Narodna biblioteka Srbije, Beograd
No. 38 (May 2021), p. 17-27
Hilandar and Its "Middle Library"
The Library of the Hilandar Monastery is divided into three parts, physically separated based on different
characteristics of the books classified according to the chronological and formal principles. The topic of this paper is
the so-called "Middle Library" which has been, up to now, completely unknown to the public.
The books of today’s Middle Library arrived in Hilandar in well-known ways: some were bought, and some were
donated within the framework of a consecrated contributory tradition, not only by pious Serbs but also by Russians.
Many of them come from personal monastic libraries, in accordance with the rule which says that the property
of deceased monks remains in their monasteries. However, the Middle Library has a specificity that shows in the
right light the Serbian-Russian spiritual symbiosis, which probably experienced its deepest expression on the Holy
Mountain. Namely, a large number of books contain handwritten records clearly showing that they were, in the
recent past (the nineteenth and the early twentieth century), Russian-owned, more precisely – that they were not
in Hilandar: Russian names and surnames are clearly visible, not only of monks but also of laymen; entire sentences
are written in Russian and many books have Russian seals, which clearly testifies that they were used in the prayer
and liturgical practice of Russian churches and monks on Mount Athos. So, where did the Hilandar Monastery get
the books with the seal of the Russian Athos cell of St. John Chrysostom, the Russian hermitage of St. Elijah, the
Karyes hermitage of the Holy Trinity, etc.? All those cells and hermitages are, in fact, the property of Hilandar from
ancient times, but due to the decline of Serbian monasticism, they have been abandoned in the meantime; since the
eighteenth century, they have been slowly inhabited by Russian monks, who became the most numerous on the Holy
Mountain until the First World War. However, after the October Revolution, the Russian monastic order of Mount
Athos experienced a huge decline, so over time, those cells were left without inhabitants. What was left behind, in
this case – books, was transferred to Hilandar by the right of ownership and placed mostly in the Middle Library,
whose collection was thus significantly enriched both in quantity and content, strengthening its Russian character.
The Middle Library contains mainly books of Russian origin, printed in the Church Slavic language, in the period from
the seventeenth to the twentieth century. They are mostly liturgical, but a significant part is made up of books to
read. A small part of the collection is in Russian civil Cyrillic, and as a sub-collection, there are also Serbian books of
the eighteenth century.
This paper describes, in brief, the component parts of the Middle Library and their basic elements, and presents a
short history of the processing of its book collection, since the seventies of the last century.
Hilandar Monastery, Middle Library, Russian books, liturgical books, Church Slavonic language, Serbian
books of the eighteenth century, National Library of Serbia, librarians
Submitted: 17th February 2021
Correction to the manuscript: 2nd March 2021
Accepted for publication: 6th March 2021
Hilandar and Its "Middle Library"
is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.