Епископијата на Брегалница : прв словенски црковен и културно-просветен центар во Македонија

Блага Алексова


The episcopate on Bregalnica : the first Slavic religious and cultural centre in Macedonia

Blaga Aleksova





The territories east of Vardar, where are the regions along river Bregalnica, the most vital parts of today's SR Macedonia, and up to Struma and Aegean Sea were settled by the Paeonian tribes in the time before the Romans came.


The often mentioning of the classic writers show that they were one of the biggest and the most organized tribes, with established state controlled by rulers, whose ritual appertaining to the coronation with a bathing was mentioned by Polyaen.


This strong tribal organized formation, that occupied significant territories on the Balkan Peninsula, represented the ethnic and geographic entirety, for ethnical belonging of which there are various opinions.


The most powerful and the biggest ethnical and political grouping in Macedonia from 168, and to be more sure, from 146 B.C., belong in the first, the second and in the fourth region, in the time when Macedonia is divided by the Romans in four regions. Its political and economic power was ruined, as well as the unity and the independence of the state control. The division of Paeonia with certain aim is achieved, and from that time there is no mentionings about it as an ethnic political unity.


The development of our regions in the Roman state organisation, in the time of Early Roman Empire, follows the common development and social currents. The process of romanization of the local autochtonous population very successfully was done through the Roman institutions and through the Roman culture. This period for Macedonia is a time for political and economic stabilization, as well as the time for peaceful life. During these two centuries of peaceful development, a lot of settled places east of Vardar were restored, and a lot of them grew in towns and reached the range of civitas.


During the attacks of the Gothic nations from the second half of the 2nd century the Roman Empire is threatened with its metropolis. The barbarian invasions were aimed towards the town for roberries and lootings. In the entire Illyricum begins the restoration of towns and its fortresses that were neglected in peace. This becomes the main concern of the Roman politics and for the rulers in the following centuries. For better safety, the town again regains its special meaning as a refugee place for the surrounding population. This has its influence in the urbanistic organization of the towns, which is known through the long term researches of the town centres on the Balkan. Here we find evidences in Stobi and in the researched segment of the bishopric town Bargala and Heraclea Lyncestis.


The Empire was shook by the economic crises from the enormous expense of the army and because of the more often pressures of the Barbarian nations on its north borders. Diocletian undertook big reforms, and latter even Constantine.


The Christianity, as a new idea, has its special meaning in the period of the Early Empire, up to the Late Empire and in some sense it has crucial role in the following development of the state. The religion that development through the strong oppressions during the centuries of the Early Empire reaches its affirmation after the religious peace from 313 of Constantine and with the declaration that the Christianity it the state religion by Theodosius I. The Christianity which was oppressed, now start to show the external manifestations of the state. It was born as the town religion against the paganism, the Christianity builds its hierarchy parallel to the civil one, and the bishops in towns represent the supreme authority of the late antique civitas.


The Christianity, that is organizationed and reinforced by the emperors, is a bearer of great building activity of the sacral character. The great public and private edifices from old antique towns now regain new





usage and they serve as Christian temples, while the luxurious nimpeons and pools are used for baptisteriums. Here, in Macedonia, we have a good example in Stobi, where all Early Christian Basilicas represent the old roman palaces and sinagogues converted into Christian churches, the exception is the Basilica of bishop Philip that is rebuilt over the Old Episcopial Basilica, the first cathedral church at Stobi. This means the rearranging of the town areas and of the building in it and forming of new town quarters with the objects of the Christian cult and its edificies which form the Early Christian complexes. So, the Christianity, as leading factor in town, contributes for the change of its urban and urbanistic organization.


The changes outside the towns are visible. The cemeterial Basilicas were built, surrounded by necropolis. Such object are built around the graves of the Martyrs who fell for the Christian religion during the oppressions. The traces of such objects we can find through the entire Balkan Peninsula. There are the some objects in the East Macedonia.


In Tabula Peutingeriana we can find the old Paeonian town(s of) Tranupara and Astibo on the river Astibos. Later, Hierocles, in the Synecdemos, inform as about the town(s of) Bargala, Kelenidin, Armonia and Zapara in Macedonia II Salutaris. There are literary evidences for Bargala and Zapara end they are mentioned as bishopric towns. Zapara is in the range of civitas.


