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St. Mother of God (St. Clement of Ohrid)

The existing church of St. Clement, built in 1295 and named St. Bogorodica Perivleptos (Mother of God the Most Glorious), is a completely preserved medieval monument located in Ohrid, famous for its extraordinary architecture and fresco paintings. During the XIII century the Byzantine Empire was ruled by the Palaelogus dynasty, thus also the style of the church, which was erected in that period, is known as "Palaelogus". The shape of the church is cruciform with an exhonarthex and two parvises added on later. On the left side of the entrance door there is a belfry with a large bell, donated in 1924 by Mihailo Pupin. On the right side is the building where in 1983 the Ohrid Gallery of Icons was established. Since August 1985, the original primary school "Kliment Ohridski" has hosted the permanent exhibition of "Slavonic Literacy". The church of St. Clement of Ohrid is cruciform in shape. It has an eight-sided dome with oval roof wreaths. It was built of baked bricks and limestone. By their skillful alignment, magnificent decorative solutions and harmony in the external outlook of the church were achieved. Thus, the church of St. Clement is appreciated as one of the highest achievements of the medieval architecture. The church also comprises external annexes. During its reconstruction in the XIX century, the shape of the western side was altered in such manner that the entrance in the contemporary church leads through a parvis supported by classical columns. After the conversion of the church of St. Sofia into mosque, the church of St. Clement became the cathedral church of the Ohrid Archiepiscopate. It retained that position until the discontinuation of the Archiepiscopate in 1767. Its present name originates from the time when the relics of Clement of Ohrid were transferred there from the monasterial church of St. Pantheleimon, since that one too was conversed into mosque. Many precious icons, manuscripts written in Slavonic or Greek language from the 10th century on, various relics, and religious clothes - all of these were relocated from the churches of St. Sofia and St. Pantheleimon to St. Clement. Thus this church became an unique treasury. Till the present day numerous artifacts have been preserved, primarily the ones from the renown collection of Ohrid icons exhibited in the Gallery of Icons. The frescoes in the church of St. Clement were gradually discovered, starting from 1950. They were covered with layers of dark soot generated by centuries long burning of icon lamps and candles. The icons were cleaned up by special emulsion made up of organic chemicals according to the recipe of the esteemed painter and conserver Zdravko Blazic. The authors of the frescoes were Michael Astrapus and Eutychus, two exquisite painters from the late XIII and the first half of the XIV century. In 1295 these two fresco painters were commissioned to decorate the church by the Byzantine military commander Progon Zgur, a relative of Emperor Andronicus II Palaeologus, as inscribed on the interior wall above the entrance door. The painters skillfully incorporated their names within the clothes of St. Dimitry (Michael) and St. Procopius (Eutychus), and elsewhere. The frescoes of the church of St. Clement denote an entirely new chapter in the medieval arts. These frescoes mark the beginning of the new artistic aspirations in the Byzantine arts, known as the Palaeologus Renaissance. Moreover, the St. Clement's church frescoes are the earliest known and dated works of Michael and Euthychus, later the court painters of King Milutin. Their creative activities can be traced for almost three decades: from the church of St. Clement (1295), through the church of St. Nikitie (1307), to the one in Staro Nagoricani (1318), as well as in other churches. The main features of the frescoes from the St. Clement's church are the authors' intention to individualize the figures, and an emphasized abandoning of the existing iconografic patterns. It seems that the authors used their contemporaries as models while painting the saints, who were depicted without traces of suffering and ascetic life, very realistically and in details. Should a comparison be made, these frescoes would be justly related to the early Renaissance painting. Such comparison is particularly viable bearing in mind the series of specific details in "The Lamentation" composition, located in the second zone of the northern wall. The strong dramatics of the composition are primarily expressed through the gestures and movements - particularly in the depiction of the unraveled Holy Mother's hair - and in general, with the designs that have much in common with Giotto's painting, the contemporary of Michael and Eutychus. However, the painters of the church of St. Clement in Ohrid, and the Italian painter Giotto developed these novelties and identical solutions independently. Their common inspiration was also the Classical art, i.e., the masks worn by the artists who performed tragedies in the Classical theatres. Other features of the frescoes from the church of St. Clement are expanded topics and an increased number of figures within the compositions. On the western wall the central position is allocated to the composition "The Assumption of Virgin Mary", a component of the cycle devoted to Virgin Mary that covers the entire first zone, except for the altar space. The second zone comprises the scenes of Christ's Sufferings. In the dome there is a scene of His Last Judgment. In the altar space there is a huge figure of Virgin Mary , and underneath it a majestic composition of "The Communion." The portraits of Clement of Ohrid and Archbishop Constantine Cavassilus are painted on the northern wall, and on the southern the portrait of Peter the Apostle, holding the model of the church instead of the builder. The interior of the church is enriched by a marble palisade, a reconstruction of an earlier iconostasis. It comprises a work of high artistic and historic value - the unique and single sculpture that portrays St. Clement of Ohrid. It is believed that the sculpture dates from the late XIII century. Its creation was probably influenced by the Western European arts during the times of the Crusaders' expeditions and their seizure of Constantinople. Also the ancient throne of Archbishop Prohor of Ohrid , is positioned there, ornamented with nacre. An almost invisible Slavonic inscription tells us that the throne dates from 1540. There is another notable work of art - the carved throne of Metropolitan Gregorius, whose authors were the master brothers Todorovi from the village of Gari in the region of Debar. The frescoes in the parvis were painted in 1295. The church of St. Clement, together with other Ohrid churches, was subsequently added-on and enriched with new frescoes. Thus, on the left side of the parvis there is now a preserved 1379 portrait of King Marco's relative Ostoja Rankovic. Also during the XIV century, two chapels were built, on the northern and southern side of the church. According to the inscription on the interior wing of the entrance door, the northern chapel of St. Gregorius the Theologician was built and fresco painted in 1365. Its donor was Bishop of Devol, Gregorius. There are no records of the southern chapel with its preserved frescoes. The frescoes date back from 1365. Dating back from the XIV century is also the fresco painting on the exterior facade of St. Clement's church. And on the northern facade, the earliest frescoes were covered by the later ones, painted in 1595. One of the significant XIV century iconografic units, painted within the same period as the northern chapel's frescoes and its fragmentarily preserved portraits on its western facade, depict the "Illustration of the Hymn of Holy Mother Achatist", that covers the entire facade wall of the church. The present exterior parvis of St. Clement's church was built in the XIX century

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