Veles

Veles is a Macedonian city on both sides of the Vardar River, located in the Povardarie region of North Macedonia, on the main crossroads of the Balkans leading from north to the Aegean Sea, in the large and fertile valleys of the Morava and Vardar rivers. In medieval times the city of Veles was a big and rich trading center and manufacturer of silk, lead and porcelain. Two railways go through Veles – one direction East of Macedonia to Stip and Kocani, and another to the southwestern part to Bitola. To the northwest of Veles is Skopje – the capital of Macedonia,  the city of Sveti Nikole is to the northeast, the city of Stip is to the east, Prilep is to the southwest and Kavadarci and Negotino are in the southeast.

Veles is very old historical settlement, known as the cradle of Macedonian culture which features rather unique cityscape of red roofs houses that that represent the important trading role the town played from the earliest history. The settlement is first time recorded in the 3rd century as Bila Zora or Vila Zora, while under the Turks, after 1395 it was named ‘Kjupurli’ – “city of bridges”.

The present name of Veles dates from the 7th century AD after the Slavic word of les which means forest, due to lush forests that always surrounded this settlement. God Veles is deity of cattle, crops, wisdom, arts, richness, ownership, magic, fraud, trade, prediction, virtues and leader of souls of the dead. The God of Veles is protector of shepherds and magicians (volhvov or volhov). Volhovs were Slavic wizards. The origin of their name includes the Volos, who surely was protector of magicians and wizards. The reason that Slavic population venerated God of Veles is their belief in this deity on whom their survival depended. God Veles was involved for crops, fields and both domestic and wild animals. Whatever was the form of society – cattle-raising or hunters or agriculture – it was dependent on the God Veles. Also tha magic and wisdom played important role in local lives of Slavs. Magic is connected even today with music and a number of religions, so the God Veles is also protector or music which was always considered somehow magical and language of gods. Musicians were talented people, capable to transmit the divine inspiration and create magical melodies. Veles as god is also represented in another form – as a bear, that in Slavic mythology represents the forest ruler who cares about animals, forest products and the forest itself.

In the 12th and the 13th century the settlement of Veles was important episcopal seat with well-developed trade, crafts and pottery. In 1689 Veles experienced large destruction when was occupied by the Austrian army – as were Skopje and Stip, under leadership of General Eney Picolomini who had burned and plundered those cities during army retreat towards north, escaping from the fierce and vindictive Turkish campaign. After the Balkan wars and the First WW, Veles lost its power when the number of population stagnates and declined. In communist times Veles was called by the name Titov Veles, in honor of the Marshal Josip Broz – Tito, when it was big industrial, administrative and economic hub of Yugoslavia in the heart of the Republic of Macedonia, which successfully processed and exported lead and zink and porcelain, with thousands of employees in numerous big factories.

The relief configuration of the town of Veles on both sides of the Vardar River greatly contributed to the specific urban architectural style of houses for which construction was used the rough stone as the excellent foundations. Houses of Veles usually have two or three floors, rarely more floors. The upper floors of Veles houses feature belvedere /porch/ with numerous windows, mostly of white washed facades. The main characteristic of the Veles architecture are girders that enable extension of the upper floors of houses that look fully highlighted. Houses of Veles are located in rows one above the other , and the most significant houses stand out themselves from the neighboring ones – the Houses of Pauns, Trenche, Prnarovs, Djorgovs, Sukarevs….

The Veles Clock Tower is symbol of the town dating from the 16th century. Originally it used as the observation point across the Vardar River, but in the 18th century during the revival of Veles, it was turned into the town clock. The old Clock Tower of Veles was built of polished stone, and features a lavish upper part, ringing only 3 minutes prior and after a full hour. The Veles Clock Tower provides wonderful panorama of the town and its surrounding, surely making one of the tourist attractions of Veles. The central monument of Veles comes as the impressive horse rider and is dedicated to prominent Ilinden heroes who took part in the Ilinden Uprising for liberation of Macedonia – Jovan Naumov Alabaka, Andrej Dimov Dorucev, Todor Hristov and other local heroes….

The Veles city cathedral church of Saint Panteleimon is located in a cavern southwest of Veles, several hundred meters from the last houses. The Saint Panteleimon church is under the protection of UNESCO and is the Cathedral of the Vardar Orthodox diocese. The frescoes and icons of Saint Panteleimon Church are the artwork of famous Macedonian painters from the Mijak area, Papradishte and Veles region. Most icons of Saint Panteleimon church were painted by the talented painters Gjorgji Damjanov and Gjorgji Jakov Zografski. The prominent Balkan architect of the late-Ottoman era, Andreja Damjanov or Damjanovic is buried in the Saint Panteleimon churchyard, in the church he designed. Architect Andreja Damjanovic designed many churches and monasteries in the Balkans – the Holy Virgin church in Skopje in 1835, the Saint John in Kratovo, 1836, Saint Panteleimon in Veles in 1840, Saint Nicholas in Novo Selo near Stip in 1850, Saint Nicholas church in Kumanovo in 1851, Saint George church in Smederevo in 1854, Saint Trinity Church in Mostar in 1873, the Birth of the Holy Virgin church in Sarajevo 1868, as well as the church within the Saint Joachim Monastery Osogovo complex in 1851, the churches in Pecenjevce and Turakovac villages….

The Spomenik Kosturnica (Memorial Ossuary) in Veles was built to commemorate the Partisan soldiers who fought for the freedom of Veles and Macedonia during the National Liberation War from 1941 to 1945 against the fascist German and Bulgarian forces.  This monument also serves as a resting place in the form of an underground crypt for the remains of roughly one hundred fallen Partisan soldiers from the Veles area.

Monastery of Saint Demetrius (Манастир Св. Димитрија), situated few kilometers south of Veles was built in the 14th century by King Stefan Dušan. The Byzantine-style church has a bell tower built into its western side. The unique feature of this Monastery is the fresco depicting the Doomsday on the northern wall of the narthex. This fresco composition depicts a large fish eating a person sinner, and more sea monsters, as well as three persons next to them, of which one is reading. Church of Saint John the Baptist (Црква „Св. Јован Крстител“) is the oldest church in Veles, most likely constructed in the 13th century. It is a small church built of stone, situated some 100 meters north of the Monastery of Saint Demetrius.

Many of the fake news websites that sprang up during the US election campaign have been traced to Veles – this small city in North Macedonia, where teenagers were pumping out sensationalist stories to earn cash from advertising. The young people of Veles say – while in the past everyone used to work in a factory, now they are all working on fabricating “news”.

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