Ohrid is the marvelous city in the beautiful south-western part of Macedonia, with some 42000 inhabitants, and also leading summer tourist center of the country which is often considered as the “Balkan soul” and the cradle of the Slavic literacy. The town of Ohrid, situated on the shore of Ohrid Lake, some 170 km south-west of Skopje – the Macedonian capital, features outstanding natural beauties, historical and cultural heritage, and since 1979 enjoys the protection of UNESCO. The wonderful Ohrid Lake covers picturesque area of about 350 sq km and is known for its crystal clear water, which is visible down to 22 meters, of a total maximum depth of 286 meters. The astonishingly clean and clear waters of the Ohrid Lake, together with the serene stillness of its mountain settings have captivated visitors since prehistoric times. Above the valley of Ohrid lake rises Mount Galičica with the Galičica National Park, recognized by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as an extremely important region and protected by law since 1958. Thanks to the several hundred original rarities and the protected plant and animal species, Galičica has been internationally recognized as an Important Plant Area, a Primary Butterfly Area, as well as an Emerald Site (future part of the European Natura 2000 network). Because of the extraordinary biodiversity and the international significance, in 2014 Galičica National Park became part of the UNESCO World Network of Biosphere Reserves.
Wanderlust named Ohrid Lake as one of the most incredible lakes in the world. While the Ohrid lake is filled up by water from three rivers, most of Ohrid’s water comes from another lake – Prespa Lake which is located on the other side of Galicica Mountain-National Park. Due to the high elevation, Prespa Lake spills its water down to Ohrid through mountain springs, the most important ones being Ostrovo and Biljana, located the Saint Naum Monastery and Ohrid town.
With its ancient necropolis, fortress, amphitheaters, baths, arenas, parts of villas, temples and Byzantine basilicas, Ohrid is considered as one of the most ancient towns in the Balkans, a living testimony of the cultural competition of the civilizations and the everlasting mark of their residence in the area. Ohrid abounds with a large number of archaeological sites dating from the Neolithic, antique and medieval periods, as well as numerous early Christian and Medieval Churches with marvelous mosaics, frescoes and icons, lovely beaches, and variety of accommodation facilities. The Ohrid Samuil’s Fortress – Samoilova Tvrdina is one of the most popular destinaion in Ohrid, built in the 10th century during the reign of Tsar Samuil of Ohrid, which was the political and ecclesiastical capital of the first Bulgarian Empire (681–1018). Through history Ohrid was such an important religious settlement that it was claimed to had 365 churches – one church for every day of the year.
Name of Ohrid comes from its location – built “on a hill” /”vo hrid”/. The whole old town of Ohrid is surrounded by walls and is crowned by the King Samoil’s Citadel. Ohrid Fortress is considered to be the oldest and best-preserved fortress in Macedonia. The ancient Ohrid is built in the shape of amphitheater with numerous tiny traditional houses looking towards the lake. Those interesting houses of Ohrid were built in past centuries in genuine Oriental style of building – authentic Balkan architecture characterized by the beautiful balconies and houses with upper floors more spacious than the ground floor. The old part of Ohrid includes impressive bazaar with market, fountain, hammam and numerous handcraft workshops and various tiny shops and workshops that sell unique handwork items /Ohridski biser, jewelry, leather products, sweets, wood-carved items, Byzantine painting workshop and old Macedonian musical instruments and the famous Macedonian embroidery, outstanding Macedonian music CD…../ and take you back to the past Oriental times. The famous Ohrid pearls are made with usage of the scales of the endemic Ohrid Lake Plasica fish which makes them the unique in the world. Ohrid pearl is probably the best souvenir from Ohrid, as well as the most appropriate gift for a lady. Risteski Family in Ohrid is one of the original pearl-making families here, handcrafting and selling Ohrid pearls of the finest quality. “It might be because of the pleasant climate, or the lake, or the strong fort of Samuil, or for the flat and fruitful field, that have attracted blacksmiths, woodcarvers and craftsman of all arts and masters to make miracles in wood, stone, silver, copper and gold to settle here”. Camil Sijaric
Icons of the Ohrid Icon Gallery comprising period of almost a millennium, from the middle of the 11th till the end of the 19th century are a remarkable and an indivisible segment of the rich cultural and historical heritage of Ohrid, the city where the Slavic literacy and culture have sprouted. Created in the Constantinople and Salonika icon workshops, or in the local icon workshops in Ohrid, these icons have been an inseparable part of the iconostasis in the churches they have been ordered and painted for and some of them best accomplishments of the Byzantine icon painting in whole. The Icon of Jesus Christ, dimension of 135 x 93 cm is kept, among the other precious art works, in the Gallery of Icons in Ohrid, set in the complex of the Holy Virgin of Peribleptos. Ohrid and the gorgeous Macedonia is our favorite destination of unrepeatable beauty.
