St Nicholas Manastir

 

According to the authors of ‘Monasteries in Macedonia’ the church of St Nikola in Manastir was built in 1095 but decorated by Archbishop Jovan in 1271.

St Nicholas monastery. Built 1095 and painted in 1271 by Jovan.
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St Nicholas monastery. Built 1095 and painted in 1271 by Jovan.20-May-2012 10:54, NIKON CORPORATION NIKON D90, 7.1, 28.0mm, 0.003 sec
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20-May-2012 10:41, NIKON CORPORATION NIKON D90, 10.0, 26.0mm, 0.003 sec, ISO 320
West entrance to the church. A three nave basilica dedicated to the Mother of God, Archangel Mihail and St Nikola.
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West entrance to the church. A three nave basilica dedicated to the Mother of God, Archangel Mihail and St Nikola.20-May-2012 10:40, NIKON CORPORATION NIKON D90, 10.0, 24.0mm, 0.003 sec, ISO 320
 

Here’s the entry for this church included the map “Macedonia Churches and Monasteries”:

This monastery is characteristic for it’s three nave basilica, which is dedicated to three saints: the central nave is dedicated to the Holy Mother, the northern one to Saint Archangel Mihail (Michael), and the southern one to Saint Nikola (Nicholas).
It was built in 1095 as it is written on the southern and northern wall of the central nave. The monastery church was painted in 1271 by the icon painter Jovan, who had also worked in St. Archangel Mihail Monastery in Varos, Prilep. This information can be found in the inscription in Greek from 1560.

 I have italicized the date of construction in the quote above since this seems to be a source of confusion elsewhere. In the first part of the book Painting and Architecture in Medieval Macedonia which comprises  a comprehensive and well illustrated guide to the architecture of early Macedonian churches, the author Saso Korunovski asserts a year of construction of 1266 to St Nicholas, Manastir, but then has a problem explaining this since by his account “the basilical plan of the church [was of] a type that had come out of fashion in Macedonia for more than two centuries ago.”  A construction year of 1095 would indeed seem perhaps more likely but then one is faced with the conundrum of why it took another 270 odd years to paint the interior.

In relating the geographical location of the monastery to the social milieu current at the church’s construction — whether 11th or 13th centuries — I was struck by the remoteness of the site. Here are some photos to illustrate:

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20-May-2012 09:43, NIKON CORPORATION NIKON D90, 9.0, 24.0mm, 0.002 sec, ISO 320
village of Manastirvillage of Manastir
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village of Manastir20-May-2012 09:44, NIKON CORPORATION NIKON D90, 9.0, 24.0mm, 0.006 sec, ISO 320
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20-May-2012 09:52, NIKON CORPORATION NIKON D90, 7.1, 42.0mm, 0.003 sec, ISO 100
 
on the way back to Prilepon the way back to Prilep
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on the way back to Prilep20-May-2012 11:21, NIKON CORPORATION NIKON D90, 11.0, 42.0mm, 0.005 sec
 

As the following photos show, the iconographic work was of a high quality, and yet here we are in a corner of Macedonia that is still relatively remote by today’s standards. How did an Archbishop come to paint such magnificent work in a place that is so off the beaten track? Yet another mystery.

The Frescos

Rather than describe the frescos of this church in my own halting words I’d like to quote Elizabeta Dimitrova who, in the section entitled Artists and Works of Art in the above volume, gives the following description of the frescos of St Nikola:

The influence of the artistic matrixes (sic) from the fresco painting of Kurbinovo, crucial for the development of Macedonian visual culture of the 13th Century, is unavoidably reflected in the fresco ensemble of the church of Saint Nicholas in the village of Manastir (1271), for the decoration of which the deacon and referendarius John (ie Jovan) engaged a large atelier of talented fresco painters. Following their own painterly experiences and creative aspirations, the four painters created an interesting spectre (sic — I think she means ‘spectrum’) of various stylistic tendencies out of the painted interior of the basilica. United in an elaborated iconographic panorama applied in the program arrangement suitable for the three naved architectural disposition of the edifice, the pluralistic distribution of the artistic notions in Manastir nuances the fresco decoration of the church as the most authentic example of the stylistic polyvalence of Macedonian fresco painting in the 13th century.  The Christological cycle in the nave, the Last Judgment, the Hagiography of the Patron, the Tree of Jesse and the Ladder of Salvation illustrated in the lateral naves, the prophets’ busts in the arches between the pillars, the altar decoration and the standing saintly figures depicted in the lower zone, do not contain significant novelties in the iconographic approach; however, they picturesquely disclose the stylistic freshness of artistic trends practiced by the various painters of the period.

