Friday, June 28, 2013

Church of St. John the Theologian at Kaneo - Ohrid, Macedonia

The Church of St. John the Theologian is located on a cliff overlooking Kaneo Beach on Lake Ohrid, in Ohrid, Macedonia. It is part of the Macedonian Orthodox Church, which is an unrecognized break-off from the Serbian Orthodox Church. It has to have one of the most beautiful settings for a church in the world.
The entrance to the little promontory and the Church of St. John.
This view is further back and shows Lake Ohrid in the background. The entrance gate above is in the right foreground of this picture. 
Looking up at the church near the edge of the cliff over the water. 
The hill above the church. 
Photo taken from a cafe on the beach to the side of the promontory the church is on.
The date the church was initially completed is unknown. However, by analyzing iconography and architecture, the date has been narrowed down to a time between the end of the 1200s and the middle of the 1300s. The wall paintings provide a more narrow timeline of 1270 to 1280. The church is rectangular with an inserted cross. The church has a rectangular shape with an inserted cross. It is extremely small and dark inside. The door is locked, but for a fee a person lets you inside. 
More detailed look at the roof and the Greek cross architectural element is evident. 
Rock foundation followed by alternating sizes of brick. 
View of brickwork

Fresco of Christ inside the dome.
Fresco of communion of the Apostles.
Fresco of worship of the bishops.

St. John the Theologian

St. John the theologian, also known as John of Patmos, is the John that wrote the Book of Revelation. At the time the church was built, and until relatively recently, that John was thought to be the same John that wrote the Gospel of John, but many modern scholars now believe Revelation was written by a different author than the Gospel of John.
Fresco of St. John inside the church
Saints Cyril and Methodius
Saints Cyril and Methodius were brothers born in Thessalonica in the 800s who became missionaries to the Slavic people. They are saints in both the Orthodox church "equal to the apostles" and in the Catholic church (patron saints of Europe along with Benedict of Nursia). They translated portions of the Bible (the New Testament and portions of the Old Testament) into Old Church Slavonic, devising the Glagolitic alphabet which was the ancestor to Cyrillic. They played a great role in Christianizing the Slavic people.
Fresco of St. Cyril inside the church
Saint Clement of Ohrid
A disciple of Cyril and Methodius who helped popularize the Glagothic and Cyrillic scripts among the Christianized Slavs. He established the Ohrid Literary School and was the first bishop of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church and the patron saint of the Republic of Macedonia and the city of Ohrid. When the people of Bulgaria were Christianized clergy from the Byzantine Empire were sent in and the political leaders feared their influence and the weakening of the state. Adoption of the Old Slavonic language was a way to preserve the political independence of Bulgaria. Sofic University in Bulgaria, the Macedonian National and University Library and the University in Bitola are all named after Clement. The fresco of St. Clement in the church is one of the oldest in the area.
Fresco of St. Clement inside the church
Saint Erasmus
When the persecution of Christians began under the Eastern Augustus, Diocletian, Erasmus was "beaten with leaden mauls until his veins broke and burst" then thrown into a pit of snakes and worms, and boiling oil and sulfur were poured on him, then thunder and lightning electrocuted everyone except Erasmus. The the Western Augustus Maximian had a "pan seething with rosin, pitch, brimstone lead and oil" poured into his mouth, had a searing hot cloak and metal coat put on him and an angel eventually carried him away to safety. Later his teeth were plucked from his head and he was roasted upon a gridiron, put out his eyes, and stretched him bound to horses. One incredibly malleable dude! He was apparently in the Ohrid area from 293 to 303 and legend has it that after he brought a young boy back to life (in Ohrid), 40,000 people were converted to Christianity in one day. 
Fresco of St. Erasmus inside the church
Ohrid, Macedonia
Ohrid itself is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was a town during the lifetime of King Philip II of Macedon, the father of Alexander the Great. It was mentioned at the time of the Roman conquests at the end of the 3rd century and beginning of the 2nd century B.C. and was known as Lychnidos. In the Greek myth of the Phoenician prince Cadmus, after he was banished from Thebes he founded Lychnidos. Ohrid was the capital of the Bulgarian Empire from 990 to 1015 and the seat of the Bulgarian Patriarchate of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church. When the Byzantine emperor, Basil II, took the city in 1018, he downgraded it to an Archbishopric and put it under the authority of the Patriarch of Constantinople. It was captured and changed hands many times thereafter, with captors including the Normans, the Bulgarians, the Byzantines, the Serbians, the Ottomans and the Venetians. It was under Ottoman rule until 1912 when it was captured by the Serbian army. 

Religion in Ohrid
As of 2002, Ohrid's 42,000 residents were 80.9% Orthodox Christian, 18.1% Muslim and 1.1% other. The Orthodox Ohrid Archbishopric, unlike the Macedonian Orthodox Church (because it unilaterally broke away from the Serbian Orthodox Church in 1967), is in full communion with the other Orthodox churches. It claims inheritance from the archbishopric founded by Basil II in 1019 and was able to agree with the Serbian Orthodox Church as to its autocephaly. Both churches have dioceses throughout Macedonia and I don't find anything that talks about the relative number of members of each. The Orthodox Ohrid Archbishopric has been persecuted by the Macedonian government and the situation is on various watch-lists for religious freedom abuses. 

Lake Orhid
Lake Orhid is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the deepest lake in the Balkans (940 feet), with a mean depth of 508 feet. It covers an area of 138 square miles and is 18.9 miles long by 9.2 miles wide. It straddles the border between Macedonia and Albania. 


  1. I felt like we had walked onto a movie set at this church. It was beautiful. I loved the two old men sitting on the bench, one of whom got up to let us in. I wonder if they take turns? Remember how he offered us a shot of "grapa"?

  2. I love the beautiful brickwork on the old church. Interesting stories!