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The Church of St. Sophia - Ohrid

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One of the biggest Middle-age churches that for a long period of time was a seat of the Ohrid Archbishopric. 

The place where is situated this church since ancient time is considered for a sacred place. At four meters under the level of this church were found leftovers from a roman civilian basilica. Then in that place was built an early Christian basilica in the 6th century. Later at this place tzar Samoil will build a church in witch he will locate the Ohrid Patriarchate. This church will be built in the 11th century and will belong to the type three side basilicas with transept above whose central part was raising a dome. This basilica had also a widen narthex on floor. On the east side it was ending with a large apsis flanked on both sides with the apsides of the diakonikon and the proskomedia. The altar space was separated with a marble iconostasis, from who is remained a big part. From unknown reasons this church had been ruined, and the today’s church of St. Sophia was built, in fact renovated by the first archbishop (Greek) Leon (Lion). In this period the Byzantine Empire will abolish the patriarchate and will bring it to a level of archbishopric.

In 1317, the Ohrid archbishop Gregory, as his debt built the exonarthex, today known as Gregory’s narthex. On this narthex there are two side towers. It is not confirmed till today, although there are assumptions about what happened with the dome of this church. Some of the scientists consider that it was ruined by the Turks and at its place was built semicircular arch, and some consider that the dome was ruined by itself.

After the conversion of the church into a mosque, the interior and exterior look were changed and adapted to the Mohammedan service. Then the iconostasis had completely lost its look. The Turks built an arch under the ruined dome, and above the transversal side – the transept, built four new pillars and arches. The frescos on the top were smeared with lime, the west entry was closed and a new entry was opened at the north side. The parapet plates of the iconostasis were removed and used during the construction of the mimbar, who is preserved till today in the altar space of the church. At the north side it is built a minaret, witch was ruined in 1912. On the same side of the church in this period is raised an open porch for witch are used pillars of stone and other older constructions that were nearby.

Above the proscomedia and the diakonikon, up, on the floor there are two chapels – paraklesis, built at the period of Komnenos. Over the porch on the north side was the Oliver chapel from the 14th century, dedicated to St. John. The west facade is solved harmoniously, with division of the surfaces and combination of windows and other apertures, and also with the different decorative ornaments made of bricks. All this is achieved with rare and high artistic architectonic qualities in the polychrome and the harmony. It can be considered with good reason that the west facade of the church belongs to the masterpieces of the middle age architecture, and it is the only preserved example in our construction.     

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