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 with well organized manufacture 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 and highly ancient historical settlement from the early Antiquity, known as the cradle of Macedonian culture. “Paeonia or Peonia or Paionia was territory and the kingdom of the same name of the Paeonean people, probably of the Thracian origin. In the Iliad the Paeonians are known as allies of the Troyans. The center of Paeonia was originally in Vilazora – present Veles, and later in Stobi. Dring the Persian invasion of the Greek polises-cities states and territories of the present Balkans, occupied Paeonians up to the Praxis Lake, together with Paeoplae and Siropaiones were deported from Paeonia to Asia. In 355 and 354 BC Phillip II of Macedonia took advantage of the death of King Agis of Paeonia and conquered his territory and occupied his population. So the southern part of the ancient Paeonia was annexed by the ancient Kingdom of Macedon and was named “Macedonian Paeonia” which included the cities of Astraion – later and present Strumica, Stenae – near modern Demir Kapija, Antigoneia – near modern Negotino, etc… Originaly, the precise borders of the Kingdom of Paeonia – Paionia are more or less uncldear likewise the previous history of indigenous people of Paionia. However it is known that it bordered with the northern territories of the present Macedonia that were approximately placed with borders in the modern Greek area of Macedonia, while in the southeast Paionia bordered with Dardania that existed in the place of the present Kosovo. In the east of Paionia were Thracian mountains, and in its west were Illyrians”. Source: Paionia – land on the way of invaders, translated and prepared by Katarina Krstić

“Peoniya (lat. paeonia, english peony) is perennial, herbaceous and ligneous plan, known in our population as ‘božur’. When you pronounce a word „božur“ – peony, the first asociation is mainly the „Kosovski božur“ – the Kosovo peony as per the impact of the Kosovo Myth and legend which has it that until the huge Kosovo Battle the peonies – the bozur flowers used to be white, and became bloody red after the blood of the Serb heroes when the fight ended…. If we connect this with the national name for this plant – the Vidova trava, and knowing that the Kosovo Battle happened on the Orthodox feast of Vidovdan – Saint Vitus Day, it is not difficult to determine the Slavic God Svetovid who not only „see the world“, but as the deity also can cure its wounds – ‘vida’. Latins took the name of peony from the Old-greek myth of the God Peon*, the healer of Olympian gods who among others cured the God Hades after Heracle wounded him. Because of vanity the God Hades confronted with the glorious Asclepios who decided to destroy and disgrace the Hyperborean doctor as he considered the Zeus honors exceed the skills of a Barbaric herbalist as was the Thracian Peon. Being affected by the young deity, and knowing that he can not easily confront the old Asclepios, Zeus decides to hide Peon in the northern areas by turning him into a diving flower which we know as peony – božur. The „northern areas“ are regarded as the space which was for some time independent between the antique Macedonia and Dardania which included the northern parts of the present Macedonia, around the course of the Vardar River, the nort of Kosovo and Bulgaria that were populated by the Thracians, the Illyrians and the Dardanians, in history known as the Kingdom of Peonia from where the Peonian hero Ras rushed with his army to help the Greeks of invaded Troy. Regarding with mentioned, it fully complies with the belief that the Serbs preserved the memory of the God Peon in the name of the bozur – peony, later maybe in the God Svetovid when they have named it by the divine flower which is used in traditional medicine for healing of some diseases, but also in magical sense for preparation of love rituals…. When reading annals of emperor Porphyrogenitus it might be understood that some Serbs arrived during the time of emperor Heraclius, but on the Serb existance in the Helm peninsula particularly testify the names of Peonian towns from the 4th century BC  – Stobi (stolp, stub), Stenai (stena or rocks)  and the most glorious of all – the Belazora – the Paeonian capital. * In Greek mythology, the eponymous hero of Peonians, son of elidian king Endymion, brothor of Etol, Eratos and Eurydice. When Etol received a throne of Elida, he remained in the country, but Peon fled far north and settled along the Axios river – Vardar where he became the founder of the Peonians. As per some other legends, Peon was son of Poseidon and Hella or Autarieus and the grand-son of Illyrius, the father of Scordisc and Triballians”. source Milan Jovović

