About & why Ohrid

Ohrid is the largest city on Lake Ohrid. Nestled between high mountains up to 2,800 m and Lake Ohrid, it is not only a place of historic significance but also of outstanding natural beauty. Ohrid is the jewel in Macedonia’s crown. Ohrid is notable for once having had 365 churches, one for each day of the year, and has been referred to as a “Jerusalem (of the Balkans)”. The city is rich in picturesque houses and monuments, and tourism is predominant. It is located southwest of Skopje, west of Resen and Bitola. In 1979 and in 1980 respectively, Ohrid and Lake Ohrid were accepted as Cultural and Natural World Heritage Sites by UNESCO. Ohrid is one of only 28 sites that are part of UNESCO’s World Heritage that are Cultural as well as Natural sites.

In antiquity the city was known under the ancient Greek: Λύχνιδος (Lychnidos) and Latin: Lychnidus , probably meaning “city of light”, from Greek λυχνίς (lychnis, gen. lychnidos), “a precious stone that emits light”, from λύχνος (lychnos), “lamp, portable light”. By 879 AD, the town was no longer called Lychnidos but was referred to by the assimilated native people as Ohrid, possibly from the Slavic words vo hrid, meaning “on the hill”, as the ancient town of Lychnidos was at the top of the hill. In Macedonian and the other South Slavic languages, the name of the city is Ohrid (Охрид). In Albanian, the city is known as Ohër or Ohri and in modern Greek Ochrida (Οχρίδα, Ωχρίδα) and Achrida (Αχρίδα).

St.Sophia church 11th c. – Cathedral of Ohrid archbishops. Fourth basilica built on this same spot (the oldest one being a Roman basilica (courthouse)). Present church was built in 1035 by archbishop Lav, front facade with the towers and the open galleries was built in 1317 by archbishop Gregory. The side porch was added when the church was turned into a mosque by the Turks. Inside is the biggest composition of 11th century frescoes preserved in the world. The main altar has scenes from the old testament and an emotional procession of angels bowing to Virgin Mary. The side altars have a fresco of the 40 martyrs (Roman soldiers left to freeze because they didn’t want to give up Christianity) which is very rarely depicted (in the left altar) and (in the right altar) portraits of Patriarchs from Constantinople, Jerusalem and Antioch, archbishops from Ohrid and Roman Popes (Ohrid archbishopcy always flirted with Roman Catholicism, so it would keep its important position with the Orthodox church). The small square in front of it was the main forum in ancient times.

St.Pantelejmon – Plaoshnik – It has been very important religious center since early Christian times, if not before. It is the site of the first university in Europe, opened in the 10th c. and it is the place where the cyrillic alphabet was created. The church you see is a reconstruction of the church St.Klement built when he came here and opened the university. The 5 nave early Christian basilica in the middle of which the church stands is from the 5th century (interesting mosaics in the baptistery and in the side chapel covered with red plastic roof). The atrium was built on the side since there was no space in the front. It probably was the cathedral in early Christian times. When St.Klement came here in the 10th c. just the small round chapel that today serves as altar existed. Because of the large influx of worshipers that followed him, he enlarged the church by building the central part of the church and turning the existent church into an altar chapel, and he dedicated the church to St Panteleimon (protector of health). The closed porch and the belltower were added later in the 13th century. Before St.Klement died he dig his own grave inside the church. When the Turks came they torn the church down after a rebellion. It still attracted large number of worshipers and pilgrims so they built a mosque above it. Until recently both the mosque and the church were standing in ruins. The reconstruction is a big guess since they didn’t know anything but the shape of the church. The height, the shape of the domes and the decorations are a wild guess

Events

Ohrid Summer Festival – The Ohrid Summer Festival is one of the largest and most important music and drama festivals in Macedonia. The first concert took place in 1961 in the church of St. Sophia, with its exceptional acoustics. The festival in Ohrid has a particular international flavour because of the participation of a large number of leading musicians and ensembles from the best known European and world music centers. There have been participants from 44 countries. This Festival has a solid reputation as it has gradually become part of the large family of the most famous European music festival. The Ohrid Summer Festival has its own sound conceptions, and it is able to draw up a musical program that includes artists of world renown. The Ohrid Summer Festival is held each year from July 12 to August 20.

Ohrid Swimming Marathon – Each year, in the second half of July, the swimming elite throughout the world gathers in Ohrid and, starting from the monastery St. Naum, they swim along the Lakeshore to the town harbour, approximately a 30-km route. Since 1998 the Ohrid Swimming Marathon has entered in the World Swimming Club of the 12 worldwide held marathons under the patronage of FINA-The World Swimming Association.

The Balkan Folklore Festival – Member of the UNESCO Association of The International Council of Organizations of Folklore Festivals and Folklore Art, and The International Organization for Folklore Art. This festival has so far presented numerous original songs and dances from folk culture for more than 30 years. About 1,200 ensembles with 42,000 members have taken part in the festival.