These two towns, as organized Early Christian churches centers in the regions north of Thessalonica, the great economic, cultural and church center, have special role in the spreading of the Christianity in the regions east of Vardar.


The great building activity developed by these two bishoprics on their jurisdic territories is shown through the numerous church edificies and this has great consequences. With the spreading of the Christianity and with organized baptism in these regions of Eastern Illyricum these two bishoprics are spreading the culture achievements from the metropolis the Empire, and the achievements of the architecture and art.


The great achievements of the architecture, art of the mosaics, fresco paintings, architectural plastic decorations and handcrafts are part of the creation of the Mediterranean countries. According to A. Graber, these achievements, which were created on the soil of Greece, became the possession of the remote provinces, with certain local caracteristics.


At the beginning of the 6th century, the regions of Eastern Macedonia are under the jurisdiction of the newly formed archbishopric Prima Iustiniana in 535 by Iustinian. Although the life of this archbishopric was not so long, in the regions along Bregalnica, the traces are visible, left by the reconstruction of the holy Christian churches in the time of Iustinian's building activity. A lot of churches were reconstructed, the old Roman edifices and buildings became Christian temples and lot of Martyrium were erected. All of them bear the characteristics of the architecture and art which are present at Metropolis of the Empire, as well as in the provinces. The monuments on the Balkan, according to our knowledge, bear the same characteristics.


The Byzantine architecture continues the creativity of the last epoch and it contributes with innovations and the ingenuity of the architects from Iustinian time. Besides the great danger of the barbarian invasions, the towns experience the reconstruction and prosperity.


In the same time, along Danube and in the south of this river, a lot of fortresses are erected in the system of limes, in the interior of the Balkan a vivid activity starts, as well as the restoration of the towns. On the monuments along Bregalnica can be seen the remains from this strong building activity, which is visible an the monuments and on the town fortresses.





During the erection and reconstruction of the town, in late Roman period, the common ideas are used for the space organization analogue to the camps. The well known town along Bregalnica have defensive role and in same time they serve as civitas and castrum. It is a case with Bargala, the fortress near Krupishte, Vinichko kale and the fortress above Morodviz.


The technique of the building the open fortresses has no special characteristics and this is common in our country, as well as other provinces. In this period, the defence, the safety of the town was primary. In their construction, as well as in the construction of the sacral structures, were used the architectural elements from the structures of the earlier classical period. For the construction of the inner wall at Stobi, in the 4th century, were reused cultivated marble seats of the Theatre. In all Early Christian basilicas at Stobi, with the exception of the Old Episcopal basilica were reused the marble blocks and seats from the Theatre and from the public edificies from the Early Empire period.


In Bargala, in the complex of Episcopal Basilica we find reused marble remains of sculptures, grave monuments, fragments of slabs and postaments from the earlier classic period. The traces of usage the old building elements were discovered during the excavations of the main entrance in the town.


In the Christian churches at Krupishte were found parts and entire fragments of pillars and architraves, sculptured fragments of slabs, bases and capitals from the classic monumental architecture in the foundation of the churches. So, the usage of the building material spolia that belonged to the older edifices with various applications becomes a total need. The old classic structures are scattered and they serve as a quarry. This is not the characteristic only for our towns and buildings in the Early Christian period, but it is the characteristic for our country, the Balkan and for Greece.


The Christianity in the Eastern Illyricum has deep roots and great role was played by the strong organization of the Early Christian church. For the independent development of the church in Eastern Illyricum is very important the fact that this vast territory from the middle of the 4th century was independent prefecture with the capital of Thessalonica. For the development and the history of the church in Illyricum evidences can be found in the correspondence between Roman Popes one side and the Constantinopole partriarch and representatives of the Eastern churches from other side. Special contributions are the discoveries from the early Christian heritage on this territory.


The emperor Iustinian, with the novelle XI from 535 established the archiepiscopic Prima Iusiniana in his native place, the newly erected Prima Iusiniana. His legal act in the first novelle from 535 he proclamed in the name of the newly archibishop Castellion. Ten years later, in 545. with the novelle CXXXI Iustinian together with the Pope Vigilius for the region of Dacia Ripensis, Dacia Mediterranea, Praevalitana, Dardania, Mysia I and Pannonia, he proclamed the autocephalous church in the range of archibisopery archbishopric with its center in Prima Iustiniana. According to the church organisations, this territory of the Byzantinum was under the jurisdiction of Rome, in the ames of Thessalonica vicaryate.


