frescoes & icons, Ohrid
It is said that Macedonia has 992 churches with 150.000 sqm of frescoes and 23.000 icons. This Icon Gallery has about 30 icons on display, ranging from the 11th c. (1045) to the 19th century. I give you the link to a very informative page on the icons further down.
Working hours: 10:00-14:00 and 18:00-21:00. Closed Monday.
Entrance fee100 denar.
NO PHOTOS PERMITTED.
Opposite to the Church of Bogorodica Perivleptos there is a gallery of icons.
It is a very modest building and you may not notice it if you wouldn't know about the treasures it houses...
Many of the approximately 50 icons on display icons are actually from Church of Bogorodica Perivleptos.
Entrance 50 denars for Macedonians (less than a euro)
Entrance 100 denars for foreigners (1.60 euro)
Unless you are interested in icons it probably is not really worth a visit.
Directly oposite the church of St. Bogorodica Perivlepta (St. Clement) also known as Holy Mary, is the icon museum of Ohrid which is rightly regarded as one of the finest collections in the Balkans.
I have mentioned in other tips on VT that I am not a religious man but I do love places of worship and the art associated with them, specifically icons and so this place was an abolute joy for me. The quality of the work here is stunning. So important are these icons, in fact, that we were told a number of them had been recently shown in the Netherlands at a recent exhibition. For understandable reasons i.e. flash or strong light damaging fragile the icons, photography is not allowed inside and I would recommend the attached (non commercial) website for some excellent images.
Similarly, I don't see a lot of point in me paraphrasing the excellent webpage here but a very few salient points are that the icons date from the 11th to the 19th centuries and comprise a number of styles. It is very difficult to choose one favourite but mine is probably the 17th century Archangel Michael complete with sword.
There is an admission charge but I don't know what it is as the whole trip was arranged for us.
[…] The frescoes in the Holy Mother of God Peribleptos are a masterpiece of Byzantine art of what has been called the "Palaiologian Renaissance". These frescoes were the main reason for Ser Herbert Read to notice that the churches in Ohrid "provide unique proof that between Byzantine ecclesiastical art, Ravenna and Sicily, on the one hand, and the Italian Renaissance, on the other, there was no void", and to conclude that "Ohrid is a notable bridge in European art".
The frescoes in the Holy Mother of God Peribleptos are considered to be the first masterpiece of at that time young painters Michael Astrapas and Eutychios, from Thessaloniki in Greece. Unlike medieval fresco painters who were chiefly anonymous masters in the shadow of those who commissioned their work, Michael and Eutychios "have not believed in anonymity". Obviously conscious of their artistic possibilities and achievements they left several signatures on their works, not hidden or small, but large, decorative and very obvious. It is very easy to spot the name of Michael Astrapas on the sword of the Holy Warrior Saint Mercurius and the name of Eutychios on the cape of Holy Warrior Saint Procopius, both depicted on the columns in the church.
Their fresco paintings depicting the Great Feasts are on the highest parts of the church walls.
Below them is a cycle presenting the Passion of Christ, from the Last Supper to Lamentation and Resurrection. Academician Cvetan Grozdanov PhD, former president of Macedonian Academy of Sciences and Arts, wrote the following about the Lamentation of Christ: "(It) is unique and moving with no comparisons in the art of that period, but in continuity with the famous composition depicting the same scene from Nerez near Skopje. On this frescoe many mourners, shown very emotionally, descend on Christ's dead body. Those nearest Him embrace His hands and feet, the Virgin is fainting, some women are tearing their hair and throwing off their shawls. […] The angels are mourning together with people. In the left is a group of women – professional wailers, certainly shown according to the painters' observation of folk custom".
The Apocryphal Life of the Virgin is illustrated on the lower level, starting on the southern and northern altar wall. This cycle include beautiful Joachim and Anna before the Golden Gate, Nativity of the Virgin… on the southern side, Old Men Standing Before the Arch-priest to Ask the Virgin's Hand in Marriage with "very good study of the heads of the old men", on the northern side… On the western are depicted scenes showing the death of the Virgin, with huge, marvelous Assumption of the Virgin as the central piece.
Among the other paintings by Michael Astrapas and Eutychios in the church are numerous portraits of the Saints as well as compisitions Dream of Emperor Nebuchadnezzar, Unburnable Blackberry, Moses Receiving the Ten Commandments, Jacob's Ladder…
Art of Michael Astrapas and Eutychios is often compared with art of Giotto, and frescoes in Holy Mother of God Peribleptos were created approximately a decade prior to Giotto's first mature masterpiece – the frescoes in the Arena Chapel in Padua. Art of Michael Astrapas and Eutychios stands the comparison.
Apart from their works the churh chapels were fresco painted in 1364 and 1365. The latest frescoe is the Last Judgement painted on the porch wall in the 16th century.
The "keeper" of the frescoes is a Macedonian lady who, if our memory is correct, got her PhD at University in Veliko Turnovo in Bulgaria on the subject of the frescoes in the Holy Mother of God Peribleptos. Her guidance to the church and the frescoes in it is very passionate and informative. The entrance to the church is not free, but the price of the ticket is symbolic.
This church is on top of the hill overlooking the town. There is also a good view of the fortress. Be sure to visit the icon gallery next door to the church. This picture is of one of the frescoes inside the church. and is Sveti Climent himself!
Sveti. Climent was built in 1295 and contains many fine frescoes. This one, of the Old Testament reference to Jacob's Ladder is in the entrance to the church.
There are many frescoes of the Death of the Virgin Mary in Macedonia, including the excellent one at Panteleimon outside Skopje. While this one is better preserved, it isn't as fine in my view.