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About Ohrid (LYCHNIDOS)

Ohrid is one of the rare cities in the Balkans that had thrived uninterruptedly throughout the classical period. They survived the decline of the classical civilization and continued to live under their new names till the present time. The soil of this ancient city has seen numerous changes of civilization achievements followed by the inevitable falls and rises.

The contemporary city of Ohrid is a descendant of the antique town of Lychnidos. This was confirmed by several Byzantine sources in which it was written "the town is situated on a high hill near the large lake of Lychnidos, by which also the town was named Lychnis, previously known as Dyassarites". The existence of this town is also evident from numerous Roman documents. According to them, Lychnidos was located by the Via Egnatia, the oldest and most important Roman roadway in the Balkans. It started with two routes from Apollonia and Dyrachia and reached to Lychnidos through Candavian Mountains. Long before the Romans came into the region this route had been used as a communicational link between the coast and the internal parts of Illyria and Macedonia. Via Egnatia was the shortest route from Rome to the Eastern Empire.

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The earliest inhabitants of the widest Lake Ohrid region that can be identified by name were Brigians and Enhelians. Brigians are the same as Phrygians. According to Herodotus, the Phrygians from Asia Minor used to live in Europe in the vicinity of the Macedonians and were called Brigians. After the Troy War they migrated to Asia Minor and changed their name into Phrygians.

Historically, Enhelians have been identified as Illyrians. However, it should be underlined that Herodotus, and some other historians, distinguish them from the Illyrians.

The origin of their name, Enhelians, derives from encheleus -"eel", "serpent", and connects this people with the Lychnidos Lake since it is rich in eel. During the Roman conquests, towards the end of III and the beginning of II century BC, Desaretes and the region Desaretia were mentioned, as well as the town of Lychnidos, Lychnidus and the region Lychnis. Desaretia was a vast region that stretched from Devol in the west to the Macedonian regions of Orestidia and Lynkestidia to the east. Lychnitidia, the region around Lake Ohrid, in the beginning emerged as a separate region outside the borders of Desaretia.

After the Roman conquest, the name Desarets appeared as the joint name of all tribes that lived in the mountainous region inside the area of Macedonia and South Illyria, stretching from the border with Epirus in the south to the Parthynes and Phenestes in the north and Lynkestes in the east.

Lychnidos then became the capital of Desaretia.

Data on the political development of the Lychnidos region in the classical period is scarce and comes from preserved written documents. The first indicators of the political character of the region relate to the V century BC when, during the Pelophonnesus War in Greece on the northern border of Macedonia, a political community emerged. This community, named "Illyrians" by the classical writers, seriously threatened the safety of the Macedonian State at times.

It is said that the Illyrians held Macedonia enslaved before Philip II of Macedonia come power. With the arrival of Philip II the power shifted. This happened after the battle that most probably took place in Lynchestidis, today the Bitola Plain. The victorious party was the Macedonians. This battle was crucial for the further development of the relations between Illyria and Macedonia. It marked the end of the Illyrian domination over Macedonia. The Illyrians had to leave the region east of the northern shore of Lychnidos Lake.

In the year 335 BC, while Alexander III of Macedonia was on the river Danube, the Illyrian king Klit organized an insurrection against Macedonia. The sources do not mention the consequences of Alexander's victory over Klit. Several indirect data have shown that as a result Illyria was annexed to Macedonia, probably as a province under the administration of a strategist, as was the case with Trachia ever since the rule of Philip II.

During this period the region of Lychnidos was part of the Hellenic civilization and did not belong to the Latin speaking regions.

In the III century BC Rome expressed its aspiration towards the Balkans. Military actions begun and the Illyrian territories were used as starting bases in the war against the mighty Macedonian State. The Roman Empire lead three wars against Macedonia where the Macedonians, during the rules of Philip V and Perseus, tasted defeat for the first time. The whereabouts of these defeats are not precisely known. Perhaps they even happened in the region of Lychnidos. After the Third Macedonian War against King Perseus, Lychnidos became the main Roman base in the northern regions of Macedonia. It was at this exact time that the name was frequently heard.

