Monastery Hilandar was founded in a place of earlier monastery Helandrion, founded by distinguished monk Georgius Helandarius in X century, but it was deserted in XII century. When Stefan Nemanja became monk he went to Mount Athos and lived with his son Sava in Greek monastery Vatoped. Nemanja and Sava wanted to found a Serbian monastery on Holy Mountain so they asked for a permission from Byzantine emperor Alexios III Angelos to rebuild the monastery Helandrion. The emperor gave them the permission in 1198. when the rebuilding started. We don’t know how the church looked because king Milutin brought down the old church and built a new one. We know that this old church was dedicated to Presentation of Virgin, and that the tower and dormitory were built. Many rulers from Nemanjić dynasty took care of Hilandar. In monastery worked Domentian, writer of Saint Sava biography, and he also wrote biography of Simeon Nemanja in Hilandar. Monastery also had workshops for copying and icon painting.
In the beginning of XIV century king Milutin decided to rebuild this church and with the permission of emperor Andronikos II Palaiologos he brought down the old one and built a new church, and also massive monastery walls, towers, refectory and cemetery church. Main monastery church has base of inscribed cross in combination with trefoil and it has one dome above central nave. On the west is nartex with two domes. It was built in combination of stone and bricks, and its decorate with cordon cornice. Main ispiration for the builders was the main church of monastery Vatoped.
The church was painted from 1318. until 1320. and main artist was one of the best contemporary byzantine painters Georgius Kaliergis. Original paining was not saved because it was repainted in XIX century but it fallowed the original disposition of the frescoes.
The outer nartex was built in 1380. by prince Lazar for the needs of liturgical ceremonies, in the same style as Milutins nartex, but with one dome.
Greatest treasure in monastery archive are the icons like the mosaic icon of Virgin Hodegetria from XII century, Chist Pantokrator and Virgin with Child from the second half of XIII century, and group of ten icons from the iconostasis from 1360, Virgin and Saint John from Deesis, archangel Michael and archangel Gabriel and the apostles, painted in highest monumental Byzantine style originating from the capital. In the treasury is also over thousand manuscripts from XII until XIX century, and famous Miroslavs Gospel was kept there until the monks gave it to the king Aleksandar Obrenović in 1896.
The great collection of Hilandar treasury is important historical, cultural and artistic testimony, not only for Serbian culture but also for many Balkan cultures.