May 9, 2010

The Healing of St. Stefan of Decani by St. Nicholas

The Healing From Blindness of St. Stephan By St. Nicholas (Feast Day - May 9); 
this icon was given by St. Stefan to Saint Nicholas Church in Bari.

The King of Serbia, Milutin, had a jealous, scheming wife who turned him against his own son, Prince Stefan. Convinced of the prince's treachery, the king ordered him blinded. In great pain, Stefan finally fell asleep in the Church of St. Nicholas. While he slept, the saint appeared to him in a dream, saying, "Do not despair, beloved Stefan, your eyes are in the palm of my hand."

Greatly comforted, when Stefan awoke the pain was relieved and he began a life of prayer. The king, however, was not satisfied. He exiled Prince Stefan to Constantinople, where he was imprisoned in a monastery.

One night, after a hard day's work, Stefan dozed off during the evening liturgy honoring Saint Nicholas. As he slept, the saint appeared to him a second time, made the sign of the cross over Stefan's face, saying, "Noble prince, do you remember my words, 'your eyes are in the palm of my hand?' I am giving them back to you now." The saint touched Stefan's eyes and then vanished. When Stefan woke up, he could see! However, he kept this a secret, still wearing cloth bandages over his eyes, and pretending to be blind.

After five years, King Milutin died. Prince Stefan told how Saint Nicholas came and his sight returned. Then Stefan returned to Serbia and became king.1 While he was king, he founded Decani Monastery,2 with a monastery church dedicated to St. Nicholas. He also founded a leprosy hospital. In gratitude to Saint Nicholas, King Stefan sent a silver altar and great icon3 to the Saint Nicholas Basilica in Bari, Italy.

Saint Nicholas appeared to King Stefan a third and last time, saying "The Lord is calling you to him, Stefan—be ready to depart this life." Preparing for his death, the king gave his riches to the monastery and leprosy hospital. Soon after, his own son led an uprising and had King Stefan killed. He was buried at the Decani Monastery and made a saint by the Serbian Orthodox Church.


1. King Stephen Uroš III (known as Stephen Decani) ruled Serbia from 1321-1331. This hagiographical account was written at the Decani Monastery sometime around 1400.

2. Decani Monastery is still an important spiritual center. More information and pictures of the monastery.

3. King Stefan and his wife gave this enormous (44.5x73.5 inches) icon of Saint Nicholas with silver oklad to the Basilica di San Nicola, Bari, Italy. It is on the wall in St. Nicholas' crypt shrine.

Hymn of Praise: St. Stefan of Decani

By St. Nikolai Velimirovich

On the Field of Sheep, the blind Stefan sleeps
And in a dream, endures misfortune without peace.
His body shivering, his eyes bloody,
Than such a life, death is surely better.

At that moment, in a dream a man appeared to him,
In heavenly glow, in heavenly glory.
"Nicholas I am, of Myra in Lycia," said he,
"And, one of those whom God chooses, you are.
Into my right hand, O Stefan, look,
Behold are your eyes, preserved in it!
Without eyes you are, the eyes are with me,
To you I will give them, when the Lord wants."

Five years passed and Stefan in darkness
A strong hope has, a strong faith has:
"To me, Nicholas will come once more,
With God's help; help me, he will."
Thus did Stefan, once think in the church,
And to the beloved saint, with tears, he prayed.

And while in the chair standing, in a dream, he fell,
But behold, St. Nicholas again to him came!
Two eyes of the king in his right palm:
"Behold," said he, "to you, O king the day dawned!
In the name of the Lord Who, to the blind, gives sight
Look and cry out: To God be glory!"

And the blind eyes, the saint touched
And darkness from the eyes as a curtain is drawn.