Medieval Scripts and Slavic Literacy in Macedonia

Medieval Scripts and Slavic Literacy in Macedonia

The beginnings of the medieval Slavic manuscripts creation in Macedonia are evident into the epochal work of the Salonica brothers SS. Cyril and Methodius. Since Cyril had written the first Slavic alphabet - Glagolitic, they translated the first liturgical books from Greek into Old Church Slavic before their departure for the Moravian mission.

The real efflorescence of the Slavic literacy and culture in Macedonia emerged at the end of the 9th century and the beginning of the 10th century when St. Clement and St. Naum, the disciples of the Salonica brothers, performed their activity in Ohrid. St. Clement founded the first Slavic University (Ohrid Literary School) and performed blooming enlightening and literacy activities including over 3.500 students.

Since then, an imposing cultural and historical heritage has been created in Macedonia significant not only for the Macedonian history, civilization and culture, but also for the Slavic and world ones.

The first preserved Slavic manuscripts were written in Glagolitic alphabet (9th-11th century) and after the 11th century Glagolitic and Cyrillic alphabet were parallelly used.

The Slavic manuscripts, created on the territory of Macedonia during the 12th century, were with religious and educational contents and written in Church Slavic. According to the lingual features they were characterized by the use of the lingual peculiarities of Macedonia (Macedonian redaction). The manuscripts were rich in their contents, forms and ornaments.

The manuscripts were created and preserved through centuries in the Macedonian churches and monasteries, but they also were copied, researched and distributed. A great number of them had been preserved and nowadays found in many European archives and libraries (St. Petersburg, Bologna, Sofia, Belgrade, Sveta Gora etc.). Some of them are kept in the Republic of Macedonia. After the Second World War the Macedonian State and the established institutions (The Archives of Macedonia, The National and University Library "St. Clement of Ohrid", The Institute for Old Church Slavic Culture) have taken intensive measures for research, preservation and presentation of Old Church Slavic manuscripts.

The Slavic manuscripts were systematically examined, prepared and published by a great number of eminent scientists (Vladimir Moshin, Blazhe Koneski, Lidiya Slaveva, Vangeliya Despodova, Radmila Ugrinova-Skalovska, Vera Stoychevska - Antich, Mihaylo Georgievski etc).

A historical map of Samoil’s medieval empire during the greatest territorial expansion on the Balkan Peninsula in 996.

“At School”, Alexandrine miniature, a translation from the 10th“At School”, Alexandrine miniature, a translation from the 10th - 11th century(The National Library “St. Cyril and Methodius” - Sofia) - 11th century (The National Library “St. Cyril and Methodius” - Sofia)

“Conversion of a Heretic Priest” - a miniature concerning the Bogomils .(The Hludov Collection, No. 10, The Historical Museum of State, Moscow)

“Prayer in the Olive Forest” - a fresco painted by the famous zografs (decorators) Michael and Eutychios, 13th century (“St. Bogoroditsa Perivleptos” church, “St. Clement” church in Ohrid nowadays)

Remains of the church on the island St. Achilles in the Lake Mala Prespa (approximately 986) - the first seat of the medieval church in Macedonia, where Samoil was proclaimed an emperor.

“St. Bogoroditsa Perivleptos” church, built in the 13th century - “St. Clement” Church in Ohrid nowadays - the Ohrid Archbishopric See and a well-known centre of the Slavic literacy in Macedonia. This church is considered to be one of the most precious world centres of the medieval art and culture for its high artistic achievements of the fresco-decoration and the treasury of icons.

“St. Clement of Ohrid”, the litany icon, 14th century (Gallery of Icons - Ohrid). St. Clement (? - 1016) was the famous disciple of St. Cyril and St. Methodius. He was the first bishop in Macedonia (in the district of Kutmichevitsa and Devol). He was the founder of the well-known Ohrid Literary School (the first Slavic University) where more than 3.500 students were educated. In the same time he was the most prolific medieval literary man in Macedonia and in the Slavic world. His works are praiseworthy and didactical letters tribute to St. Cyril. St. Clement is worshipped for both the founder of the Ohrid Archbishopric and the patron of the Macedonian Orthodox Church.

