Ohrid in Macedonia – Sveta Sofia and Bogorodiza, Sveti Kaneo – and Renaissance icons

On September 30th 2015 I visited Ohrid. Elena took us through her town. The three main churches that we visited were the cathedral of Sveta Sofia, the church of Sveta Bogorodiza with the adjacent icon museum and the church of Sveti Jovan Kaneo which is said to be the most photographed church. In the churches and in the museum, they sell small booklets with photographs of the icons (Мале туристичке мононрафии ). The booklets are worth buying. I scanned some of the fotos to give an impression of the icons in this blog.

.

The cathedral Sveta Sofia or Света Софиja

“Sofia”” means “wisdom”. Probably the cathedral Sveta Sofia was already in use in the 10th century – under Zar Samuel from Bulgaria. This is the view from outside.

P1100390

Sveta Sofia must have been decorated shortly before the shisma of 1054 (Orthodox and Catholic). Before the schisma Archbishop Leon (1037-1056) mediated between the orthodox and the catholic directions of belief by having painted not only the orthodox archpriests, but also the popes of Rome. Below are the popes of Rome.

SvSofia 2

Source: “Света Софиja Охрид”, Мале туристичке мононрафии 47, Загреб 1986

Under the Ottomans, the narthex of the cathedral became a mosque and the choir was separated from the mosque. Hidden away in the choir, the 11th century frescoes have been preserved.

The wise Godmother dominates the choir. She seems to dream of her son: He stands in an oval shaped cloud (the son does not sit on her arm – so he has not yet been born, but is just a thought).

SvSofia 1

Source: “Света Софиja Охрид”, Мале туристичке мононрафии 47, Загреб 1986

Underneath the Godmother are Christ and the 12 apostles at the Last Supper. The scene looks more like the communion service to  me.

.

The  church Sveta Bogorodica Perivlepta or Света Вогородица

Our next stop is Sveta Bogorodica Perivlepta. In the Ottoman times, the relics of Sv Kliment were kept here, this is why the church is also known under the name of Sv. Kliment.

P1100452

Sveta Bogorodiza has remained a church in Ottoman times. This is why the frescoes have been preserved here as well. These frescoes from the late 13th century  are called “Renaissance”. Overcoming the rigid rules of traditional Byzantine icon painting, the artists brought life and perspective to the scenes. One example is the mourning of Christ – the lady in the background throws up her hands.

Bogorodiza 2

Source: “Црква Св.  Климент”, Мале туристичке мононрафии 44б Загреб 1988

This early Renaissance movement reminds me of the Brancacci Chapel in Florence that a 100 years later was marked by Masolino’s somewhat rigid fresco about the temptation just across from Massaccio’s vivid representation of the expulsion from the paradise.

The representation of the Last Supper shows Christ twice, first handing out bread and second handing out wine… it is like an “infograph” telling a story.

Bogorodiza 1

Source: “Црква Св.  Климент”, Мале туристичке мононрафии 44б Загреб 1988

In the church we also find frescoes painted in the Ottoman times (starting around 1450) that follow again more traditional Byzantine rules of icon painting.

.

The Icon Gallery

To round off the overview of the icons, Elena takes me to the icon gallery, just opposite of the Bogorodiza church.

11th century: The icons create distance between humans and saints. The saints look calm and stiff – they are remote holy beings.

_VaisilijuNikola

Source: “галерия на икони – Орха” (NI Institute for Protection of the Monuments of Culture and Museum)

.

12th/beginning of 13th century: The figures become more vivid and more realistic like in this annunciation.

Annunciation 12a13th century

Source: “галерия на икони – Орха” (NI Institute for Protection of the Monuments of Culture and Museum)

.

End of 13th to 15th century (1261-1453): This period is called Renaissance of the Paleologues and takes place during the second Byzantine reign. Pespective appears in the icons and the saints are represented as human beings. The distance between the saints and the spectators diminishes. This is the evangelist Matthew, painted in the 14th century.

_Matthaus

Source: “галерия на икони – Орха” (NI Institute for Protection of the Monuments of Culture and Museum)

And this is an annunciation also from the 14th century.

Annunciation2

.

Under Ottoman rule (around 1450 onwards): The saints are again represented in a formal, rigid manner and the icon seems to be “flat”. This is Archangel Michael from the 17th century.

Archangel

Source: “галерия на икони – Орха” (NI Institute for Protection of the Monuments of Culture and Museum)

.

Sveti Jovan Kaneo – the most photographed church

We round off our tour of the three preferred churches in Ohrid with Sveti Jovan Kaneo. It is probably the most photographed church, and it is usually shown with the Ohrid lake in the background.

P1100482

I also liked the view from below – from here the jagged roof of the central dome can be seen more clearly.

P1100472

“This is my favorite church”, says Elena, “I love the sunset here. ”

Thank you, Elena, for all these insights into Ohrid and the iconography.

 

 

One thought on “Ohrid in Macedonia – Sveta Sofia and Bogorodiza, Sveti Kaneo – and Renaissance icons

  1. Willy Dellaert says:

    Thank you for youre very accurate description and the nice pictures of this famous Ohrid churches

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s