A study of the Serbian medieval rulers' ceremonial costume as depicted in the visual arts of the 13 -15th centuries, while not easy, can finally lead us to specific and interesting conclusions regarding this costume=B9s development. The main directions of this organic inner development can be strictly followed, but one can be also trace multiple external influences. To get a complete impression of changes in all areas of this attire, it was necessary to get an ideal reconstruction of many damaged images and to present detailed descriptions of all rulers' portraits preserved on Serbian territory of that epoch.

Serbian rulers' ceremonial costume emerged from its Byzantine counterpart at the very moment when Serbian rulers chose to get close to Byzantium, politically as well as in matters of religion. That costume clearly shows the manner in which governmental power was comprehended and considered at the time, while simultaneously being filled with profound religious meaning.

The first Nemanjic monarchs expressed their rule, by means of costume, in chosen colors and richness of tissue of their clothes, which were equal in everything else to that of Byzantine high nobility of the epoch. The insignia that they carried on their heads didn't only express their power, but showed their actual rank in the Byzantine ideal hierarchy of power. This was to remain unchanged for the whole period of Nemanjic Serbia - the insignia being not merely a sign of the rule, but being tightly connected with the title and strictly depending on it.

The fully developed rulers' ceremonial costume of Constantinopolitan type was worn in Serbia for the first time by king Uros the First and his wife Helen of Anjou in the second half of 13th century. Although changed ever after very precisely and logically, its general shape and cut remained the same until the end of the Serbian medieval state (the mid-15th century) - this limited evolution being characteristic for the whole epoch. Changed were only in details, above all to show and sharpen the changes in rank of Serbian rulers in Byzantine hierarchy of power. During the reign of king Milutin (1282-1321) the royal ceremonial costume became a complete, extremely rich copy of its Constantinopolitan model. First a king (1331-1346), then an emperor (1346-1355), Dusan gave the rulers' ceremonial costume the opportunity for independent development. The transformations of his crown, as the most important symbol of royal and imperial power, reflected Serbian territorial expansion as well as Dusan's political doubts and secret ambitions.

The female rulers' ceremonial costume followed exactly the same pattern, showing the devotion of Serbian queens and the empress to their reigning husbands, but also their own position in the system of governmental power. That can be best observed on the three insignia: the scepter in form of a cross, the phoinikia and the akakia, which are very rarely seen on female rulers' portraits. Serbian rulers' ceremonial costume of the post-imperial period ceased to reflect faithfully the rulers' titles and got a new meaning. It became the very symbol of continuity of Serbian independent statehood and expressed the need for preserving the spirit of Orthodox and Nemanjic tradition in those hard times of slow decay. The changes now followed an opposite direction, streaming towards the clothing forms of the beginnings - the rulers' ceremonial costume regained some features characteristic ot the attire of high nobility, especially through the richly ornamented fabrics.

Finally, the rulers' ceremonial costume in medieval Serbia expressed also the title of "Junior King" (somewhat akin to the Byzantine Caesar). It was given to the legal heir to the throne, usually the eldest son of the reigning ruler. The elaborate system of details on this costume clearly set it apart from that of the senior ruler.

Medieval Serbian Royal Ornaments
Ornamente regale medievale sârbe
Autor: Tatjana Vuleta
Copyright © 1995 Tatjana Vuleta 
Copyright © 1997 Serbian Unity Congress 
Copyright © 1999, pentru versiunea româneascã, Duºan Baiski. 
All Rights Reserved.