This huge church dates back to the 11th century and was built shortly after Macedonia's official conversion to Christianity. The outside is supported by beautiful columns and inside it is decorated with frescoes. Due to great accoustics, concerts are often held inside. This church appears on the coat of arms of the Macedonian Orthodox Church.
Right in the centre of Ohrid is the commanding Church of St. Sofia. It's not the most beautiful of Ohrid's churches, but it is probably its most important. It was once a cathedral, whose ecclesiastical domain reached as far as Belgrade in the north, as far east as Thessalonica, and as far west as Durres in Albania.
The age of the church is unknown, but it is known that it is at least a thousand years old. The first dome of the church was constructed around the 10th century when the Czar of Macedonia moved his throne and seat of power to Ohrid.
Build in the early 11th century as a cathedral church for Archbishop Leo of the Archbishopric of Ohrid. Displays a high number of well-preserved 11th century frescos.
It was built on the remains of a former basilica and became a mosque and a warehouse during the Ottoman Empire (1400-1913 AD), during which the inside with its frescoes has been completely whitewashed. Most of the frescoes have been restored now.
Entrance fee for foreigners is 100 Denars, about 1.60 euros.
During the Ohrid Summer Festival, concerts are given in the church. If you have the opportunity to be there, do not miss it!
Part of a tour through Ohrid described on my Ohrid page, see the link below.
After the Robevi House, the next stop on our guided tour was the very impressive Church of Saint Sofia. Sofia appears to be a particularly revered Saint for Orthodox Christians. I know for example that the church in Bayswater, London which is head of Greek Orthodoxy in the UK is named for her and obviously the famous building in Istanbul springs to mind.
Unfortunately, this particular buiding to the Saint demonstrates to an extent the various troubles and religious strife that have plagued the Balkans for centuries. I shall explain later. It is probable that there was a church here from the tenth century although there are insufficient records to prove it. Extensions followed over the next few centuries, extending the church and altering it's appearance.
The next "alteration", however, was of a diferent nature. The Turks took control of this area and turned the place into a mosque, whitewashing the frescoes and building a minaret amongst other things. This alteration has now been reversed and the frescoes are regarded as being an extrmely fince collection with some even dating from the eleventh century.
Definitely a "must" see on any tour of Ohrid.
The history of the Church of St. Sophia (Crkva Sveta Sofija) dates back to the end of the 10th century, when the church was built on the foundations of an early Christian basilica. The church is home to exceptional frescoes from the 11th to the 14th centuries.
During Ottoman rule the frescoes were whitewashed and the church was transformed into a mosque. At the beginning of the 20th century it became again an Orthodox church and the frescoes were revealed.
In May 2011 the entrance to the church cost 100 MKD (about 1,70 Euro).
The Church of St. Sophia is situated right in the heart of Ohrid's old town, just at the base of the hilly part of the area.
The church of St. Sophia is not just a great monument filled with artworks, but is also an excellent concert hall due to its perfect acoustics. It is often used as a venue for different events during the annual Ohrid Summer Festival , which takes place in July and August.
I have enjoyed two events that took place here, both for their artistic quality as well as for that special entrancing atmosphere when one drifts away while looking at ancient frescoes, slightly confused by the scent of frankincense and warm light of burning candles. I would recomment attending such an event also to those without much passion for classical music, because the whole experience is very special and they usually last that long. Since it's usually some sort of chamber music and recitals, you might be able to sneak away between two 'songs' (you'll know when that is when connoisseurs start applauding ;o) ).
This church, like most others in the area, has been used by all major religions - it was built as a cathedral in 10th century and converted into a mosque in 14th century. During the second half of the 20th century, extensive restauration works have been done to turn it back into a church. You can learn more about its impressive history from the website listed below.
St. Sophia is one of the most impressive medieval buildings in Ohrid. The church was the center of the Ohrid archiepiscopacy, which once had jurisdiction over the regions of the Danube, Thessalonica, and Albania.