The province Macedonia Secunda was mentioned only in IX novelle, and in the later CXXXI novelle it is not mentioned although it was under the jurisdiction of the newly establiched archibisopery archbishopric. E. Zacharia and R. Ljubinkovic express the opinion that Iustinian used it for paying the concord of the Pope Vigilius for the special status of archbishopery Prima Iusiniana.





In the acts of the Fifth ecumenical Council in 535 in Constantinople was mentioned Sabinianus episcopus Zapparenae civitatis, that he refused to come to this Council in the solidarity with the archbishop Benenat from Prima Iustiniana. After this Zapara fall under the jurisdiction of the archbishopery Prima Iustiniana, and acording to Hierocles it is well known that the town was in the province Macedonia Secunda. After this time, Macedonia Secunda does not exist and it is the opinion that it entered the neighbour Mediterranean Dacia. This is the reason why Macedonia Secunda was not mentioned in CXXXI novelle of Iustinian from 545.


The archibishopery Prima Iustiniana established according to the decision of the highest public and church authorities, was attached to the independent church organizations in Iustinian Empire. After the establishment of the political and church center with the archibishopery in Prima Iustiniana, the basis were erected for an independent church organization in the regions of Estern Illyricum. This organized church institution of the high range on the Balkan Peninsula, with a lot of bishop church centres in the jurisdic region, presents the base for the further development of the church organization on the Balkan.


The newly formed government and church center of the archibishopery Prima Iustiniana, with its seat nort of Thessalonica from 602 is not mentioned. The barbarian invasions ruined the town and all its institutions. The political and the church center is trans versed again in Thessalonica.


The Slav tribes settle the Balkan Peninsula and in the region along the river Bregalnica, the Slav tribe Strimonitzi is mentioned very early. In the contact with the Christian populations of Byzantium the Slavs start to receive the Christian religion.


They accepted it freely, sometimes by force, though various missionary of the priests from the East and the West church or in the time when they entered in the Byzantine army. The number of Slavs converted in Christianity grow more and more.


For the region along the river Bregalnica speak the literary sources and they tell as about the very important events in the life of the Slavs in Macedonia. They inform as about the early acceptance of the Christian religion by the Slavs from these regions and about the beginnings of composition of the Slav glagolitic alphabet.


The missionary activity of Constantine Cyril at the town Raven on Bregalnica river in 855, represent the beginng of the organized acceptance of the Christian religion of the Slavs in Macedonia. Cyril created the first Slav alphabet and he establishes the base for literacy and literature among the Slavs in Macedonia.


Very important historic event is the organization of the first Slav Biscopric in Macedonia. Its establishment is connected with the regions east of Vardar, where two early Christian Bishoprics with a great number of church edifices in their juridistic regions existed. This is the bishopric on Bregalnica, for which we are informed by Theophylact.


Guide of the historic and literary sources and of a great number of archaeological traces on the terrain, our researches and the archaeological excavations last years was dedicated in the region of the middle course of the river Bregalnica.


The material remains, the archaeological findings and a great number of monuments which were discovered with these researches contribute to the idea to be sure where was the center of the first missionary culture activity of Cyril among the river Bregalnica. The discovery of a great number of church constructions and of the cathedral church on Bregalnica show us the site of the first church and educational bishopric center among Slavs in Macedonia.





The great number of literary sources are confirmed by the newly discovered church monuments, they supplement each other and contribute the effort to discover and recognize our first Slav centers where the baptism started, as well as the beginnings of the literacy among Slavs, which represent the cradle of the Slavs literature and culture.





The opinion and the hypothesis for the missionary and education activity of Constantine Cyril the Philosoph and Metodi along Bregalnica are controversial in the science. There is no coordination of the evidences in the literary sources. The hagiography of the two educators do not give any evidences for such activity. Very late Slav and Greek sources show that Constantine Cyril and Metody were the first educators who stretched the Christianity among Slavs an the river Bregalnica. There also exists a legendary account, probably of the twelfth century, to the effect that St. Cyril, the apostle of the Slavs, even before proceeding to Moravia, converted the people of Bregalnica to Christianity and gave them books in Slavonic. The historicity of St. Cyril's activity in the Bregalnica region is rejected by the majority of historians, but is defended by E. Georgiev in „Rodinata na Kirilo-Metodievskoto delo".