The town of Veles features rather unique city scape 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. Even today there is the Mountain of Bela Zora in the vicinity of Veles. Veles was center of a number of Christian Orthodox churches built by the Medieval Serbian royalty and rulers. Here was the Church of Saint Archangel built before 1348, and the Church of Saint Demetrius recorded in 1300, while the Monastery of Saint John near Veles was erected during the Turkish reign in 1670, as since 1395 and the Ottoman conquest 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 Orthodox episcopal seat with well-developed trade, crafts and pottery. In 1689 the settlement of Veles experienced large destruction when it 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 World War, Veles lost its power when the number of population stagnated 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 zinc and porcelain, with thousands of employees in numerous big factories.

The terrain 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 which 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 of Krusevo…. The other central statue marks the Macedonian revolutionary and poet Koco Racin (1908-1943), born in Veles, who is considered a founder of modern Macedonian literature.

The WWII monument is memorial Ossuary is located on the hill above the east bank of the Vardar River. This monument looks like a poppy flower with a blossoming tree inside it, which symbolizes liberty. The WWII Monument in Veles commemorates the fighters from the Veles area who gave their lives for the liberation of the Macedonian people during WWII from 1941 to 1945 against the fascist German and Bulgarian forces.

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 of Veles and Macedonia who fought for the freedom from 1941 to 1945 during the National Liberation War against the fascist German and Bulgarian forces. This cement monument can be approached by stairs, and looks like a cracked-egg-shaped structure with interior museum which exhibits historical documents of the town during the WWII. The Memorial Ossuary in Veles 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. please see more

Monastery of Saint Demetrius (Манастир Св. Димитрија) is located few kilometers south of Veles. The Saint Demetrius Monastery was built in the 14th century by King Stefan Dušan as endowment of landlord Radenko and his mother, although by some sources it is the endowment of the lord Stratzimir – the brother of Stefan Nemanya Nemanyic. The Byzantine-style one nave church of Saint Demetrius Monastery has a three-sided outer apse and a narthex above which rises the bell tower built into its western side. The monastic Church of Saint Demetrius in Veles was built of ashlar stone with layers of bricks and mortar and facade decoration of chess details. The Church of Saint Demetrius in Veles was fully trapped during the Ottoman rule until the middle of the 19th century. The unique feature of this Monastery is the fresco depicting the Doomsday on the northern wall of the narthex which was recently discovered. This fresco composition depicts a large fish eating a sinner person 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.

Monument and grave of duke Jovan Stojkovic Babunski /Serbian Chetnik commander in Macedonian struggle and the last great hero of Stara Srbija-Old Serbia/ was demolished by Bulgarian during their occupation, when bones of this hero were thrown in the Vardar River. He was born in the village of Martolci near Veles and is remembered as great fighter and protector of the Serb population terrorized by the Turks and Arnauts. Jovan Stojkovic Babunski bravely fought in the firts rows in the Battle of Kumanovo in 1912 and the Salonica Break in 1918, and until his death in 1920 he tirelessly destroyed enemies of Serbia.

In the village of Tomislavljevo – today Donje and Gornje Karaslari village, in the Vardar River valley, 11 km southeast of Veles, the Memorial Ossuary was erected with remains of 1500 Serbian soldiers of the Veles area killed in the Balkan wars and the First World War 1912-1918 and soldiers died from cholera in 1913. Initiative for collecting scattered graves into a common Memorial and construction of the chapel above it – dedicated to the Holy King Stefan Decanski – came from arch-priest Nikola Jovicevic from Veles according to data from 1925 about a large graveyard which was left deserted and nearly forgotten. Committee for transmission of soldiers remains, led by the priest Nikola was created from reputed locals of this area, Christians and Muslims, with great contribution of the army and local Turks of the Tomislavljevo village – the Karaslari village. Since there were remains of the French soldiers in the graves all around the village, they were buried in a separate ossuary. King Aleksandar Karađorđević donated a bell for the Memorial chapel which was 308 kg in weight, and since 1941 was removed from this place. By the efforts of professor Bora Ristić from Skopje, the Memorial Chapel in the village of Karaslari was reconstructed to keep eternal memory of the heroic brothers by arms!

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”.