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Town Of Ohrid

The shores around Lake Ohrid have been inhabited since prehistoric times. Archaeological digs have discovered evidence of settlements from the Neolithic period (6000 years B.C.). The earliest known inhabitants of the region were Brigians, Ohrygians, and Enhelians. Later mention is made of Desaretes in the area and the town of Lychinidos (God’s Light) as the capital of Desaretia. For several centuries in the first millennium B.C., a powerful settlement existed.

Numerous artefacts including golden masks, sandals, and bracelets have been discovered. The ancient town of Lychnidos (today’s Ohrid) is linked to the legend of the Phoenician Cadmus who, banished from Thebes, in Beoetia, fled to the Enhelians and founded the town of Lychnidos on the shores of Lake Ohrid. Around the middle of the 4th century B.C., Philip II of Macedon seized Lychnidos. After conquering the region in 148 B.C., the Romans built the Via Egnatia linking present-day Durres (Durazzo) with Salonica and Constantinople via Lychnidos.

With the spread of Christianity at the end of the 3rd century, classical shrines were destroyed and replaced by Christian churches, fragments of which have been discovered in Ohrid and its surroundings. The first Christian missionary to come to Lychnidos was Erasmus of Antioch. In the 5th century A.D., the town was the seat of the bishops of Lycnidos.

In the 6th century, when Lychnidos was part of the Byzantine Empire, the Slavs began crossing the Danube penetrating to the Balkan Peninsula and a Slavic tribe called Brsjaci settled in the region of Lychnidos.

The name Ohrid is first mentioned in a protocol issued by the Assembly of Constantinople in 879 A.D. It is believed to have been derived from the Macedonian words - vo hrid - “on a hill” - since the old town of Ohrid stands on the crest of a hill.

Clement and Naum, the two best-known disciples of the missionary brothers Cyril and Methodious of Solun, came to Ohrid after the failure of their mission and their banishment from Moravia. Clement arrived in 886A.D. Naum joined him fourteen years later in 900A.D. With their arrival, Ohrid developed into a leading center of Macedonian cultural and literary activity.

Clement spent thirty years among the Macedonians. He founded the first Ohrid literary school at his monastery church of St. Pantalejmon in Ohrid, (built in 893A.D.). Its 3500 pupils spread Macedonian script, culture, art and Church singing across several Macedonian lands penetrating as far as Kiev in Russia.

Long after the death of Clement in 916 and Naum in 910, the Ohrid literary school continued to be a source of manuscripts invaluable for Macedonian studies and the history of art. The school began work on Macedonian soil in the 9th century loyally adhering of the Glagolitic alphabet. Some of the most valuable Macedonian manuscripts dating from the period up to the 12th century, when the Glagolitic alphabet was supplanted by the Cyrillic, are attributed to it.

Samuel’s Empire, the first state of the Macedonians, had its genesis in the Ohrid region. Around the middle of the 10th century, a Macedonian prince, Nikola, and his sons David, Aron, Moses and Samuel rose against Bulgarian rule. Samuel emerged at the helm of a mediaeval Macedonian state, whose limits continually expanded during his four-decade reign, ultimately reaching as far as the Danube and Sava Rivers, the Bay of Corinth and the Adriatic Sea.

During the Reign of Samuel (976 - 1014) and his successors, Gavrilo Radomir and Jovan Vladislav to 1018, first Prespa and then Ohrid were the imperial capitals.

After Samuel’s defeat on Mount Belasica in 1014, the Byzantine Emperor Basil II captured 14 000 of his soldiers and, after blinding them, but leaving each hundredth soldiers with one eye, he returned them to Samuel. His successors were unable to control the vast empire and in 1018, it suffered total defeat. Emperor Basil II, on capturing Ohrid, demolished the city ramparts and Samuel’s imperial family were taken prisoner. The town was then reduced to the rank of an archbishopric. The period of the archbishopric, whose jurisdiction extended over a vast territory from the Danube to the walls of the city of Salonica and the Adriatic Sea, was an important chapter in the history of Ohrid. Wishing to retain its influence over the Macedonians, the Court at Constantinople appointed as head of the Ohrid archbishopric the most influential and capable church dignitaries, writers and philosophers, theologians and poets. Ohrid developed into a prosperous town attracting some of the bestknown painters and architects of the period.

