The Balkan Jerusalem
|Theotokos Perivleptos Church, Ohrid|
Today was a dream. I spent hours and hours in the presence of beloved icons and frescoes, I filled up over a third of a sketchbook, and I got to explore a beautiful old city.
Ohrid is known as the Balkan Jerusalem because of its importance as the gateway city for Slavic Christianity. It was here that the Bible and service texts were translated into Slavonic and the first Slavic archbishopric was established. This city had 365 churches before the Turkish yoke.
Theotokos Perivleptos Church
Built in 1295, the Theotokos Perivleptos Church is one of the oldest surviving churches in Ohrid. This church survived because it wasn't the biggest or grandest church, and thus did not attract much attention. It was the primary parish church in Ohrid during the Ottoman period. It was built by the Byzantine military commander Progon Zgur, who was the son-in-law of the Roman Emperor Andronicus II Paleologus.
The frescoes in the church were painted by the preeminent medieval painters Michael and Evtychios. Their signatures are preserved, hidden in the frescoes. Serbian King Milutin visited this church and was so impressed by their work, he hired them to paint the many churches he built.
There is stylistic evidence to suggest Evtyches and Michael Astrapas were actually Slavs belonging to a local Ohrid school, rather than coming from Constantinople. Ohrid was such an important center of Slavic church life--there were thousands of monks here who were writing, painting, and developing church life.
This fresco of Saint Clement of Ohrid has always stood to me when I thought about the Perivleptos Church. It was such a joy to spend a few minutes with this fresco today!