In 148 BC Macedonia became a Roman colony that stretched to the Adriatic Sea to the west. The situation remained unchanged throughout the Early Roman Empire. Within the province, Dasaretia together with Lychnidos retained its status of a free community - one chronicle writer described Dasaretians as libera gens.

As a main centre of Dasaretians, Lychnidos had a great significance during the period of Roman Republic. The importance of Lychnidos is evident from numerous epigraphic monuments found in Ohrid. These monuments were erected by Dasaretians and their governmental bodies and are amongst the most important remnants of ancient Ohrid.

During the Late classical period Lychnidos was mentioned as an episcopal centre. The exact date of the foundation of the Lychnidos Episcopacy is not known. It was first mentioned in the acts of the church conclave in Serdika (343 AD) where Dionysius de Macedonia de Lychnido appears as one of the signatories. In fact, Dionysius is the only known bishop in Lychnidos in IV century.

Lychnidos was last mentioned on the occasion of its destruction. Among all the rest of heavy disasters that struck the Roman Empire during the reign of Ustinian (wars, floods, plague), earthquakes were also noted. According to the historical sources, in the earthquake that occurred on 29th and 30th May 526 AD, several thousand people from Lychnidos were killed. There are no further records of Lychnidos in historical documents. It also remains unclear whether or not Justinian rebuilt the town?




As early as the second part of the VIII century the region of Ohrid was an area of affinity for the Bulgarian State. During the reign of the Bulgarian Czar Boris the Macedonian territories were incorporated into several "komitati" (units of local authority). Ohrid was under a "komitat" that covered the regions of Ohrid and Devol. By incorporating the majority of "slavinias" into the Bulgarian State, their independent development was interrupted.

In Ohrid region Christianity was inaugurated as the official religion as early as IV century AD Since the first part of IV century the town of Lychnidos became an episcopal centre. When the region of Ohrid fell under the reign of the Bulgarian State, Duke Boris imposed Christianity because he wanted to strengthen his power through the church. Christianization in the region of Ohrid became particularly intense after 846 AD when Boris approved the baptism of his subjects by Greek priests.

After a short stay on the Bulgarian court, in 886 Clement (of Ohrid) was sent to Macedonia on a mission of importance for the state. He was sent to the region called Kutmicevica as a teacher. This region covered southwest Macedonia and southern Albania, with their respective capitals of Ohrid and Devol. Both towns were religious centers with cathedrals. During his teaching activity Clement had numerous students. There were approximately 3,500 "chosen" students. By developing so many Slavic clergyman in a short period Clement succeeded to introduce the Slavic religious service in the reconstructed and newly built churches throughout Ohrid region and Macedonia. This activity of Clement denoted the foundation of the Slavic church in Macedonia. After seven years of teaching, in 893 the new Bulgarian ruler Simeon (893-927) promoted Clement into Bishop of Drembica (or Bishop of Velika) and his teaching post was entrusted to Naum. His teaching activity was mainly centered in Ohrid. This is evident form the existence of the Monastery built on the Lakeshore.

The teacher and Bishop Clement, together with Naum, were the founders of the so-called Ohrid Glagolitic Literary School. Clement also wrote or translated about 50 works, thus enhancing the bases of the Macedonian and pan-Slavic literature and culture. The pursuits of Clement and Naum in the second half of IX century lead to Ohrid becoming one of the most developed and most famous medieval centres of Slavic culture. The solid bonds of Clement and Naum with this region are evident from the fact that both were buried in the Monasteries built by themselves on the shore of Lake Ohrid. Naum died in 910 and Clement in 916.



In 969 a conflict between the Byzantine Empire and the state of Kiev occurred. During the most severe conflicts between the Bulgarians, Byzantine and Russians, the Bulgarian Czar Peter died. His death in Macedonia was used as an excuse to start-up for a liberation resurrection. From the very beginning of the uprising incited by the sons of a Slav prince Nikola: David, Moses, Aaron and Samuel, the town of Ohrid and its surroundings were in the very centre of the tumults. The uprising started in 969 and quickly stretched out throughout the territory of the former "Sklavinia" (province) Berzitia. This territory and other neighbouring regions were freed from the Bulgarian rule. The former Macedonian "sclavinias" (provinces) were united into a Macedonian Slavic state known as Samuel's Empire. Although still under the supreme rule of the Byzantine emperor, in the period from 971 to 976 princes David, Aaron, Moses and Samuel managed to gain international recognition for their state.

