Saint Panteleimon Monastery Nerezi village

The Monastery of Saint Panteleimon in the village of Nerezi is the old, wonderfully preserved Byzantine Church from the middle of the 12th century that is situated in the village of Gornji Nerezi close to Skopje, on the wonderful Vodno Mountain. The Monastery of Sveti Panteleimon, situated 6 km from the center of Skopje, on the slopes of Vodno Mountain, is an essential visit for anyone interested in the Byzantine art. The frescoes in St Panteleimon brought big changes in the development of the Byzantine art and Macedonian in particular and gave basis to suppose that local painters, though reared in the tradition of decorative Byzantine painting, could make brave steps even in the 12th and the 13th centuries towards a new art which was later, in the 14th and the 15th centuries in Italy known as the Renaissance Art.

The church and monastery are both dedicated to Saint Panteleimon, the patron of physicians. According to the Greek inscription on the marble plaque above the entrance to the nave, it is clear that the Saint Panteleimon Church has been built in 1164 by Alexius Angelus Comnenus, the relative of the Byzantine Tzar Manojlo I Comnenus. The Monastery of St Panteleimon was first mentioned in 1300 in the founding Charter of Serbian King Milutin /1282 -1321/ in which it was attested as the metochion of the Saint George Monastery in Staro Nagoricane village. The Church of Saint Panteleimon Monastery has base of the cross inscribed in rectangle with four small domes over the angles of the church and a large dome above the central part of the church with narthex, what makes it similar to the Church of Saint George in Staro Nagoricano and Matejce Monastery. The Saint Panteleimon Church has been built by group of talented unknown master-builders of ordinary blocks of stone and bricks with great artistry that merged into multicolored surfaces. Narthex with the semi-circular vault was added on the western side of the church.

The Saint Panteleimon Monastery in Gorno Nerezi village is known for its outstanding frescoes, exceptional in their style and aesthetics. Frescoes of the Saint Panteleimon Monastery have been painted by anonymous masters of the rank of the best Byzantine imperial frescoes painters of the 12th century and represent the most significant depictions of the Byzantine paintings and the best depictions of the Byzantine arts of the Comnenos era. The fresco paintings in the narthex of the St. Panteleimon church in Nerezi are only partly preserved, and by their thematic character, they can be divided into 3 groups: the first group consists of fragments of the Life cycle of St. Panteleimon, the second group consists of remnants of the Deesis composition painted over the entrance to the naos with the representations of Jesus Christ, the Mother of God, and St. John the Baptist. The third group consists of fragments of the scenes in the first zone on the north end of the east wall, as well as the fragment of the imperial scene, which can be linked with the donor composition which was painted in the second zone on the north end of the east wall. On the eastern wall of the narthex, next to the door, there is fresco of the Holy Archangel Michael, in lavish cloths. In the higher zone of the Saint Panteleimon churh naos there are frescoes that depict life scenes of the Christ and the Holy Virgin. The most significant frescoes of the Saint Panteleimon Monastery from the 12th century are : Mourning of Christ, Moving from the Cross, Transfiguration and Purification of the Virgin Mary. The Mourning of Christ composition is particularly impressive for its emotional portrayal of the grief of the Mother of God over the body of her son, whose face expresses pain and deep sorrow. The Holy Mother of God is staring at her dead son s face, whom she is holding in her arms. Her eyebrows are raised and contracted, her lips pressed tightly together and her eyes radiate grief transmitted to the other figures which represent a departure from earlier Byzantine painting where the Nerezi painter paid great attention to expressing the inner feelings of his figures. Frescoes provide harmony in depictions of portraits in regard with movements, and colors, and specific characteristics that occur in depicting people who hand over living as well as realistic scenes with the full expressions and movements. High artistic achievement of fresco-painters is attested in the composition Moving from the Cross where mother’s pain for lost son is outstandingly depicted. Besides those there are frescoes from the 16th century that were painted after the disastrous earthquake which happened in 1555. The 12th century frescoes inside the little church of Saint Panteleimon in Nerezi village are among the finest in Macedonia.

In the modern buildings of the Saint Panteleimon Monastery courtyard are a hotel and restaurant, with fine views of Skopje and the Vardar valley – it is easy to see how the growth of the city has been constrained by the terrain to follow an east-west axis.