If you were to ask me what I remember most above Sveti Spas church, it wouldn't be the famed carved wood iconostatis or the tomb and museum of famed Macedonian liberation hero Goce Delcev. Rather, it would be the fact that a hair elastic fell out of my purse at some point during my visit, and as I was leaving the man who sold my ticket chased after me to return the hair elastic. It was a touching gesture that reminded me of how someone from a developed country might take something like a hair elastic for granted, but to someone working in a Macedonian church it was important enough to warrant following me out of the church. That's kindness!
" I understand the world solely as a field for cultural competition among nations".
Goce Delchev 1872-1903
When you visit Sv Spas, first thing you notice that, altought you are in the middle of the Old City of Skopje and is very crowded, here in the gareden of the Church, you feel unexpected tranquilty.
Here in the Church yard is the garve & remebrance hall of one of the greates Macedonian Revolucionarys --Goce Delchev.
He vas born in Kukush ( today Northen Greece) as Georgij Nikolov Delchev, in 1872. His father Nikola was vealthy merchant, so after finishing high school in Kukush, he atended Military academy in Sofija-Bulgaria.
In Sofija he was one of the Founding Fathers of MRO & important figure in the Macedonian struggle for independance.
He died in May 1903 in Banitsa(today N Greece) fighting the Ottomans. Goce & his 74 komiti(rebels) were overrun by 400 Ottman solders.
With his death Macedonia lost one of the guiding lights for the struggle of Independace from the Portte.
I have to admit, when it comes to this church, I am a bit of an idiot. Maybe that's not entirely fair: I was in Skopje for one day only (I wanted to stay two nights, but every single room except a bridal suite was booked up) and this was after I had did the all night bus trip from Sarajevo. Anyway, I came by the church as I sat in the square in front of it to eat some baklava, admired at its exterior, and then left. The real treat, however, is the exquisite iconostasis inside this 16th-17th century church. It was destroyed in the 19th century but redone in the 1860s. It supposedly combines a variety of artistic styles, including Islamic art (I'm piecing together the Macedonian explanation, or at least what I understood of it) to depict Biblical stories, including the two testaments. Definitely go in inside - but if you don't, you can always be inspired by the pretty wooden bell-tower of the church. Also, a Macedonian national hero, Goce Delchev, is buried behind the church.
The Church and Monastery of Sveti Spas (Holy Salvation) can be found a bit south from the main entrance of the Kale Fortress.
Some of the foundations date back to the 14th century, before Ottoman times. The church was partly rebuilt underground in the 16th century, since under Ottoman rule churches were not allowed to be taller than a mosque.
The church is famous for two reasons:
1) The iconostasis was made by three of the most famous woodcarvers of that time: The brothers Marko and Petar "Garka" Filipovski from the village Gari and Makarije Frckovski from Galicnik. The iconostasis is made from walnut tree and about 10m wide and 6m high, it took 6 years (1819-1824) to make it! Besides the many religious scenes, the woodcarving team itself can be found at the right side of the iconostasis, as some kind of humoristic signature. This team also made the iconostases of the Monastery of St Jovan Bigorski in Mavrovo National park and the Monastery of St Gavril Lesnovski (St Gabriel) in Lesnovo, see my other tips.
2) The site houses the sarcophagus with the remains of Goce Delcev (1872-1903). Goce Delcev was the leader of the Independence for Macedonia Revolutionary Organisation (IMRO). Goce was beheaded in 1903. His remains were exhumed in 1946 and moved to Sveti Spas. The box in which his remains were transported to the church is shown in the small Goce Delcev Museum on the site.
Saturday and Sunday 09.00-15.00h
It was built in the beginning of the XVII or XVIII century, upon foundations on an older church. Part of the fresco painting on the southern side was found from this older church which orgins from XVI century. In contrasr to the modest outside appearance of the church, after one enters inside, he immediately becomes astonished in front of the beauty of the iconostasis on the eastern side. The iconostasis is 6 meters high and 10 meters long. On this space, the carving group managed to show numerous scenes from the bible, important geometrical ornaments and figures from the flora and the fauna. Also there in the inside of the church is the Grave of the Macedonian national Hero Goce Delcev.
One of the gravestones in the pavement -- the Macedonian hero Goce Delchev is also buried here. He participated in the Macedonian Revolutionary organization in the early 20th century. Check the listed website for a full history of his activities.
The images on the wall poster include one of the carved wooden ossuary in which Goce Delcev's bones were returned to Skopje in 1979.
The bones of the Macedonian hero, Goce Delcev were retuned in 1979 and placed in this stone sarcophagus in the courtyard of Sv. Spas church in Skopje.
This church has a beautiful carved wooden 'iconostasis' [altar screen]. It is a less complex one done by the same carvers who made the incredible one at Sveti Jovan Bigorski.