Later, as a monarch, Samuel managed to develop a large army and well-trained soldiers so that by the end of X century the Macedonian state (Thessalonika excluded) was also covering the territories of Bulgaria, Serbia, Greece, Albania and Croatia. After obtaining the Pope's blessing, Samuel promoted the Macedonian Church to the rank of a patriarchate. Ohrid then became the ecclesiastical and czaristic centre of the Macedonian State and grew into a true medieval metropolis. The town consisted of two territorially adjoining parts: the fortress, i.e., acropolis, and lower town. These two sections formed the entire urban dwelling at that time known as polis.

In the fall of 1015 the Byzantine emperor Vasileus II succeeded in seizing Ohrid. The fortress, however, remained in the hands of Czar Jovan Vladislav, the heir of Gavrilo Radomir, son of Czar Samuel. After the assassination of Jovan Vladislav in the spring of 1018, the Macedonian State ceased to exist. In a 1073 record it is written that the town of Ohrid was in ruins. Vasileus II who was afraid that the Macedonian palaces might become a large centre of uprisings carried out this devastation.

Emperor Vasileus II believed that his subjects would be obedient if the Church was involved. Thus, he allowed for Ohrid to remain the centre of the Ohrid Archiepiscopate. The Ohrid Church became a tool of the Byzantine Empire for maintaining their rule over the Macedonians. During the reign of Vasileus II Ohrid Archiepiscopate consisted of 32 eparchies. At the end of XI century the number of eparchies was reduced to 26. One of the church superiors - Archibishop Leo was involved in the reconstruction and decoration with frescoes of the cathedral church of Saint Sofia.

In the middle of 1081 the Byzantine Empire entered into war with the Norman. This created conditions for overthrowing the rule of the Byzantine Empire in Macedonia. However, the Norman stayed in Macedonia, in Ohrid, until 1085, when they retreated from the Balkans. There is lengthy and broad narration about Ohrid from this period written by the geographer Idrisi, one of the many erudites from the royal court of Palermo. According to Idrisis's "Geography" written in 1153, Ohrid was situated on Via Egnatia, on a six-day journey distance from Durres (Albanian port). Besides the ancient road Via Egnatia, also the road linking Durres-Skopje-Strumica-Melnik-Serez-Orfano passed through Ohrid, as well as other main and local roads.

In XII century in Macedonia, in particular in the Ohrid region, the Bogomilism (dualistic-Manichaean religious sect) was widely expanding. After the withdrawal of the Norman, when the people's movement against the Byzantine rule gained power, the actions of the Bogomils were particularly strong in the Ohrid region.

Also the Archbishop Theophylus of Ohrid wrote about the shape and the life in Ohrid at the end of XI and during XII century. He wrote that in that period Ohrid was a large town whose inhabitants were the local people of Macedonian origin. The cathedral church of Saint Sofia was located in the fortified part of the town. In this church the Archbishop Theophylus carried out his religious services. He wrote that the citizens of Ohrid listened to his service "as the donkey would listen to the lyre". This was due to the fact that the service was in Greek. The same Archbishop wrote that in that period Venice and other Italian towns influenced all aspects of the development in Ohrid. Also, another rare record of the existence of "Municipal Council" was preserved for Ohrid. This Council was responsible for maintaining order in the town. Even the Archbishop was accountable for his activities to that Council.

For the needs of the Churches within the Ohrid Literary school, and also later during XV century, numerous books devoted to religious service were written. A great number of manuscripts were taken from Ohrid to Bologna, Moscow, Sofia, Belgrade, Zagreb, Prague, and other centres. Among them was the renowned Bologna Psalter - an important Macedonian manuscript. Today this literary work is kept in Bologna (Italy) and it bears the name by this city. The Bologna Psalter contains 264 papyrus sheets. It was written by Beloslav, Josif and Tihota, literates from the village of Ramne, Ohrid region, in the period between 1230-1242. In those days manuscripts were usually written by hand on papyrus, and lavishly ornamented and gilded. It is said that the Bologna Psalter is one of the most magnificent Slavic manuscripts from XIII century. It was edited in Macedonian, and its orthography is characteristic for the Ohrid Literature School.

