church of St. Bogorodica Perivlepta (St Clement)
In the old part of the town, near the Upper Gate, in 1295 the church
of St. Bogorodica Perivlepta, known as St. Clement, was built. It is one of the oldest
churches in Ohrid, and concurrently one of the most beautiful, above all for its frescoes.
According to an inscription on the western entrance of the nartex, the
Byzantine military commander and deputy Progon Zgur, a relative of the Emperor Andronicus
II Palaeologus, built the church. The inscription also states that the church was
dedicated to the Holy Mother.
When the Turks converted the church St. Clement into a mosque, his
remains were first moved to the small church of St. Clement, and later on to the church
St. Bogorodica Perivlepta, after which the people simply renamed the church into St.
In the period after the conversion of the church St. Sofia into a
mosque, the church St. Clement became the cathedral church of the Ohrid Archiepiscopate. A
large number of religious objects, icons, and books were brought to St. Clement. It is
known that within the church there was a large Archiepiscopate library that contained
papyrus manuscripts from XI and XII century, and old musical notations of Byzantine church
songs. Some of these precious objects are preserved to the present day, however the
majority was taken from their original home during the devastation that Ohrid and its
citizens were exposed to. Also there was a large monastery estate around the church, and
the Archiepiscopate Palace was built in its immediate vicinity. However, it was burnt to
ashes in the middle of XIX century. The church St. Clement used to be called "The
Great Church" because it was the cathedral church of the Ohrid Archiepiscopate.
The discovery of the frescoes in the church fundamentally changed
the knowledge about art in the late XIII century and the beginning of XIV century, not
only in Macedonia, but also in all Orthodox countries in Southeast Europe. They were
actually the last phase of the Byzantine culture known as the Palaeologus Renaissance. At
the same time, the frescoes of the church St. Clement reveal the work of two artists,
Aichael and Eutychus, who for nearly three decades dominated the art of fresco painting in
Macedonia and Serbia.
The shape of the church St. Bogorodica Perivlepta (St. Clement) is
cruciform with a dome and a parvis with narrow calotte. This, as well as the churches of
St. John the Theologian and St. Bogorodica Zahumska, that are also cruciform in shape, are
examples of Macedonian architecture from the Palaeologus period.
The fresco painters Michael and Eutychius exhibited ten cycles in
the altar, nartex, and parvis. In the central part of the dome is the portrait of Christ
the Almighty surrounded by angels. The highest zones are occupied by scenes of the Great
Holidays, and immediately beneath them, around the nartex, is the cycle of Christ's
Sufferings, while the western angles of the nartex are filled with scenes of Christ's
Miracles, Healing Powers, and Actions.
Scenes of the Eucharistic ceremonies and liturgies cover the altar
space of the church. Under Christ's Sufferings are the scenes describing the life of the
Holy Mother. The cycle starts from the altar's southern wall and ends on its northern
wall. The altar's western wall is also filled with the scenes of the Holy Mother's life,
but these refer to Her death. They are dominated by the scene of the Ascendance of the
Holy Mother, located at the centre of the cycle.
According to one of the best experts for Byzantine art, the scholar
Cvetan Grozdanov, its dramatical energy, dynamics, and realism distinguish the features of
this fresco-painting trend. The artists Michael and Eutychius abandoned the former
Byzantine standards of fresco painting and brought their individual features into their
Their style could best be described through the scene of "The Last
Supper" that contains third dimension elements. The Masters resolved this issue by
drawing an Apostle sitting in front of the table in the front part; Christ with the
Apostles is in the central part, whereas the background is filled with architectonic
The strong dramatic energy is emphasized in the scene "Jude's
Betrayal", and the scenes of Christ's Trial and His Sufferings. According to Cvetan
Grozdanov, "The Lamentation" is incomparable to any other scene from that
period. In this dramatic scene, the closest associates of Christ bend over His death body
and kiss His hands and legs, the Virgin Mary is unaware, some women are pulling their hair
in pain, even the angels are mourning. Grieving women also appear in an angle. This type
of traditional folk elements from the region of Ohrid is included in some other
compositions as well.
The northern wall of the church contains portraits of St. Clement of
Ohrid and of the Archbishop Constantine Cavassila. The portrait of St. Clement occupies a
remarkable position because the citizens of Ohrid believed that he was the protector of
the town who watches over the destiny of the people and protects them from diseases and
wars. The portrait of the Archbishop Cavassila was also given a notable position because
of the extraordinary role he played in governing the Ohrid Archiepiscopate. He was also an
esteemed XIII-century politician and poet
The parvis of the temple is filled with scenes from the Old Testament,
such as: Moses accepts the commandments, the birth of Jesus, Jacob's Ladder, The Struggle
of the angel, and others.
The painting skills of Michael and Euthychius reveal the work of
great Masters who deeply elaborated the religious themes and enriched them with their
individual philosophical views. It is also evident that they were well educated in
history. In analyzing their artwork, Grozdanov stated that they most probably gained their
mastery skills in the large centre - Thessalonica, the cultural metropolis of Macedonia
and the Byzantine Empire.
In 1365 the fresco painting of the northern and southern chapel
paraklis??? as well as the open porch were completed. At that time Archbishop of the Ohrid
Archiepiscopate was Gregorius II. The northern paraklis chapel ??? was dedicated to the
St. Gregorius the Theologian. The artists were disciples of the School of Theorianus.
It is interesting to note that the southern chapel paraklis??? is the
place where now the covering plate of the joint tomb of St. Clement of Ohrid and the
Archbishop Prohor is preserved.
A number of masterpieces were also discovered in the porch of the
church, such as the icons of The Annunciation, Christ the Almighty, Evangelist Matthew, as
well as a group of Holiday icons. They date from the XII century to the beginning of the