In the 11th century, Leo one of the outstanding champions of the Orthodox Church, was appointed Archbishop of Ohrid. Ohrid’s cathedral of St. Sophia (Holy Wisdom) was reconstructed, and decorated according to the ideas of Archbishop Leo.

After the Crusaders took Constantinople in 1204, the archbishops of Ohrid were appointed from among local church dignitaries, who eventually proclaimed the complete independence of the archbishop of Ohrid, having found legal ground for this in Justinian’s legal acts. This enabled the archbishop of Ohrid, Demetrius Homatian, a distinguished mediaeval orator and writer - author of the “Short Life of Clement” of Ohrid to crown the Byzantine despot, Theodore Comnenus, as emperor despite the violent opposition of the patriarch of Constantinople.

The Archbishopric of Ohrid had its own patrons and cults, and later sponsored its own painters’ workshops. The founders of Ohrid’s churches were not only nobles from abroad, but also local churchmen and abbots of the St. Clement Monastery.

 In the 15th and 16th centuries, the jurisdiction of the archbishopric of Ohrid expanded to include new territories in the Balkans and the Mediterranean. In the 16th century, the archbishopric extended its authority to the Orthodox colonies in Malta, Apulia, Calabria, Sicily, Venice and Dalmatia.

By order of the Turkish Sultan Mustapha III, the Archbishopric of Ohrid was abolished and incorporated into the Patriarchies of Constantinople in 1767.

In the wake of the abolition came a period of Hellenising influence on Ohrid’s cultural life. Resistance to Greek spiritual domination became particularly vigorous following the nomination in 1860 of the notorious Bishop Melentius as Metropolitan of Ohrid. First to rise against the Greek cultural influence was a prominent Macedonian educator, Dimitrie Miladinov, a native of Struga and a teacher of the Macedonian poets Grigor Prlicev and Rajko Zinzifov. He was later poisoned in prison in Constantinople together with his brother, the poet Konstantin Miladinov. The movement of progressive Macedonians against spiritual enslavement by Greece then came under the leadership of the poet Grigor Prlicev, author of the epics “The Serdar” and “Skenderbay”. The struggle against Greek cultural domination finally triumphed, and by a decree of Sultan passed in 1869, Greek schools in Ohrid were closed. The Ohrid Archbishopric was restored at the second church and people’s council in Ohrid, in 1958, and now bears the name The Macedonian Orthodox Church.

At the turn of the 19th century, Ohrid was a powerful economic and cultural center. Its leather workshops exported goods to several European cities including Constantinople, Solun Leipzig and Vienna. There was an upsurge in building activity, and woodcarvers and painters flocked to the city from the surroundings of Debar.

In the latter half of the 19th century, neighbouring Greece, Bulgaria and Serbia vied for domination over the Macedonian territory. On the night of August 2, 1903, a large-scale rebellion known as the Ilinden Uprising was staged with the active support of the population throughout Macedonia. The Ottoman Turkish military authorities quickly reacted with heavy reprisals and the Ohrid branch of the revolutionary organization ordered the evacuation of the rural population to the mountains of the region of Rashanec (northeast of Ohrid). They endured the onslaught of the Turkish armed forces until the end of August, when ultimately Rashanec became the common grave of a large number of women, children and old people.

From 1912, when Ottoman Turkish rule finally ended, until 1915, Ohrid was administered by Serbia. During the First World War, and again in the Second, it was under Bulgarian rule. Between 1918 and 1941, it was part of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. On November 7, 1944, Ohrid was liberated and became a part of Macedonia. It is now an important tourist resort, with an extensive network of educational, cultural, medical and other institutions.


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