In 1202 the Byzantine Empire faced the attacks of the IV expedition of the Crusaders. On 13th April 1204 the Crusaders seized Constantinople and this date marked the end of the Byzantine Empire. It was replaced by formation of the New Latin Empire. In the same year Latin rule was established in Macedonia, when the region of Ohrid, alongside with other southwest Macedonian territories, became a part of the Latin kingdom of Thessalonika.

In 1219 an event of importance to the Ohrid Archiepiscopy occurred. The patriarch of Nikkeia, Manuel, confronted the newly established Serbian autocephalous Archiepiscopate as a counterpoise to the Ohrid Archiepiscopate. When the Serbian Church became independent, the Ohrid Archiepiscopate lost its eparchies Raska, Prizren, Liplan and Srem. In 1272 a Byzantine emperor issued a proclamation granting the Ohrid Archbishop the right to reinstate the eparchies taken by the Serbian and Bulgarian Churches. In 1274 in Lion a treaty on Church Union between Rome and Constantinople was signed. On that occasion Serbia and Zagora were highly criticized for proclaiming autocephality without the consent of the Roman Archpriest.

In 1334 the Serbian king Dusan, using the enflamed internal struggles for power in Byzantine Empire managed to break the Byzantine line of defence in Macedonia and Albania, taking possession of a number of cities. The cities of Ohrid, Prilep and Strumica fell under the rule of Serbia. During the 7th decade of XIV century administrator of the Ohrid parish was Andrej Gropa. During his rule, in 1378, the church of St. Bogorodica Perivlepta (St. Clement) was added onto. There is an inscription about that in the church. Progon Zgur founded the church itself in 1295.

At the end of XIV century the Turkish sultan Bayazit I managed to impose his rule throughout Macedonia. It was possible, according to certain assumptions, that the Ohrid feudal principality maintained its independence till the end of the century, certainly under the supreme rule of the sultan.



During the excavation of the early Christian basilica at the locality Plaosnik (Imaret), remnants of secular Slavic architecture were found. It is believed that this building dates from the earliest period after the migration of the Slavs on the Balkans.

Sv. PantelejmonIn the middle of the 6th decade of 20th century, during the examination of Clement's church of St. Pantheleimon at Plaosnik (Imaret), it was found that the church was established on the remnants of an early Christian trefoil basilica. In Clement's life the church was built onto towards the west. According to Theopilact of Ohrid's "Life of St. Clement", Clement himself built his tomb. It is presumed that the church St. Pantheleimon was refurbished and decorated with frescoes in XIII century. Some further construction works were carried out until XV century, when the church was destroyed and converted into a mosque.

On the site of the classical theatre, in the layers of the medieval horizons, a large number of ceramic pots have been found. Their distinctive shape and ornaments obviously indicate that one of the main crafts of Slavs was pottery.

On the line starting from Gorna Porta (the Upper Gate), the excavations revealed the existence of a road. On its Northwest side the remnants of the original gate and curbstone were discovered. The road stretched in the northeast-southwest direction and towards the classical theatre. It had as much as 7.4 metres in length, and the curbstone 0.45 m. All examinations indicate that it was used even in the late Middle Ages.

On a number of archaeological sites in the old part of the town several water reservoirs, underground pipelines, and large number of drains were found. This confirms the well-known thesis according to which Ohrid was a real centre in the Middle Ages, developed according to the example of the series of famous centres.

