Saturday, June 8, 2013

St. Panteleimon Church - Skopje, Macedonia

St. Panteleimon Church 
was built in 1164 in Gorno Nerezi, on Vodno Mountain, overlooking Skopje, Macedonia, 
Modern Skopje viewed from Vodno Mountain
by Alexius Angelus Comnenus, the grandson of Byzantine Emperior Alexius I. Comnenus, who ruled from 1081 to 1118. It is part of a walled monastery 
and has the shape of a rectangle with an inner cross, with a large dome over the center of the cross and four small domes in the spaces outside of the cross. 

It is built of irregular stone and brick and thick layers of mortar 

and is depicted on the Macedonian 50 denar note. 
St. Panteleimon is located near the Millenium Cross which was built in 2002 to commemorate 2,000 years of Christianity in Macedonia. 
Millenium Cross, viewed from Kale Fortress in Skopje
The marble iconostasis (below) is original to the church, but it lost its decorative art during an earthquake in the 16th century. 
The frescoes, particularly the one of Mary mourning Jesus after his death, 

are famous because they have moved somewhat beyond the typical static Byzantine art. These frescoes are part of the argument that the east had more of a role in the development of renaissance art than previously thought, these frescoes pre-dating Giotto's frescoes by about 150 years. Following are a series of frescoes:

St. Panteleimon

St. Panteleimon (as he is known in the Orthodox church, or St. Pantaleon as he is known in the Catholic church) was purportedly (some scholars believe he did not exist) a martyr of the Diocletian persecution of 303 AD in Nicomedia (near modern day Istanbul, Turkey) which was at that time the eastern capital of the Roman Empire under Diocletian in the tetrarchy system. Panteleimon was the physician to Galerius, the eastern Ceasar to Diocletian, who governed Illyricum from Sirmium (near modern Belgrade, Serbia in the Vojvodina region). Many believe that Galerius was the impetus behind  Diocletian's persecution of the Christians. Diocletian wished to save Panteleimon and urged him to sacrifice to the gods, but Panteleimon refused. So Panteleimon was ultimately beheaded (but only after he consented to it, after first miraculously surviving a bath of molten lead, being thrown into the sea while tied to a great stone, being thrown to wild beasts, being bound to a wheel with ropes, and a thwarted attempt at beheading in which the sword was bent when it hit his neck). He is depicted as a beardless young man with curly hair.
St. Panteleimon
Although this is probably Michael the Archangel, the head and face sure look like St. Panteleimon
Macedonian Orthodox Church

The Macedonian Orthodox Church, which has jurisdiction over Christians in Macedonia, is not recognized by the other Orthodox Churches. This is because it unilaterally declared its independence from the Serbian Orthodox Church in 1967. The Republic of Macedonia declared independence from Yugoslavia in 1991 and the Macedonians view the current efforts of the Serbian Orthodox Church, which are supported by other Orthodox churches, as connected to an agenda of the Serbian government.  The Macedonian church is headed by the Archbishop of Ohrid and has 7 dioceses in Macedonia and three outside of Macedonia (one that covers America and Canada, one that covers Europe and one that covers Australia and New Zealand). 


  1. So much to love here-the humble irregular stone and brick exterior, the tender Mary mourning for her son, and St. Panteleimon's "you can't kill me till I say you can" story.

  2. Nice church, talk about running the gauntlet to becoming a saint!

  3. I loved the brilliant frescoes, so amazingly well-preserved.