Jovan Vladimir - Cult - Legends


Several legends about Jovan Vladimir have been recorded in western Macedonia. One has it that, after he was beheaded, he brought his head to the Monastery of St John of Bigor. On a hill above the village of Pesočani in the Municipality of Debarca, there is a locality called Vladimirovo, at which some ruins can be seen. The locals claimed that Vladimir was born there, and brought his severed head there. The Church of St Athanasius near Pesočani, now in ruins, is reputed to have been built by Vladimir. People from the region gathered there each year on the eve of his feast day. They lit candles on the remains of the church's walls, and prayed to the saint. Tradition has it that the Monastery of St Naum had a bell tower named after the saint, in the foundation of which a portion of his relics was placed.

In the western fringe of Macedonia, which is now part of Albania, Jovan Vladimir was remembered as a saintly ruler, cut down by his father-in-law, an emperor, who believed some slander that he was a womanizer. The enraged emperor, accompanied by soldiers, found Vladimir on a mountain pass named Qafë Thanë (also known as Derven), on the road between the Macedonian town of Struga and Elbasan. He struck his son-in-law with a sword, but could not cut him. Only when Vladimir gave him his own sword was the emperor able to cut off his head. Vladimir took his severed head and went toward the site of his future church. There stood an oak, under which he fell after the tree bowed down before him. The saint was interred in the church which was subsequently built at that place and dedicated to him.

Franks have trouble to take the casket with the saint's relics away from his church. (Two of the twelve scenes on the icon from the Ardenica Monastery)

According to a legend recorded in the Greek hagiography, Jovan Vladimir built the church near Elbasan. Its location, deep in a dense forest, was chosen by God, and an eagle with a shining cross on its head showed it to Vladimir. After the saint was decapitated, he brought his head to the church, and was buried inside. A group of Franks once stole the casket with his miraculous relics. The casket turned out to be extremely heavy, breaking the backs of hinnies on which the Franks carried it. They eventually put it in the Shkumbin River to take it to the sea, but the river flooded, and the casket—radiating light—went back upstream toward the church. The inhabitants of that area took it out of the water and returned it to the church in a festive procession.

A group of thieves stole, on a summer day, horses that belonged to the Monastery of St Jovan Vladimir. When they came to the nearby stream of Kusha to take the horses across, it appeared to them like an enormous river. They moved away from it in fear, but when they looked back from a distance, the stream appeared small. As they approached it again, the Kusha again became huge and impassable. After several such attempts to cross the stream, the thieves realized that this was a miracle of the saint, so they released the monastery's horses and ran away in horror.

A possible legend of Prince Vladimir was recorded by Branislav Nušić in the 19th century in the city of Korçë, southeastern Albania, close to Macedonia. Ruins on top of a hill above Korçë were said to be remains of the court of a Latin (Catholic) king, whose kingdom neighbored the state of an Orthodox emperor. The king asked the hand of the emperor's daughter, who agreed to become his wife only if he built an Orthodox church. He did so, and she married him, but on the first night of marriage she killed him. She then became a nun, and the king's body was taken somewhere—he was not buried near his court. Macedonian Slavs inhabiting Saint Achillius Island in the Small Prespa Lake in Greece told of an emperor named Mirče. He lived on their island, where he was killed by a cousin of his out of jealousy, and his body was taken via Ohrid to Albania.

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