Ohrid attractions and Places to see : Tzar Samuil’s Fortress, Antique Theater, Episcopal Basilica, St Clement’s Church of St Panteleimon at Plaosnik, Cathedral of St Sophia, Holy Mother of God Peribleptos Church – Holy Mother of God Peribleptos Church, Sveti Jovan Kameno – St John Theologian Kaneo Church, Saint Naum Monastery, Cave church, Icon Gallery, Velestovo, Vevcani and Trpejca villages…
Monastery of Saint Pantelejmon Ohrid
The Monastery of Saint Panteleimon, the protector of health is one of the oldest Slavic monasteries in the Balkans and the oldest Slavic monument of culture. With the construction of St. Panteleimon in Ohrid by Clement (893), downhill from Ohrid fortress, the Macedonian Slavs gained not only their first great religious and educational center but also the conditions necessary to develop their aesthetic feelings, accepting and continuing existing artistic forms but expanding into new directions as well. For example, Clement used a ruined three-conchae church for the foundation of St. Panteleimon, added some original parts, and obtaining thereby new “oval” forms. Saint Panteleimon Monastery had an extremely important role in the education of the Macedonians during the period of strong influence of the Byzantine Empire. The Saint Panteleimon Monastery stands on a hill overlooking the Ohrid Lake, which is today known as Plaošnik. Remains of the early-christian basilica were found on the old cult place above which the small three-nave church was erected in the 7th century. Saint Clement of Ohrid rebuilt the church and used it as a liturgical building and place for teaching his disciples his variation of the Glagolithic alphabet, known as the Cyrillic alphabet. Clement personally built a crypt inside the Saint Panteleimon Monastery in which he was buried after his death in 916, his tomb still exists today.
Many archaeologists believe that Clement himself designed and constructed the Saint Panteleimon Monastery. Clement, along with Naum of Preslav would use the monastery as a basis for teaching the Glagollithic and Cyrillic alphabets to the Christian Slavs thus making it a university. Clement built his monastery on a restored church and a Roman Basilica of five parts (the remains of the basilicas can still be seen outside the monastery). Judging by the architectural style and design of the monastery, researchers say that Saint Clement intended for his building to be the literary school for disciples, thus it is believed to be the first and oldest discontinued university in Europe. The common themes for fresco paintings in Saint Panteleimon, Ohrid are “Birth of Mother God”, “Transfiguration”, “The Entry into Jerusalem”, “Descent from the Cross” etc. Among the paintings in the Monastery of Saint Panteleimon, the fresco of “The Lamentation of Christ” is fascinating. This painting is considered to be a masterpiece by many art historians. The exterior of the monastery contains a large number of finely detailed mosaics not far from a stone Baptismal font used to baptize his disciples.
