Kratovo

Kratovo is small, beautiful, sleepy picturesque town in north-east Macedonia, with population of nearly 7000, around 80 km east of Skopje, on both banks of the Kratovo River. Kratovo is significantly distinctive in its rich cultural heritage, history and tradition, numerous arched stone bridges, original Medieval Balkan architecture with authentic historical trade quarter charshi, number of multi – storey stone towers of thick walls, attractive crafts workshops and tiny traditional shops, small cafes and restaurants, curvy narrow cobblestone streets, lush mountain pastures, fresh mountainous air and outstandingly welcoming and friendly local people. In the close vicinity of Kratovo there is wealth of natural and cultural sites to discover and see – the Kuklica locality /unique row of high stone formations/, Saint George Monastery Staro Nagoricane, Saint John of Osogovo Monastery, Saint Nicholas Psaca Monastery, Lesnovo Monastery. The nearby /15 km/ Stone Town of Kuklica is famous for its 10 million years old 120 stone figures – “stone dolls”, reaching heights of 10 meters. Kuklica means doll in Macedonian, thus comes the name of the site and the village.

Kratovo is historical municipality in the north-eastern part of Macedonia which borders with Staro Nagoricane and Kriva Palanka Municipalities in the north, and Kocani Municipality in the east, and Kumanovo in the west and Probistip in the south. Kratovo is set on the western slopes of Osogovo Mountain, on both sides of the Kratovska River, at the bottom of an extinct volcanic crater, at an altitude of some 700 meters. Kratovo Municipality covers an area of 220 ha and features a moderate continental climate with an average annual air temperature of 11,6°C and the average amount of rainfall of 700 mm. Kratovo is considered one of the oldest urban settlements in the Balkans. Legend has it that the town got its name of Kratovo because of the place similar to crater where it has been built upon.

Under the name of Cratiscara is was mentioned in Roman time and under the name of Koritos during Byzantium. The trade of handmade gold, silver and copper items and objects was particularly developed of that time. In the Middle Ages Kratovo was an important mining and commercial center of the “golden era” of the Serbian state, ruled by the Nemanjic dynasty and successors. People from Dubrovnik had their significant trading colony here. Apart from the predominanlty Serb local population of Kratovo and tradesman from Dubrovnik, there were also settled Saxons miners who have dealt with mining, crafts, construction, filigree who received lead, zinc, silver, gold, copper and iron from rich Kratovo mines. In 1282 Kratovo had become an important mining center, thanks to the experienced miners – Saxons who came to activate the mines. During the reign of Tsar Dusan, Kratovo mines were the main source of wealth of the local ruler Jovan Oliver. Later was Kratovo inherited by Dragas and Kostadin Dejanovic, with whom Dubrovnik traders kept friendly relationship. Since its foundation most probablyin the last decade of the 15th century, the Kratovo mint was the second biggest producer in the Ottoman Empire, after Novo Brdo, that continued through an during the first six decades of the 16th century. The noble families of Pepic and Bojkic lived in Kratovo in the 15th century and were engaged in mining and goldsmiths for which they received special recognition and support from the Turks. The monastic novice Dmitar in 1466 copied the Nomocanon of Saint Sava Book /the highest code in the Serbian Orthodox Church, finished in 1219/ for needs of the Ohrid archbishops Doroteus and Mark as such book did not exist. The importance of that place can be judged through the visit of Sultan Murat who was moving with his army towards Kosovo, but stayed there in order to visit the the town, already renown of gold and silver. The intense mining continued during the Turkish rule and in the 16th and here during the 18th century silver coins were minted. Besides prosperity and financial aspect, special attention was given to the mint employees who mostly lived in the mahala of goldsmiths and in the mahala  of mint, during the reign of sultan Suleiman the Magnificent.

