The charter in question was originally given out by Stefan Nemanja, the grand count of Rascia, to the Hilandar monastery in mount Athos. The translation below, however, is of an expanded version by his son, Stefan Nemanja II, who published it as a conformation of his father’s will.
When in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth and the people in it, and blessed them and gave unto them sovereignty over all His creation, he made some emperors, some dukes, others lords, and to everyone He has given to graze His flock and to protect it of all evil that would come against it. Therefore, brothers, God the all-merciful established the Greeks as emperors, and Hungarians as kings and divideth He all nations, and giveth laws, and established traditions, and lords over them according to the traditions and laws He divided with His divine wisdom.
For that reason by His great and immeasurable mercy and love of Man, He gave unto our great-grandfathers and grandfathers to rule this Serbian country and to like God work for the embetterment of peoples, not wanting human suffering, [and God] placed the Sir my father as grand count, called at his holy baptism Stefan Nemanja.
And he rebuilt and better established his fatherland1 by the help of God and his own wisdom, given to him by God. And raised up he his ruined fatherland, and retook he from the littoral country Zeta with its cities, and from the Arbanites2 Pilot, and from the Greek country Lab with Ulpiana, Dubochica, Reke, Zagrlata, Levche, Lepenica, Belica.3 And when with the help of God he with his effort received all these things and when with the help of God receiveth peace his state from everywhere, he started sharpening his wit and teaching his mind, and wishing with great haste, and caring for his soul, my Sir saint trusting noble elder Simeon4, fasted5 himself so that on the day of the Final judgment he would be counted among those that were pleasing to God, and so he would receive that heavenly and untold dwelling by some of his practices, and especially he wished to receive an angellic and apostolic character. And fasted he himself so would with increasing success he follow the Archpriest’s6 word, which he said. “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy.”7 For because the Holy Scripture announces “The love of God is embedded in the faithful”, to him, therefore, it embedded the most.
And when much time passed, and when we his children were fed until fullness, he started sending prayers to the All-merciful Archpriest, to not relieve him of that which he wants, but to, opening his ears, listen.
He was carried by his thoughts and wished: as if he stood at an elevated place, in springtime, on a happy day, that is, sunny; saw he a flat meadow from afar, beautiful in its appearance, pretty in its creation. In its middle stood a wonderful tree, rounded in its branches, full of leaves, over-embellished in flowers and full of fruit, giving off a faint smell. And in the middle of the tree settled wise a bird of love, his sweet child, who was once my brother by virtue of birth, known as Sava the monk. He sat in the tree, that is, in Mount Athos, and with a never-ending voice, tall throat, clear sound, shifting between voices beautiful and wonderful, sung unusual songs. And that voice came a sweet-voiced bird, disciplined in its sit, quiet in its song, joyful in chirp, clear in its whisper, one into the ears of my awesome and wonderful Sir my saint Simeon, the noble elder. And the other birds, sitting on the lower branches, happily supported her sweet voice with their own.
And watching him, this beautiful man the loved and sweet child of his, which had went and separated itself, he stepped in the holy meadow, and [watching] the pretty tree and beautiful birds, he thought in himself this voice: “Let me get down into this wonderful meadow; by coming, I will see all the beauty of the tree, and by coming close to it, I will get enough of the voice of that beautiful bird.”
While he thought of this, his all-merciful Archpriest did not envy his prayers, which came from the depths of his heart, but like a steady receiver of efforts and giver of rewards He said with His unhidden mouth: “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”8 When decent time had passed, all the glory and honor of this world he [Stefan Nemanja] had not counted into anything, and the beauty of this world became to his sights like smoke; Christ’s love yet grew in him and burned his heart within him, for it was like a readied home for Him and a vessel for His Holy Spirit.
He left his state, given to him by God, and all of his exceptional and varying property, because Christ God wanted so as did the Archpriestess9 and Lady Theotokos10. They fed him full of the unrepentant holy wish and made of him an actor of the untold and noble angelic and apostolic character, small and large. When this had happened, after by some means Christ established this in his mind and taught my noble and blessed elder saint Simeon, he placed me, his Christ-given child, on his throne and his Christ-given state, me, his beloved son, Stefan grand count and sebastokrator11, brother-in-law of the God-crowned Sir Alexius, emperor of Greece.