During the Turkish rule in Ohrid, many of the Christian churches were converted into mosques. It is estimated that these churches were demolished in the course of XV century. In that period Clement's church, St. Pantheleimon was destroyed and on its ruins a mosque was erected. This mosque, known as Imaret Mosque, was endowed to the sultan Sinan Celebi. The cathedral church of St. Sofia shared the same destiny, whereas the churches St. Dimitry, St. Nicolas and St. Nedela (Holy Sunday) were completely demolished. The assumption is that the church of St. Dimitry was located on the square in the immediate vicinity of the Lake, and the church of St. Nedela in the vicinity of Ali Pasha Mosque. Ali Pasha Mosque was built in XVI century and also served as a Muslim religious secondary school. The ruined Aji Khasam Mosque located near the town square, dates from XV century. Necropola were found in the vicinity of both mosques, indicating the existence of medieval Christian sacred objects.



The Ohrid Archiepiscopate was the only medieval feudal institution that continued to exist in the time of the Turkish rule. Why the Turks decided to leave it active can only be assumed.

Whatever the reasons, the Archiepiscopate retained full internal autonomy and kept a large portion of its previous rights and privileges. This enabled it to fulfill its role. With the consent and support of the Turkish rulers, after a certain period of time, the Ohrid Archiepiscopate managed to expand its jurisdiction on new territories. In the first decades of XV century the jurisdiction of the Ohrid Archiepiscopate covered the eparchies of Sofia and Vidin. In the middle of XV century it had expanded to the eparchies of Vlaska and Moldavia, and prior to the re-establishment of the patriarchy of Pec, also the parts of the Serbian Church. In XVI century the Ohrid Archiepiscopate even managed to gain governance over the so-called Italian Eparchy, although only temporarily.

In order to survive, the feudal Ohrid Archiepiscopate gained benefits from certain taxes payable in goods and money, and free of charge labour. The free labour and taxes in kind were mainly practiced on special occasions, like holidays, religious feasts, whereas taxes payable in monies were collected in the form of fees. In addition, there was also the permanent annual tax. Thus, each Christian household paid 12 coins. The same tax was also paid by the clergy, but to the amount of one gold coin.

Folk stories transferred from generation to generation tell us that Ohrid had more than 300 churches - one church for each holiday in the year. However, after the arrival of the Turks the majority churches were ruined. According to one document, in XVII century there were 33 active churches, and in the beginning of XIX century only three town churches were in service.

There were times in the history of Ohrid Archiepiscopate when the entire territories were either seceded or alienated. The most dramatic example was that of Bishop Pavle of Smederevo who attempted to separate the Serbian eparchies from the Ohrid Archiepiscopate and re-establish the Pech Patriarchate. These efforts continued for rather a long period and lasted from 1527 to 1541. The Archbishop of Ohrid, Prohor, managed to convict these attempts three times before the Church Council. The Archbishops of Constantinople, Alexandria, Jerusalem, and Antioche followed suit.

During the rule of the Turks, the Archbishops from Ohrid used to travel to the Western European countries and to Russia to advocate for the liberation of the Balkans from the Turks. In that period certain bishops were inclined to the idea of a union with the Roman Church. The Ohrid Catholic Archbishopric was established in the middle XVII century, but in reality it never became active since the influence of Catholicism in Ohrid was futile.

In the second half of XVII century the Constantinople Patriarchate did not conceal its aspirations towards Ohrid Archiepiscopate. Due to certain disagreements between the Ohrid archpriests, the Patriarch of Constantinople promoted the Metropolitan Meletheus into Archbishop. His election led to the further internal conflicts within the Ohrid Archiepiscopate until its final abolishment. The conflicts were between the Fanariotes (pro-Greek inclined party), and the autochthonous party. In the fall of 1766, five metropolitans from the region of Ohrid signed the document with which they surrendered to the authority of the Constantinople Patriarch in Constantinople. Facing that situation, in January 1767 the Archbishop of Ohrid, Arsenius resigned from the Ohrid throne. Shortly after that, the Sultan passed a resolution for the abolishment of the Ohrid Archiepiscopate. All of its eparchies were annexed to the Constantinople Patriarchate. Also the Ohrid Eparchy, one of the 14 within the Ohrid Archiepiscopate as it was then, was abolished and adjoined to the Prespa Eparchy. Its full name was Prespa and Lychnidos Eparchy, indicating that Ohrid, once again, was renamed Lychnidos.