Built or rebuilt on the grounds of an early Christian basilica between the years 1035-1056, the church is one of the best representatives of Macedonian religious architecture.
During the time when Macedonia was part of the Ottoman Empire, the church was turned into a mosque and the frescoes were covered with plaster – thus luckily preserving them for future generations.
Very difficult to make pictures because cathedral is large, close to are houses or always cars are around.
Sveta Sofija – Santa Sophia, the Church of the Divine Wisdom, is one of the most important medieval monuments in Macedonia, but also beyond. This impressive structure was erected on the foundations of an older religious edifice in the period following the apostolical mission of Saints Cyril and Methodius to the Slavs. There are presumptions that it was built during the reign Knyaz Boris I, contemporary of Cyril and Methodius, in the second half of the 9th century. What can be said with very high certainty is that the church served as a cathedral during the reign of Emperor Samuil, who, in the late 10th century, transferred his capital from Prespa to Ohrid.
The Church Cathedral of Santa Sophia was reconstructed, enlarged and fresco-painted after the fall of Samuil's empire, at the time of Archbishop Lav, in mid 11th century. Since the 11th century, it was the "Great Church" of the Archbishopric of Ohrid whose authority had been stretched over the territory from the Danube to the Albanian shores and the Thessaloniki bay. Over the following centuries it enjoyed great reputation in the Orthodox world. The heads of the Archbishopric emphasized its Justinian legacy, and among the Archbishops were the most prominent personalities of the Eastern Church, such as Theophylact, scholar and philosopher. Santa Sophia was designed and decorated as the leading church of the powerful autocephalous organization.
At the end of the 14th century Ohrid was conquered by the Ottoman Empire. In the mid 15th century, probably in 1466, the Church of Santa Sophia was converted into a mosque and significant alterations were made. The church suffered destruction of the dome and all the frescoes were plastered and whitewashed. After the First Balkan War and the liberation of Ohrid in 1912, Santa Sophia was again transformed into church.
The removal of plaster started almost 40 years lates – in 1949, and then, in a greater scale, in 1951. It revealed nicely preserved gallery of marvelous fresco paintings created from the 11th to the 14th century. It is considered to be the most complete iconographic entity in a single cathedral church dating from the 11th century, along with paintings in Santa Sophia Cathedral in Kiev. Among the most noticeable are the fresco paintings of Madonna and Child in the altar apse, altar frescoes Abraham's Sacrifice, Jacob's Ladder, Angel frieze, portraits of Patriarchs from Constantinople, Jerusalem and Antioch, archbishops from Ohrid and Roman Popes… Probably the most exquisite is the depiction of Forty Martyrs of Sebaste, which, unfortunately, we have only glanced at.
A detail of the Santa Sophia facade is depicted on the reverse of the Macedonian 1000 denars banknote, issued in 1996 and 2003. Due to church acoustics concerts are held there. We hope we will be able to seize the opportunity and to enjoy music in Santa Sophia in the future.
The Church Cathedral of Santa Sophia stands at the lower part of the Ohrid old town. The entrance to the church is not free, but the price of the ticket is symbolic.
One of the architectural masterpiecees of Macedonia from the early period of Slavic culture, renovated on 11th century.
Its size and the arrangement of the fresco- paintings in the sanctuary seem to suggest that it was constructed as a cathedral. It began as a three- nave basilica with transpect, dome and narthex, suggesting a transition to the civil construction of the 12th to 14th centuries when churches usually had a square base foundation and cruciform construction.
The beauty of St Sophia lies in its exonarthex with its open galleries and two towers ending in small domes.
This church is a pretty one located very close to the town centre, before the big climb to the more famous Sv Kliment Monastery. We didn't actually get to go inside it because we didn't have denars and could not pay for the admission. I was very disappointed that there was actually an admission price and one that differed for foreigners. The entry is inexpensive (approx $3 ), however the fact that you have to pay to enter such a small little church leaves a bad impression.
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