And he as an ascetic and child-loving sweet elder, my Sir saint Simeon, even if I am unworthy to be called his son, blessed me over my brothers, as blessed Isaac Jacob, his son, with every blessing. And he started teaching me to be effortful in every blessed deed in my state, and to be merciful to the Christian people he gave to me, and ordered me to take care of the churches and the monks who serve in them and to never be in oversight of the Archpriest of all and Lord.
Afterwards, by the wishes of our Archpriest Jesus Christ, as announces the Holy Scripture: “Remove yourselves from your places and hometowns, for no prophet was received in his fatherland.”12, but receives salvations with those who live for Christ’s sake, he went out from his country and his children, and the ground beneath him, so he would get to the meadow prior described, and the wonderful tree and sweet bird, and there receive salvation. And the Archpriest our Lord Jesus Christ did not leave him for He cheers more for one sinner who repents. Quickly he descended from the mount on the plain [meadow], that is mount Athos, whence he heard that on that meadow a quiet and ruly life is lived, and that orthodoxy is well-rooted and that it shines brightly, like some tree that stands beautifully, with its branches enlightened and God-fearing and Christ-loving monks and all the holy church congregation; and in their midst like a sweet-voiced bird, Sava the monk, a dear solace to the Christ-loving elder; with clear also leaves and beautiful flowers of prophecy, which are the teachings of the holy Gospels and the apostolic traditions and the sayings of the Church fathers; and many fruits, that’s the rope, the root of faith, and the fruit of good hope, with what was said already, and faint smell. And truly he wished for a reposal on the tree in which was the voice-altering bird. That altering voice, o my God-loving Sir, I13 write the five visions of your senses: listening to the tree, smelling, singing, petting of the birds and flying and the rest.
For he went out of his fatherland and into the meadow, that is mount Athos, and findeth he some former monastery, named Mileie14, the Presentation of the holy and most honorable Archpriestess Theotokos15, where not a stone stood on stone, but all was broken everywhere. And he forced his old age, and me even if unworthy of being called his son, raising me to rebuild the holy place. And I, following the commandments of the Archpriest, who said three things in the holy Gospels: “Love the Lord God with all your heart with all your soul”16 and “thy neighbor as thyself”17; thirdly: “honor thine mother and thine father”18, for testified for me my Sir saint Simeon. His will I have fulfilled regarding the Church and other things, that he obliged me on.
And remembering the noble lives of my famed parents, how beauty, how ruling the people, how glory and wealth turns to love of nothingness by the attraction of God’s love, I thought to myself that that my Archpriest Jesus Christ would make me worthy to be a pilgrim there in the most holy Archpriestess our Theotokos19, and may the light always shine in her temple and my the grave of the honorable and trusting elder, my holy Sir Simeon the monk. I have been deemed worthy to be, with him, a patron and servant. And with his prayers I revived him, and giveth villages to the monastery: Jurjevich20, Petrovich, Krushevo, Knina, Rubach, Potok, Drstnik, Grebnik, Govan, Zalyug, and mount Dobre Dole, and two vineyards and the marketplace of Kninac; and in Zeta half of Kamenishte, with its people. And afterwards I added Viden and Belichishte with upper Vranichi until Gradishte.
By this, I beg you, my Sirs and brothers, to whoever God gives this throne and state after me, to not insult the most holy Theotokos in all the rights written here, and to not abolish my word or gift. If one recalls this and insults the holy Theotokos, may God curse him and may the holy Theotokos be his enemy before her Son on the day of Christ’s Last judgment. For if he changes my word, that is if he ruins whatever is holy for his own soul, it won’t be hard for him from the others who will be lords after him. By acting I did not abolish the deeds, givings of lords which were before me, but I added to it and made enough, fulfillments in all needs, into the ages of ages, Amen.