We shall present the most significant literary evidences connected to this mission in order to stress that these questions in the science need answers from archaeological excavations and researches the monuments of the time of christianisation the Slavs in the Bregalnica region.


Among the most significant sources is The short Hagiography by St. Cyril or Uspenie Kirilovo. It is written that his first missions activity among Slavs began along Bregalnica. In that time baptized and converted in Christianity were 54.000 Slavs and given books in Slavonic.


In Prologue Hagiography by St. Cyril it is mentioned that the Moravian mission preceded this activity, while Prologue Hagiography by Metodi point out that after the Hazar mission he was asked to be teacher.


The Thessalonica Legend, besides the legendary evidences in the form of brief Autobiography narration, gives significant datas about the Bregalnica mission.


In the Tikvesh Transcript it is pointed out that Cyril came in the town of Raven on the river Bregalnica and that he wrote to the Slavs 32 letters and that he converted them into Christian religion. In Trnovo Transcript it is said that he came in the town of Raven „rikomei" Bregalnica and in the Belopolski Transcript the town of Raven „naricaemi" Bregalnica is mentioned.


In all Transcripts of the Thessalonica Legend the town of Raven is mentioned and it was on the river Bregalnica. With this and the town is identified with the River. With the settlement of the Slavs in this area, the name Bargala appears to have been transferred to the river Bregalnica.


In the ninth century against Theophylact archbishop of Ohrid (d. ca. 1108) reports that Boris-Mikhael (852—89) ordered that a church in of the Fifteen Martyrs of Tiberipolis — Strumica be built „in the bishopric of Bregalnica" and their relics deposited in it. The task was entrusted to a nobleman called Taridenas who, thanks to a long labour force, completed it speedily. A further consignment of relics was conveyed





from Strumica to Bregalnica under the Symeon (893—927). Unfortunately, Theophilact does not tell us where the bishopric of Bregalnica was located, although we may suppose that it was in the proximity of ancient Bargala.


A. Kunik in 1864 asked whether the town Raven around the year 855 was not the same bishopric town on Bregalnica, and later this town was more appreciated. In two later sources. The Moravian Legend from the 14th century, and the Czech Legend from the 13th century, it was mentioned that Cyril converted the Slavs in Christian religion before his leaving to Velikomoravia. Dukljanska Chronicle gives the evidence about the baptism of Slavs after the Hazar mission by Cyril. In the Great Hagiography of Clement and in the Brief Hagiography of Clement it was mentioned the educative activity, the creation of the alphabet and the books on Slav language by the apostles of the Slavs and their pupils.


It is supposed that the information for the missionary activity of Cyril and Metodi among Slavs at Raven on Bregalnica based upon the old tradition that indicate only the true events. This tradition was hold during the Middle Age, for which we have the confirmation in the monograph by I. S. Asemani about Cyril and Metodi from 1755. To hold this tradition helped the nomination of Metodi for the governor of the Slav princedom in Macedonia.


With the archaeological excavations and researches at the juncture of the river Zletovka into Bregalnica, near Krupishte and antique town, certainly, Astibo is discovered. The old town, with many architectural monuments was destroyed. With the settlement of the Slavs in this area the ruined town was reconstructed with the fortress, a lot of Christian churches were built, as well as representative public buildings.


The building materials from the churches, public objects, the stone blocks from the fortress, the architectural plastic and the bricks was marked with a lot of lines, graphites, enigmatics signs, crosses and with letters of glagolic and cyrilic alphabet.


One part of these paleographic monuments, according to up to now stidies of the Slavists, belonged to the phase „lines and cits" of the primitive alphabet, according to Chernorizec Hrabar, and it is from the time before Slavs were converted into the Christian religion.


On some monuments, beside the signs, we find glagolic letters. This points out the time when the first Slav alphabet was created by St. Cyril on Bregalnica. The presentation of cyrilic letters „without order", i.e. without signs for marking of the non Greek sounds, starts when the Slavs became Christian.