The XVIII century wars seriously shook the Ottoman Empire; thus the feudals were increasingly becoming more independent from the central Turkish rule. One who was significant for Ohrid was Gheladin Bey. He was pursued both by the central government and by some feudals. As a result Ohrid was devastated and the citizens were tortured. Human lives were highly endangered and people were dying in great numbers. In such circumstances, two plague epidemics - the first one in February 1810, and the second in the fall of 1816 struck Ohrid. Constant robberies occurred and therefore Gheladin Bey took in a soldier called Kuzman Kapidan to protect the people. A lot of folk songs have been written about this hero. He had a gang of about 40 brave and experienced men. In the period of Gheladin Bey the Empire wanted to strengthen its power, so the Sultan's army attacked Ohrid. Almost the entire property of the Bey was confiscated, and in October 1832, Gheladin Bey flees as far as Egypt.



The Peoples' Liberation War of Macedonia also had a component that included the struggle for the reestablishment of the Ohrid Archiepiscopate. The First Church Council was held 21st October 1943 in the village Izdeglavje (30 km from Ohrid), in the first liberated territory. The participants reached a decision on rejecting the jurisdiction of other churches and reestablishing the Ohrid Archiepiscopate.

The First Church and Peoples' Council took place on 4th and 5th March 1945. The Council adopted a Resolution with the following contents: "1. The Ohrid Archiepiscopate shall be restored as an independent Macedonian Orthodox Church that shall not be subordinated to any other national Orthodox church; 2. The Church shall have its national bishops and clergy in order to incorporate the characteristics of the Macedonian people and for them to be closer to their mother native church; and 3. The first Macedonian archpriest shall bear the title "The Archbishop of Ohrid", and the Macedonian Orthodox Church shall bear the title "St' Clement's Ohrid Archiepiscopate".

The Second Church and Peoples' Council took place from 4th - 6th October 1958 in the cathedral church of St. Sofia in Ohrid. The first point of the adopted decision stated: "This Church and Peoples' Council made a decision on restoration of the old Macedonian Ohrid Archiepiscopate that was forcefully abolished, and its eparchies attached to the Constantinople Patriarchate in 1767, and hereby it shall be named the Macedonian Orthodox Church". His Reverence Dositej was elected Archbishop.

The Third Church and Peoples' Council was assembled by the Holy Synod of the Macedonian Orthodox Church on 17th and 18th July 1967 in the church St. Sofia in Ohrid. A decision was passed on adopting the Declaration on Proclamation of Autocephality of the Macedonian Orthodox Church.

Article 1

With this decision the Macedonian Orthodox Church, successor of the restored Ohrid Archiepiscopate, shall be declared Autocephalous.

Article 2

Head of the Macedonian Orthodox Church shall be the Archbishop with the honorable title "Archbishop of Ohrid and Macedonia".

The present head of the Macedonian Orthodox Church, His Reverence Dositej shall be designated the honorable title of "Archbishop of Ohrid and Macedonia".

Article 3

The diocese of the Macedonian Autocephalous Orthodox Church shall be concurrent to the borders of the Macedonian national state - the Socialistic Republic of Macedonia.

Article 4

The Macedonian Autocephalous Orthodox Church, as a part of the one, holy, congregational, and apostle hood Church, shall receive and preserve the Holy Bible, as well as the provisions, in the same manner as the other Autocephalous Orthodox Churches, and shall reject any other teachings preached by other religions.

Article 5

The Macedonian Autocephalous Orthodox Church shall be conducted in accordance with the Holy Bible, Holy Scripture, The Apostles Rules, the Canons, and the Constitution of the Macedonian Orthodox Church.

Article 6

A copy of the Decision shall be submitted to all Autocephalous Orthodox Churches, as well as to all eparchies and church municipalities of the Macedonian Autocephalous Church.

Article 7

This Decision shall be proclaimed in the Church and peoples' Council of the Macedonian Orthodox Church, clergy, and Christians during the holy Archpriests' liturgy in the church of St. Clement of Ohrid in Ohrid.

Article 8

The decision shall come into force upon its adoption.