After the Austrian-Turkish War of 1689 to 1690 and the Karposh uprising, the city was destroyed, and mine shafts closed. The Austrian-Turkish war was result of the expansionist policy of the Ottoman Empire which wanted to gain its imperial aims in constant extension of its borders. The mining exploitation continued, until the Karpos Uprising in 1689, when the town was devastated and the mine closed. The Turks were forced to retreat, after their defeat by the Austrian-Polish troops in Vienna in 1683. This catastrophic and unprecedented defeat resulted in various risings in the conquered southern parts of the Balkan Peninsula, as the Hapsburg rulers enhanced Christian population to rebel and fight against the Ottomans. While the Austrians were spreading towards the Turkish regions in Serbia and getting more deeply in Turkey, in Macedonia by the way, there were the aggressive units of the local movement for liberation, that was becoming an local uprising. That uprising in the history sources, is known as the Karpos uprising. The life of the miners of the Kratovo basin was unbearable. Exploitation reached a climax and the miners rose under the leadership of the Karpos, a peasant miner and also the hajduk (high-duke, outlaw). They liberated the fortified Kratovo and Kriva Palanka and came far as Veles and Demir Kapija (Iron Door). This is a reason that the Turkish Sultan sent message to the Grand Vizier’s of Nis, Leskovac, and Vranje to attack this “outlaw formations”. He even mentioned that he wants Karpos to be punished in every possible way. Karpos was already a leader to 15,000 up-risers, and tried to take over the control of Skopje, with support of the Austrian army. Then, the Austrians appeared outside Skopje but were driven away by the Turks who, during that time, were defeated on several occasions by the Austrians. The Austrian general Picolomini led his army through Kosovo (then a Turkish province) and Kachanik Gorge and penetrated as far as Skopje. The Austrians defeated the Turkish troops and with the help of the Karposh rebels entered Skopje which had already been liberated. Picolomini arrived in Skopje on October 25th, 1689. He didn’t intend to go south, but through Albania direction Durres, wishing to destroy the Turkish fortification and thus to fill the Turks with terror. But unfortunately, there was a plague epidemics spread everywhere. The next day on October 26th, the general Picolomini commanded his soldiers to set fire in Skopje, and like Nero he watched the fire while listening to the music of his military band. He wrote all this to his King Leopold 1st. After the fire, the Austrian army withdrew to Kachanik Pass and Kosovo. But the general Picolomini, had been infected by the plague in Skopje, and he died in the morning of November 9th. The general forces of the uprising were settled in the liberated towns of Kriva Palanka and Kumanovo. After the massive attacks of the Turkish-Tatar troops this cities fall gain under Turkish rule. The Turks gathered their army and the staff held a counsel at Edrine, where the question of overcoming the uprising of the Macedonian miners under the leadership of Karpos was discussed. The task was carried out by Halil Pasha, who retook all the places that have been liberated by the miners. Skopje was the last to surrender. Karpos was captured in Kumanovo and brought to Skopje, where he was hung on a tree near the Stone Bridge, butchered by soldiers and thrown into the muddy waters of the Vardar river. This was the bloody and the tragic end of the Karpos uprising, at the beginning of December 1689. In 1805 the mine was rented by Ali-Beg Majdemdzija and the work continued. According to the manuscripts of Amu Bue, that town had in 1836 56,000 inhabitants. Until the end of the 19th century the town of Kratovo rapidly stagnated and the once most beautiful “Carsija” with goldsmith’s and silversmith’s shops decayed. In the beginning of the 19th century center of mining becomes Zletovo while in Kratovo completely ceases mining activity. At the end of the 19th century in Kratovo lived 4,500 residents of whom a significant number were Turks. Since 1912 large part of Turks had moved and Kratovo turned into a small urban settlement and in 1931 it had only 1.883 inhabitants.
Kratovo is the seat of Kratovo Municipality, which covers an area of 37,544 ha, has 31 township with 10,441 inhabitants. The Kratovo population is mainly employed in the mining industry. There is a non-metallic mine, factory Bruce, plastic and textile factory and excellent conditions for tourism. Kratovo features well preserved stone houses with red roofs erected in old town architecture, attractive arched stone bridges, among the most prominent being Radin, Johchiski and Charsiski (bazaar) Bridge and medieval towers of which 3 are famous – the Simikjevata, Haji Kostovata and Emin Bey Tower. The Kratovo Clock Tower /built in 1372/ is one of the six towers that survived from the medieval and the Turkish period of history. On the third floor visitors can relax, looking through some of the windows or balcony to the medieval Kratovo….

Dordje of Kratovo was Serb, born in the 16th century by prominent Christians Dimitrije and Sara. As Djordje’s father dies early his mother sents Djordje to town of Serdica – the present Sofia to learn craftsmanship of goldsmiths and silversmiths. Being goldsmith in the Middle ages provided a highly reputation in exclusively urban society with large fines enacted by the Tsar Dusan Code for goldsmiths who did not obey and remained to live in villages. In Sofia young Djordje started to get goldsmiths skills, but also learned and read liturgical books of his Orthodox faith. Djordje regularly attended the liturgies and had excellent teacher and spiritual father, highly educated priest Peter, better known as Pop Peja. Contrary to the Christian calmness, during the reign of sultan Selim, young Djordje came into disagreement with powerful ulemas and hodzas of the Sofia sanjak when he refused to convert to Islam with offered option to gain higher social status and honor, and opportunity to become more urban and richer. As victim of slander that he had profaned Mohammedan religion and blasphemed Mohammed, Djordje was taken to prison and after torture exposed to the judges who blackmailed him with proposition either to convert or to be executed in public in bonfire. That is how young Djordje brutally ended in Sofia, burned alive at the stake being only 18 years old. Several months later the holy remains of Djordje Kratovac /of Kratovo/ were dig out and placed in a coffin in the Church of Saint John Chrysostom in Kratovo. Respecting the memory of Djordje Kratovac, the goldsmiths of Sofia proclaimed the day when Djordje died, 11th of February 1515 for their patron day /protector of goldsmiths/. The earliest hagiography of the Holy New martyr George of Kratovo dates from the 17th century, as the manuscript 479 from the Hilandar Monastery, as well as the Serbian-Slavic manuscript which was originally kept in the Rila Monastery and now is exposed in the National Library in Sofia. When Pajsije bishop of Hilandar Monastery went in 1550 to visit the Tsar Ivan Vasilyevich Grozny – Ivan the Terrible, he gifted the tsar with the double-sided icon bearing depictions of the King Milutin and King Stefan of Decani on one side, and depictions of the Holy Prince Lazar and Holy Martyr George of Kratovo on the other side. This Orthodox martyr is depicted in many Serbian monasteries and churches and his cult was widely spread and respected. In 1925 a church dedicated to this Orthodox Christian martyr was built in the center of Kratovo, with the monument erected to this martyr – the saint of Kratovo. The particle of the holy relics of Saint George martyr of Kratovo is kept in the festive ornate coffin /gifted by the Union of goldsmiths of Serbia/, in the monastic church of the Shroud of the Holy Virgin in Mala Remeta Monastery on southern slopes of Fruska Gora Mountain. The Mala Remeta Monastery celebrates its feast of the Shroud of the Holy Virgin on 14 October, but also celebrates the Saint George, Newmartyr of Kratovo on the 24 February.

 

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