Saint Sophia Cathedral Ohrid
St. Sophia Church is one of the most impressive medieval buildings in Ohrid and a unique work of architecture of the Byzantine region. St Sophia is a large three-nave cathedral with a dome at the center, built on the foundations of an old cult during the period of the Tzar Samuel. In the 11th century the Saint Sophia basilica in Ohrid was thoroughly renovated when it was fresco decorated. In 1317, during the Serbian rule, the monumental exo-narthex with its open galleries and two towers ending in small domes, a rare architectural accomplishment both in Macedonia and the world in general, was added to the Church of St. Sophia in 1317, what greatly contributed to the beauty of Saint Sophia Church. During the Ottoman era Saint Sophia Church in Ohrid was converted into a mosque. Frescoes of Saint Sophia Cathedral are considered the best preserved Byzantine paintings. The frescoes in the Saint Sophia Cathedral are characterized by the postures of the figures and the archaic forms, united in an artistic and iconographic whole unique to church painting of the time. The best preserved frescoes of St Sophia Cathedral in Ohrid are in the altar with the Holy Virgin on the throne holding little Christ in her arms. Six angels are kneeling towards the Holy Virgin approaching her from the southern and the northern wall. Beneath the Holy Virgin fresco there is “Communion of apostles” scene which is one of the most interesting fresco of the St Sophia Church. Among depicted portraits of numerous saints and patriarchs in Saint Sophia Cathedral, there are portraits of brothers Cyril and Methodius, the first Slavic missioners and founders of the First Slavic University and St Clement of Ohrid, their disciple. Since its builders blessed it with wonderful acoustics, the Cathedral of Saint Sophia and its front garden are the main stage of the annual Ohrid Summer Festival.
The Most Holy Virgin of Peribleptos Church Ohrid – Holy Mother of God Peribleptos church
The Church of Sveta Bogorodica Perivlepta (Mother of God the Most Glorious Peribleptos) which is also known as St. Kliment /St Clement’s Church/ is a fully preserved medieval monument located in the old part of the town, near the Upper Gate of Ohrid, famous for its extraordinary architecture and majestic fresco paintings. Sveta Bogorodica Perivlepta – The church of the Mother of God the Most Glorious Peribleptos was built in 1295 by order of the Byzantine military commander, Progon Zgur and his wife Evdokia Comnen, a relative of the Byzantine Emperor Andronicus II Palealogus. In 1378 the Church was restored and extended. During the Ottoman period Saint Panteleimon at Plaosnik was torn down and the relics of Saint Clement, the patron of Ohrid, were transferred to the Holy Mother of God Peribleptos Church. Since then it has been known also as the Saint Clement’s church. The belfry and the bell of the Church of the Mother of God the most Glorious Peribleptos in Ohrid, one of the largest in the Balkans has been donated by Mihajlo Pupin in 1924 as per recommendation and the friendship with the Bishop Nikolaj Velimirov, in charge of the Ohrid and Zica Bishoprics.
Sveta Bogorodica Periblepta – The Holy Mother of God Peribleptos Churh is representative of the Macedonian architectural school from the Palaiologian period. The ground plan of the Sveta Bogorodocia Perivlepta church is cross-in-square, with the central dome on an octagonal dome resting on four square pillars decorated on the outside with cylindrical friezes. The narthex and the central part were built at the same time. The church of the Holy Mother of God Peribleptos was built in the traditional Byzantine system of of brick and stone construction emphasized by stripes of rhomboid placed squares in two colors all in a masterly combination producing an extraordinarily decorative effect and at the same time an impression of perfect harmony. Sveta Bogorodica Perivlepta – St. Kliment’s Church ranks among the most outstanding achievements of the Medieval architecture. The northern chapel, dedicated to St. Gregory the Divine, was built and decorated in 1365, according to an inscription on the inside of the main entrance. It was a foundation of archbishop Gregory of Devol. With the exception of the chapels on the south, west and north sides which are from the 19th century, the external narthex was built by St. Kliment. Sveta Bogorodica Perivlepta – The church of the Holy Mother of God Peribleptos has been turned into a unique treasury, in which most probably the archbishopric’s museum was formed in the late 15th century. At that time was a library there within the museum, and the library was said to be one of the oldest in the Balkans. There were many books in this library and many significant manuscripts, which were used in by the cathedral and churches of the Ohrid Archbishopric, at the time when Archbishop Prochorus of Ohrid 1523-1550 was at the head of the Ohrid Archbishopric. He greatly improved Slavonic literacy, providing many books for the church needs.