Old Testament Figures

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20-May-2012 10:07, NIKON CORPORATION NIKON D90, 4.0, 28.0mm, 0.077 sec, ISO 1600
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20-May-2012 10:19, NIKON CORPORATION NIKON D90, 3.5, 32.0mm, 0.077 sec, ISO 1600
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20-May-2012 10:15, NIKON CORPORATION NIKON D90, 4.0, 28.0mm, 0.25 sec, ISO 1600
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20-May-2012 10:16, NIKON CORPORATION NIKON D90, 4.0, 24.0mm, 0.1 sec, ISO 1600
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20-May-2012 10:16, NIKON CORPORATION NIKON D90, 4.0, 24.0mm, 0.2 sec, ISO 1600
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20-May-2012 10:30, NIKON CORPORATION NIKON D90, 3.5, 35.0mm, 0.077 sec, ISO 2000
minor prophets, ?, Amos, Hosea
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minor prophets, ?, Amos, Hosea20-May-2012 10:28, NIKON CORPORATION NIKON D90, 3.5, 28.0mm, 0.067 sec, ISO 2000
 

Frescos in main nave

St Moses the black.
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St Moses the black.20-May-2012 10:18, NIKON CORPORATION NIKON D90, 3.5, 28.0mm, 0.077 sec, ISO 1600
St Moses the Ethiopian
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St Moses the Ethiopian20-May-2012 10:18, NIKON CORPORATION NIKON D90, 3.5, 28.0mm, 0.04 sec, ISO 1600
St Demetrius ?
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St Demetrius ?20-May-2012 10:06, NIKON CORPORATION NIKON D90, 4.0, 28.0mm, 0.025 sec, ISO 1600
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20-May-2012 10:06, NIKON CORPORATION NIKON D90, 4.0, 28.0mm, 0.025 sec, ISO 1600
St George ?
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St George ?20-May-2012 10:14, NIKON CORPORATION NIKON D90, 4.0, 35.0mm, 0.025 sec, ISO 1600
St Onuphrius
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St Onuphrius20-May-2012 10:09, NIKON CORPORATION NIKON D90, 4.0, 26.0mm, 0.077 sec, ISO 1600
St Panteleimon
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St Panteleimon20-May-2012 10:17, NIKON CORPORATION NIKON D90, 3.5, 28.0mm, 0.077 sec, ISO 1600
 
St Michael & St Nicholas
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St Michael & St Nicholas20-May-2012 10:36, NIKON CORPORATION NIKON D90, 4.0, 32.0mm, 0.067 sec, ISO 2000
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20-May-2012 10:23, NIKON CORPORATION NIKON D90, 3.5, 32.0mm, 0.017 sec, ISO 2000
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20-May-2012 10:37, NIKON CORPORATION NIKON D90, 4.0, 38.0mm, 0.077 sec, ISO 2000
rows of saints on either side of the nave
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rows of saints on either side of the nave20-May-2012 10:31, NIKON CORPORATION NIKON D90, 3.5, 35.0mm, 0.05 sec, ISO 2000
Deisis
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Deisis20-May-2012 10:32, NIKON CORPORATION NIKON D90, 3.5, 28.0mm, 0.033 sec, ISO 2000
Second tier of 3/4 length saints
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Second tier of 3/4 length saints20-May-2012 10:32, NIKON CORPORATION NIKON D90, 3.5, 28.0mm, 0.04 sec, ISO 2000
busts of saints. St Moses is on the left
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busts of saints. St Moses is on the left20-May-2012 10:35, NIKON CORPORATION NIKON D90, 4.0, 58.0mm, 0.017 sec, ISO 1250
 
St Moses the Black
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St Moses the Black20-May-2012 10:35, NIKON CORPORATION NIKON D90, 4.0, 58.0mm, 0.017 sec, ISO 1250
Theotokos
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Theotokos20-May-2012 10:22, NIKON CORPORATION NIKON D90, 3.5, 32.0mm, 0.017 sec, ISO 2000
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20-May-2012 10:31, NIKON CORPORATION NIKON D90, 3.5, 35.0mm, 0.05 sec, ISO 2000
view of main nave with later iconostasis
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view of main nave with later iconostasis20-May-2012 10:39, NIKON CORPORATION NIKON D90, 4.0, 32.0mm, 0.033 sec, ISO 2000
 

The other chapels

Chapel of St Michael
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Chapel of St Michael20-May-2012 10:12, NIKON CORPORATION NIKON D90, 4.0, 35.0mm, 0.017 sec, ISO 1600
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20-May-2012 10:13, NIKON CORPORATION NIKON D90, 3.0, 19.0mm, 0.077 sec, ISO 1600
St Nicholas introducing the church's donor to Christ
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St Nicholas introducing the church's donor to Christ20-May-2012 10:13, NIKON CORPORATION NIKON D90, 2.8, 17.0mm, 0.1 sec, ISO 1600
Birth of St Nicholas ? St Nicholas standing in the basin.
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Birth of St Nicholas ? St Nicholas standing in the basin.20-May-2012 10:27, NIKON CORPORATION NIKON D90, 3.5, 28.0mm, 0.017 sec, ISO 2000
Chapel of St Nicholas -- apse
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Chapel of St Nicholas -- apse20-May-2012 10:25, NIKON CORPORATION NIKON D90, 3.5, 28.0mm, 0.017 sec, ISO 2000
ST John Theologian with St Nicholas & Gregory ?
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ST John Theologian with St Nicholas & Gregory ?20-May-2012 10:25, NIKON CORPORATION NIKON D90, 3.5, 32.0mm, 0.017 sec, ISO 2000
St Nicholas distributing bread
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St Nicholas distributing bread20-May-2012 10:24, NIKON CORPORATION NIKON D90, 3.5, 32.0mm, 0.017 sec, ISO 2000
 
ladder of salvation
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ladder of salvation20-May-2012 10:21, NIKON CORPORATION NIKON D90, 3.5, 35.0mm, 0.25 sec, ISO 2000
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  One Response to “St Nicholas Manastir”

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