

-The Canon of John Zlokruhovi? became in the XVII century.

-The Nomocanon of Szentendre became in the XVII century.

Legal transplants of Roman-Byzantine law became the basis of Serbian medieval law and Serbia became the part of European and Christian civilization. In the 13th century Zakonopravilo was transferred to Bulgaria and from there to Russia. It was printed in Moscow twice- in the 1650 and 1653, under the name of Krm?ija but it was also reprinted during the 18th and 19th century. The last edition dates back to 1914. The first edition was found to be incorrect and the second one was printed in 1200 copies of which some reached the Serbs. Since the 17th century the Serbs have been using the Russian printed editions of Sava's Zakonopravilo. The name Krm?ija was also accepted from Russia and it alludes to church being steered by the nomocanon. Originally Zakonopravilo didn't contain Zakon sudni ljudem and Sud cara Leona i Konstanina (Slavic alterations of Eclogue) but the printed version of Zakonopravilo does.

So, Roman-Byzantine law was transplanting among East Europe through Zakonopravilo. In Serbia, it was considered as the code of the divine law and it was implemented into Du?an's code[2] (1349 and 1354). It was the only code among Serbs in the time of the Ottoman reign.

Sud Ivana Crnojevi?a

The legislative tradition of Serbian folk is also to be seen in Montenegro. Just before the loss of their independence in the feudal age, between 1486 and 1490, a short codex was written. It consisted of only 7 articles and it is known as ?he Verdict of Tsar and Patriarch ( ? ) or The Verdict of Ivan Crnojevi? ( ?). It is based on the alteration of Du?an's code(? ?) from the fifteenth century. Around the beginning of the 19th century when Montenegro started developing characteristics of an independent country, Peter I made a Codex in 33 lines (? ? 33 ).

Codex of Podunavlje

Codex of Podunavlje was only a draft that never gained legal power. Nevertheless, it witnesses an eternal need of Serbs to arrange state relations legally. Serbs from Srednje Podunavlje used Krm?ija as a source for their own codex. This codex had 27 articles which were not labeled by numbers in the manuscript. The labeling was done by Aleksandar Solovjev, who prepared the edition of the codex and wrote both juristical and historical comment on it, in the "Glas" ("Voice") of Serbian ?cademy of Sciences and Arts. In the sixteenth article it is mentioned that some parts of the codex were taken from Zakon sudnji ljudem, Zakon gradski (Proheiron) and Sud cara Leona i Konstanina (Eclogue). All of the laws above were already a part of Krm?ija but articles have undergone minor or bigger alterations. It was written in folk language with an exception of some lines in church slavic. Pavle ?afarik got the hold of the manuscript soon before leaving Novi Sad in 1831. It is now kept in his manuscript collection in National Museum of Prague.


During the Serbian Revolution (1804) priest Mateja Nenadovi? established Zakonopravilo as the code for the liberated Serbia. It was also implemented in Serbian civil code (1844). Zakonopravilo is still used in the: Russian, Bulgarian, and Serbian Orthodox Churches as the highest church code.[3]

See also


  1. ^ ?arki?, Sr?an. "The Concept of Marriage in Roman, Byzantine and Serbian Mediaeval Law" (PDF). [ doiSerbia]. Belgrade, Serbia: National Library of Serbia. Retrieved ., originally published in closed access ?arki?, Sr?an (2005). " ? ?, ? ? " [The Concept of Marriage in Roman, Byzantine and Serbian Mediaeval Law]. Zbornik radova Vizantolo?kog instituta [Byzantine Studies]. Belgrade, Serbia: Vizantolo?ki Institut (41): 99-103. OCLC 225433680. Retrieved .(subscription required)
  2. ^ "Dusanov Zakonik". Dusanov Zakonik. Retrieved .
  3. ^ "Zakonopravilo".

3. Zakonopravilo


  • Miodrag, Petrovi?. Krm?ija Svetog Save-Za?tita obespravljenih i socijalno ugro?enih.

Further reading

  • Grozdi?, Borislav D. (2010). "Nomokanon of St. Sava concerning murder in the war". Theoria. 53 (4): 87-104. doi:10.2298/THEO1004087G.
  • Petrovi?, Miodrag M. (1997). "Zakonopravilo svetoga Save o Muhamedovom u?enju". Manastir Svetog arhi?akona Stefana. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  • Petrovi?, Miodrag M. (1995). "Pomen bogomila-babuna u Zakonopravilu svetoga Save i crkva bosanska". Manastir Svetog archi?akona Stefana. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  • Petrovi?, Miodrag M. (1990). "O Zakonopravilu ili Nomokanonu svetoga Save: rasprave". Kultura. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  • Petrovi?, Miodrag M. (1983). "Krm?ija Svetoga Save o za?titi obespravljenih i socijalno ugro?enih". Narodna biblioteka Srbije. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)

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