“St. Vasilius with a Manuscript”, a fragment of the fresco in “St. Sofia” church in Ohrid, the 11th century.

The Assemanus Gospel, Old Church Slavic manuscript written in Macedonia in the frames of the Ohrid Literary School, Glagolitic script on parchment from the end of the 10th or the beginning of the 11th century. The Slavic educators St. Cyril, St. Methodius and St. Clement of Ohrid are mentioned at the end of the manuscript. (The Vatican Library - Rome)

The church of the monastery “St. Naum”, which was erected on the foundations of St. Naum’s church “St. Archangel Michael” at the end of the 9th century. It is located on the south coast of the Ohrid Lake. The monastery complex is a traditional place of gathering and paying tribute to the healing traditions of St. Naum.

“The Death of Czar Samoil” - a miniature of the Chronicle of Manasses, 13th - 14th century. After the battle at Belasitsa in 1014, the army led by the emperor Vasilius defeated Samoil’s army and 14.000 Samoil’s soldiers were captured, blinded (every hundredth soldier was left with one eye) and sent to Czar Samoil, who had experienced a heart attack after the tragic scenery in Prilep. Soon after that he died in Prespa (October 6, 1014).

The hagiography of St. Naum of Ohrid, Old Church Slavic manuscript, in transcript of a Prologue from the 15th century

The historical chart of the Ohrid autocephalous Patriarchate (Archbishopric) jurisdiction in the reign of Czar Samoil and after his death (till 1020)

The miniature “After the Siege of Salonica, the army of Czar Samoil assassinated its mayor Gregorios Taronitos”, The Chronicle of Yovan Skilitza - Yovan Kedrin, 12th -13th century (The National Library - Madrid).

The Ohrid Apostle, a Church Slavic manuscript from the end of the 12th century, originated from Ohrid District. The capital Cyrillic script with Glagolitic insertions reflected the Ohrid dialect. It is one of the most significant medieval manuscripts written in the Ohrid Literary School. (The Russian Library - Moscow, No. 1695)

The proclamation of Petar Delyan a czar “by putting him on a shield”, a miniature of The Chronicle of Skilitsa and Kedrin, a transcript from the 12th - 13th century.(The National Library - Madrid)

The Samoil’s Citadel in Ohrid, built at the end of the 10th and the beginning of the 11th century, a fortification centre of the Samoil’s medieval state in Macedonia

The Zograf Gospel - the Old Church Slavic Manuscript written in a Macedonian language redaction, Glagolitic script on parchment from the end of the 10th or the beginning of the 11th century (The Public Library - St. Petersburg)

“Czar Samoil” - oil painting painted by Dimitar Kondovski (1984). Czar Samoil (? - 1014) was a ruler of medieval Macedonia (976 - 1014). He and his brothers began an uprising against Bulgaria, established the Macedonian state with its seat in Prespa and Ohrid, and proclaimed himself an emperor. He was a founder of the Ohrid Archbishopric (Patriarchate) and an organizer of a strong army and a powerful empire situated on a large part of the Balkan Peninsula. After some military success against Byzantium, he was defeated by the army of Vasilius (Belasitsa, July 1014). The successors of Samoil kept the throne till 1018 when the semi-centennial Macedonian empire was destroyed by Byzantium.

“St. Naum of Ohrid”, an icon, 14th century (Gallery of Icons - Ohrid). St. Naum of Ohrid (835 - 910) was a famous Macedonian educator and a disciple of St. Cyril and St. Methodius. He took part in their Moravian Mission. After Methodius’ death, he was on post in Macedonia together with St. Clement. He had the monastery “St. Archangel” built. His educational and curative activities were very famous.

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