April 20, 2016

The Ohrid charters

Scattered heritage


Every Mt. Athos monastery used to have a public library, as well as a secret one. Several monasteries, one of them being the Monastery of Zographou, were assumed to be wealthiest in manuscripts, having numerous Slavic, i.e. Macedonian manuscripts and books. Grigorovič wrote that when he came to the Mt. Athos monastery of Zographou, he wanted to see the libraries and the Charters. Anatoly Zografski from Lazaropole took upon himself the responsibility of showing Grigorovič around. He showed him the Glagolitic manuscript later known as The Gospel of Zographou—which Mihanović had already paid attention to—and the five Charters, which Russia was already familiar with. But, instead of the monastery's library, Anatoly Zografski showed Grigorovič his private library, situated in a comfortable place, but yet not fully unpacked. (His library was very large; he had taken with him several thousand books from his one-year stay in Russia. His will was that after his death his private library was to be left to the Monastery of Zographou.) Anatoly Zografski knew the reason for this curious Russian traveller's arrival and he was probably afraid that Grigorovič would take old and valuable items to his country; because Grigorovič, besides making a literary treasures inventory, wanted to see the mysterious Ohrid Charters as well. "All that I was told about the Ohrid Charters being lost was untrue, because they were found after my departure from the Monastery of Zographou", Grigorovič wrote later.

Grigorovič had evidence that the so-called Ohrid Charters were in the Monastery of Zographou. Expressing an interest for them, he wrote: "I never doubted that these significant Ohrid documents were kept in the Monastery of Zographou, especially after I discovered that the last Archbishop of Justiniana Prima, on his way to Constantinople, had died in a cell of the Monastery of Zographou in Karaya. At the exact time, when the monastery's landlord was explaining this, I asked him to show me the Ohrid Charters. There are lots of them here, he blurted out, and they can be identified by the green signature. It is well known how important these Charters are for the academic testimonies from Ohrid... The next day, the same monk, very indifferently explained to me that the Ohrid Charters used to be there, but weren't there any more... In order to defer the attention from them, he gave me three wrinkled Charters, saying they were from Ohrid."

The Ohrid Charters haven't been found to this day. Probably the Monastery of Zographou's gates, and Mt. Athos gates in general, conceal many other secrets. In fact, in the 20th century, the Monastery of Zographou was one of the most isolated Mt. Athos monasteries, which is also symptomatic, because it was usurped by Bulgarian monks. Therefore, all this evidence and all these assumptions point to the possibility that today, the Bulgarian monks in the Mt. Athos Monastery of Zographou possess written monuments extremely significant for Macedonia and for Slavic literacy in general.

In spite of all the secrecy, it was established that there are many significant Macedonian manuscripts in the Monastery of Zographou, such as: a holiday menaion (also containing the poetry of Naum Ohridski) and Dragan's menaion (with original Slavic hymns of praise) from which pages are torn, but 219 parchments sheets remain—both dating from the 13th century; also from the 13th century, The Zographou Psalter of dijak Radomir, which is one of the best illuminated manuscripts in this monastery; then a Prologue and a Zographou Collection from the 14th century, and many others. How many Macedonian heritage secrets in this monastery remain to be revealed?

Despite the passion with which the Greeks destroyed Macedonian literary monuments, in the Greek "St. Catherine" Monastery on Sinai there are the Sinai Psalter, written in Western Macedonia in the 11th century (containing 106 sheets, although the final ones are missing) and the Sinai Missal from the same century, 109 sheets; its three last sheets are preserved in St. Petersburg. At least we have records of them. But will it ever be possible to discover how many Macedonian manuscripts and books are in the Mt. Athos monasteries, as well as in monasteries throughout Greece, Bulgaria, Serbia, Monte Negro and Russia?

To be continued...

Nove Cvetanoski

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