Religions: Christianity


Christianity through the Macedonian history

The Christianity has been present in Macedonia ever since the early Christian period. Throughout the Middle Ages, Macedonia used to be the centre for construction of churches and monasteries in the Balkans. A significant number of churches and monasteries were built within its territory. Their construction started in the beginning of the early Christian period, when Christianity was spreading from the Roman Empire to Macedonia. Stobi, Heraclea, the region of Bregalnica, Thessaloniki and other ancient Macedonian centres were among the first locations of the earliest church structures. The earliest Christian shrines were built in the shape of basilicas that have been of a particular interest for the analysts of that period.

The arrival of Clement and Naum, the disciples of Cyril and Methodius, in Macedonia, resulted in the introduction of the Christian belief to the masses. The constructed churches and monasteries became the second home of the local people. Also the monastic life significantly developed, which initiated an increasing construction of churches and monasteries. It is known that Clement and Naum built their own monasteries upon their arrival in Macedonia. Within the same period also in the region of Bregalnica the construction of shrines aimed at spreading the Christian belief started. A number of these monuments have been preserved and explored by many scientists.

Various invaders of the territory of Macedonia used the social status of the churches and monasteries to strengthen their domination. Their ruling power directly depended also on their own devotion to the interests of the church, since during the feudal period it used to be the main driving force of the society. Also the feudal positions of the church were supported, which also provided financial well-being, and all rulers (Byzantine, Bulgarian, and Serbian) either initiated construction of new churches and monasteries or supported such activity of local chief magistrates and other governors of certain regions. Even Samuel himself, the first Macedonian tzar, initiated construction of church centres in the places where his ruling assembly was residing. Such centres first developed along the shore of Lake Prespa, and later in Ohrid.

The situation changed after the battle at Rovin in 1395 A.D., when the entire territory of Macedonia fell under the Turkish rule. The new conqueror was spiritually directed towards the Muslim religion , and was mercilessly destroying the Christian spiritual realms during its subjugation of the Macedonian people. And yet, and this is true for all other South Slavic peoples under the Turkish enslavement, the spiritual and cultural impulse of the Macedonian people did not diminish and continued to pulsate, although less intensively. Some of the churches and monasteries managed to escape this horrible destiny, either because they were located away from the inhabited Turkish regions or because the roads that lead to them were almost impassable. During that period, old churches and monasteries were maintained by means of modest donations, and there were even new, smaller ones, built. In the second half of the XVIII century the situation slightly improved. Namely, the Turkish laws allowed for the formation of church communities and approved the reconstruction of old buildings. That approval was also used for construction of new churches and monasteries out of sight.

People's commitment to the only spiritual and cultural centres was rather strong. They understood the survival of churches and monasteries as the way of preserving their own spiritual, social, cultural, and national identity. During the XVIII century the national feeling intensified in the people's mind. Strong scientific interest developed regarding the creative dimensions gained by churches and monasteries during their centuries long, complex tradition. The more their literature, illumination, fresco painting , carving, icon painting and architectural treasures were emphasized and recorded, the more they were taken away and desecrated. A large portion of their artistic works ended in the depots of many domestic and foreign institutes, and the centres, where they were created, were left standing on the same spots with their own destiny.
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