The paintings of Holy Mother of God Perileptos – St. Kliment’s Church mark a new chapter in medieval paintings as they ushered in a new trend in Byzantine art which came to be known as the Palaiologian Renaissance. They are also the earliest known works of Michael and Eutychius, distinguished medieval fresco painters, whose creation can be followed through nearly three decades throughout the Balkan region. Michael and Eutyhus skilfully inserted their signatures into ornamental details of the clothes of St. Demetrius, and of sward of St Mercury, and of the clothes of St Pro-chorus and of pot of the Last Supper composition and elsewhere, too. The details of the movements of these saints portrayed are admirably done, conveying a sense of strength, health, energy, war like, all in perfect harmony. The frescoes of The Holy Mother of God Peribleptos – St. Kliment’s Church are primarily distinguished by the the artists’ obvious tendency towards individual characterization of the portraits and a marked effort to get away from iconographic stereotypes. Amongst depicted compositions and portraits the specially attractive are : “ Dormition of the Holy Virgin” on the west wall, “Communion of apostles” in the apse, “Mourning of Christ” and “Crucifixion” on the northern wall and “Judah Betray” on the southern wall. The portrait of St Clement of Ohrid is most impressive of all portraits depicted in total size. It would appear that contemporaries served the artists as models for these portraits of saints are done in a markedly realistic manner, with numerous distinctive details and without the usual elements conveying martyrdom and asceticism. If we look for any similar models, we may detect some similarity between these frescoes and early Renaissance paintings, particularly in some details of the “The Lamentation” on the north wall. The powerful sense of drama emanating from this fresco, from the gestures and movements of the figures – above all, the presentation of the Virgin Mary with her hair falling loose over her shoulders _ and many other elements, is strongly reminiscent of Giotto, a contemporary of Michael and Eutychus. In the covered entrance to the St Clement Church there is the Icon Gallery, one of the richest icon collection comprising masterpieces of the Byzantine art dating from the 11th until the end of the 19th century.
Church of Saint John the Theologian Kaneo Ohrid
The uniquely beautiful tiny church of Sveti Jovan Kaneo – Saint John the Theologian Kaneo stands on one of the finest spots of the Ohrid Lake shore on a high cliff overlooking the one time settlement which is present day fishermen village. The Church of Sveti Jovan Kaneo – Saint John the Theologian was built in the last decades of the 13th century and was dedicated to St John the Theologian. The architecture of Sveti Jovan Kaneo – the Saint John the Theologian church belongs to the Medieval structures whose constructors achieved a highly successful combination of Byzantine and Armenian architectural elements. Sveti Jovan Kaneo – The Saint John the Theologian church was built of bricks and stone in the shape of a cruciform with a rectangular base. Archaeologists believe that the Saint John the Theologian church was constructed some time before the rise of the Ottoman Empire very likely in the 13th century. Sveti Jovan Kaneo – Saint Johtn the Theologian has three-sided apse on the eastern side and an octagonal dome with the very rich zig-zag line of the outside roof that sits above the central part of the church. The unknown painters, surely the local artists painted the Saint John the Theologian church after it was erected. Scenes on its dome and the altar space are preserved. Among all the paintings some take the special attention : “Communion of Apostles”, “Christ Pantocrator” surrounded by eight flying angels. A portrait of Saint Clement of Ohrid /whose Monastery of Saint Panteleimon is nearby/ accompanied by Saint Erasmus of Ohrid can also be seen painted on the walls of the church of Saint John the Theologian. Among the well-preserved frescoes is the portrait of St. John the Theologian, the patron of the church, who is depicted in his natural size. This painting style stood outside the new trends reflected in the Paleologue Renaissance that first appeared in Ohrid itself. It is believed that the painters of the Church of St. John the Theologian Kaneo were also active outside Ohrid. The beautiful picturesque setting of the Saint John the Theologian Kaneo Church encompassing wooded dark shapes of Galicica Mountain in the back of the spot that effect at the edges of the Ohrid Lake make you stay there as long as your minds are perfectly peaceful. John the Theologian Kaneo Church is one of the landmarks of the old town of Ohrid and a favorite symbol of the entire city.
National Workshop for Handmade Paper
The National Workshop for Handmade Paper is one of the seventh in the world in which the paper is made in the original Chinese way from the 2nd century BC. The method is unique and it revives the old tradition of Ohrid. Visitors should not miss the opportunity to be learn this way of making the paper and imprint their memories from Ohrid or from its rich history on Gutenberg press from the 16th century. The equipment and clothes used in the workshop are completely authentic. All products are unique and visitors can buy them only here. The Workshop is situated in the magnificent ambiance of the old city, next to the Ohrid Museum, set in the beautiful Robevi House.
