The aged ruler of Serbia – Stefan Nemanja – his monastic name Simeon – comes to Mt. Athos in the late autumn of 1197. His most loyal companions of many battles follow him, most of whom are for the first time in the country of Byzantia without having come to plunder or raid. They had also brought rich gifts for the monasteries of the Holy Mountain.

Nemanja’s youngest son Rastko, now young monk Sava, was kept in distributing food to Athonian hermits.

A touching reuniting of the father and the son occurs at evening service to which Sava arrived belated.

After six years of separation, the aging father and the rapidly matured son take time to be reacquainted.

It turns out that Nemanja came to Mt. Athos perhaps primarily to send Sava back to Serbia. He thinks Serbia cannot do without a father. After the death of his father, he too went to war with his brother, and now, when he resigned power, a new conflict looms between his sons Vukan and Stefan. Nemanja is certain that a bloody brotherly feud will onset as soon as he is dead. The breakup of Serbia looms and the collapse of everything for which the old man fought for all his life. That is why it is necessary for Sava to take on the role of the Father, now a spiritual father, of Serbia.

Sava is convinced that altogether the greatest benefit for all of them will be reaped by him obtaining the Kingdom of God for himself and his kind, and he persistently defies his father’s plans of his return to Serbia. Nemanja is not accustomed to his wishes being opposed.

In a desire to “infect” his father and his father’s companions with the spirit of Mt. Athos and to postpone the father’s pressure to take a decision he eschews, Sava provokes Nemanja to a tour around Mt. Athos – the Land of Miracles. In the coves and woods of the Holy Mountain, the Serbs meet unusual Athonite ascetics. It is obvious – the most precious thing – The Kingdom of Heaven is not attained by weaponry.  Obediently following their master, they decide to try to surmount the Kingdom of Heaven too, which one does not attain by arms.

Foolish-for-Christ ascetic Danilo helps Simeon Nemanja to comprehend the tasks that stand before him before his death.  

When they return to Vatopedi Monastery, they are awaited by a messenger from Serbia with news about the ever-worsening relations between Stefan and Vukan, and Vukan’s pact with the Hungarians and the Pope. The piece of news that struck most Serbs hardest is that Sava's mother Ana, tonsured as Anastasia, died.

Sava wanders out the ruins of the monastery Hilandar where meets a mysterious old man. The old man reminds Sava that God did not send them to the Holy Mountain to save only he and his father, but to set the path of salvation to all of his kind who love God. Hilandar should become a Serbian monastery as soon as possible.

Simeon immediately accepts the idea of founding a Serbian monastery on Mt. Athos and Sava is left to go to Constantinople to Stefan's father-in-law, the Byzantine Emperor Alexius, and ask for permission to do so.

For the first time in six years, Sava comes out of the Holy Mountain. Already on the docks of the busy metropolis, Sava and his entourage get into trouble in the melee of people. Sava is left without his escorts but somehow he gets to the imperial court with the help of an unusual guide, a little vagabond who tried to rob him. The Emperor auditions Sava. He is struck by the influence of his directness and honesty. Permission is obtained.

With the beginning of erection of the Hilandar, father and son lay the foundations of future Serbia. The building of the centre of Serbian spirituality raises from stupor even those warriors who had never found himself in the ascetic asceticism. With heroic energy, old soldiers take to the work they understand. They work, and pray, and change. The relationship between father and son is developing in an unexpected direction. They received from each other tasks that do not appear to agree with them. Nemanja is to completely renounce the world he has conquered, and Sava is to return to a world that he has rejected. Sava leads his father and his old warriors to the pinnacles of Orthodox spirituality and, in turn, Nemanja surrenders to Sava his worries, he pledges with him the spiritual welfare of Serbia, which is facing dire straits. The fact they begin to notice in Sava some quite practical and organizational gifts, not only in Nemanja, but in other Serbs as well, stirs something that borders awe, but also hope...

Sava prepares his father for victory over death. The son becomes the spiritual father to his father. The old man is a gifted pupil. He rapidly ascends the ladder of asceticism. With the aid of Sava’s advice, he fights his anger, royal vanity, old-age despondency. The old man reveals that he makes most spiritual progress when he completely obediently, as a child, gives himself to the spiritual guidance of his son. He is getting ever weaker yet ever more cheerful. He enthusiastically adopts the evangelical council to become the servant to all. The Serbs move in the still unfinished Hilandar.

Simeon is ready. He augurs his approaching demise. Through Sava, he summons the monks from the nearby monastery. At the height of the spiritual match, Simeon beats death. The gathered Athonian monks witness the miraculous touch of two worlds. A legend is born.

The outside world is falling apart. In Serbia, a civil war is raging between Simeon’s sons Stefan and Vukan. The Western crusaders led by the Venetians conquer Constantinople. During continuous vigils and feats in asceticism, in addition to the terrible images of war-torn Serbia, Sava sees the Virgin Theothokos and Simeon. Sava no longer desires to resist his father's wish. To the unquenched desire of Venerable Simeon, who, after passing away, becomes celebrated by his miracle-working and myrrh-gushing relics.

In Hvosno, in future Metohija, the gathered Serbs await on their knees the return of the holy ruler Simeon Nemanja and of the great spiritual Father – the Pacifier – Sava.  Columns of people move to Studenica Monastery where the great reconciliation is expected. At Hilandar, from the empty Simeon’s grave appears a young offspring of vine.

By Nebojsa Tomic