Saint Naum Monastery Ohrid
The monastery of Saint Naum of Ohrid is located on the southernmost part of the Ohrid Lake, near the springs of Drim river, in the immediate vicinity of the Macedonian-Albanian border. Its complex is built on romantic island of Ohrid Lake full of greenery, overlooking the gorgeous vast dark-blue surface of the clear lake water. The area around St. Naum’s monastery is among the most beautiful along the shore of Lake Ohrid. The magnificent greenery, the two romantic little isles /one is covered with thick forest, with many birds nesting there, prohibited for visitors/, surrounded by the Crn Drim river springs, the spacious sand beach, the monastery itself, and the panorama from the hill it is located on – all of these make it one of the most attractive picnic spots.
After Clement of Ohrid, Naum was the most consistent and worthy of the pupils of the Salonica brothers Cyril and Methodius, a personality who devoted his whole being to the work of establishing Slavic literacy. Two Cyrillic and one Glagolitic-Cyrillic inscriptions dating from the period between the late 10th and 12th centuries can be found on the pillars of the parvis. These inscriptions testify about the development of the oldest Slavic scripts, Glagolitic and Cyrillic, in the Ohrid region.
The building of the Monastery is linked to the name of St. Naum. In the hagiography of St Naum it is stated that the church had been built in the southern coast of the Ohrid Lake dedicated to St Archangels Michael and Gabriel. Saint Naum had established this monastery at the end of his life (900-905). He died in 910 and was buried in the monastery. It is also presumed that the oldest Naum’s Church, the church of St. Archangels had been built between the years of 893, the year when Naum arrived to Macedonia and 910 when he died. The original church dedicated of St Archangels had a three-sided apse base. There are no data available when the name of the monastery had been changed, however since 1630, in Russia this monastery had been known under its present name – the monastery of St. Naum. It is presumed that the original monastery church of St Archangel Michael and Archangel Gabriel had been demolished and devastated by Ali Pasha Janinski, the cruel leader of the Albanian Janissaires towards the end of the 18th century, when he also destroyed Moskopole, while others considered that the old three-apse church had been completely ruined between the 15th and the 16th century. According to the latest researches, it is ascertained that the present-day Saint Naum church originates from the period under the Turkish rule and it had been built on the foundations of the old Naum’s church. The Saint Naum Monastery had remained in such a devastating state for many years, until arrival of the hieromonk Grigorie from Moskopole – the Bishopric of Korcha/ at present in Albania/. Helped by the Christians, he had renovated the monastery and built two cells. He arranged and consecrated the Saint Naum temple and had built the portico (pronaos – the nartex). The Bihop Nikolaj of Zica and Ohrid, had erected a tall tower next to the church of Saint Naum Monatery, dedicated to the Holy Tsar Nikolaj Romanov, but it was demolished by communists in 1955.
In 1711 the iconostasis of Saint Naum Monastery had been wood-carved, and the throne icons, festive icons, and the icons of the holy apostles had been painted too. The iconostasis of Saint Naum Monastery is one of the oldest and represents an extraordinary artistic accomplishment. It had been carved by under the influence of the wood-carver’s shops on the Holy Mountain, what opens the possibility that the master wood-carver had been educated there. The latest findings about the fresco paintings of the monastery of Saint Naum indicate that the greatest fresco painting complex of the late Byzantine painting in Macedonia from the period of transition from the 18th till the 19th century has been preserved in the monastery of St Naum and it incorporates the knowledge and experiences of the 18th century art on themes attached to Naum of Ohrid and his contemporaries of the Ohrid School. Scenes of the life and miracles of Saint Naum of Ohrid, painted by the tomb of St Naum present the unique group of the monumental painting, which is of a special importance. The monastery of Saint Naum is the center and mainspring of the educational activity and lessons had been held in the monastery lodging houses. It is one of the oldest and richest monasteries in Macedonia. Wonderful setting of the Saint Naum Monastery surroundings enabled construction of the authentic hotel complex of 28 comfortable and nicely appointed rooms, that perfectly fits into the spirituality of the entire place and provides uniquely pleasant stay to visitors.