After archaeological excavations and researches at Krupiste we shall draw some conclusions that discovered old antique town with many Early Christian churches of the type of Martyrium appears were quickly reconstructed by the Slavs after their settlement in Macedonia. The paleographic monuments show that here was the center where from the Christianity among Slavs started and where the first letter of the Slavs alphabet was created. That means that here was the town Raven on Bregalnica that was mentioned in the Thessalonica Legend.


The discovery of the Cathedral church with Martyrium supports the evidence given by Theophilact that first Slav bishopric in Macedonia was founded on Bregalnica.








The historic and literary sources suggest that Christianity in Macedonia very early started to spread. F. Dvornik, according to the information given by Theophan (Theop. p. 556. ed. Bonn), the baptism of Macedonian Slavs connect with the expedition against Slavs along Struma river, led by Iustinian II (688—699).


Among Slav population in Thracia and Macedonia, as we mentioned, was a great number of Christians, which can be explained by the life under the Byzantine power. In the middle of the 9th century in these regions were large number of the Slavs converted in to Christianity.


With the acceptance of Christian religions fast building activity in Macedonia began, especially along the Bregalnica river. The churches became the center for spreading the Christianity and represented the places for religious service.


According to the evidence from the church arrangement and from the church organization in Eastern Illyricum it is known that in the regions nort of Thessalonica there were a lot of episcopal Early Christian church centers. Great number of these old bishoprics center were reconstructed after the Slav settlement in this region and after they became Christians. Such are the bishopric at Ohrid, Bregalnica, Sredec, Philipopolis and other.


In the Hagiography of the Tiberiopolis Martyrs by Theophilact we find evidences that in that time were nominated bishops as well as a great number of priests, and were erected large number of Churches. The destroyed churches in the time of Avaro-Slav attacks were reconstructed of the foundation and by this the Lord churches increased in number.


The constructions of the churches and the restorations of the holy old destroyed Early Christian structures was reinforced during the stay of Latin mission 866—869. On the Council at Constantinople 879—880 among other bishop eparchies the bishopric on Bregalnica was mentioned. The name of of the episcop Manuil was mentioned, with the title Provatski. This relate to the same bishopric, mentioned according to the name of the river and according to the territory where the bishoprics eparchy was situated.


The great number of churches under construction along the river Bregalnica is confirmed in a Chronicle from the 11th century, where it was written that the churchs were built along Bregalnica as well as „White churches on Ovche Pole" were constructed.


In 9—10th century in Constantinople, besides other the cult for Holly Mother was respected. In the capital, and in the whole Empire churches were constructed, according to the Early Christian tradition, over the graves of the believers who died for the Christian religion. They were proclaimed Martyrs.


Over the graves, constructed were special churches or annexes near them for keeping relics of the Martyrs, or special structures were constructed and they were incorporated into the churches dedicated to the general cult of Evharistia. In such churches Martyriums service was performed dedicated to the cult of the Martyr or to several Martyrs.


The churches Martyriums with the relics of the Martyrs, become the buildings for gathering the believers from everywhere. So, these monuments become centre for pilgrimage and places for gathering the believers from all over the country. Such centers with cult churches,





great sites for pilgrimage, contributed to the glory of the town where they were built as well as for the diocese.


In order to form such center on Bregalnica, according to Theopilact Ohridski, a temple was erected for the Tiberiopolis Martyrs, done by comess Taridenas (on) behalf of Boris Mikhael. Then they transferred the relics of Thimoteus, Komassius and Eusebius from Tiberiopolis into the bishopric on Bregalnica. ??


Later, the comess Distr, ordered by Simeon took the relics of Socrates and Theodorus. According to Theophilact, in this church liturgy servise hold of the clergy was on Slav language.


The priest in the church of Bregalnica could be chosen only among the pupils of Clement, i.e. among the refugees of Moravia, because Clement, on his first coming in Macedonia, in 886 started for the first time, to spread the Christianity and to preach on Slav language. This was confirmed during his seven year stay in the Ohrid—Prespa region when he trained many pupils and his followers to serve in churches on Slav language.


The discovery of the representative temple on Bregalnica, nearby Krupishte, with incorporated cross like church in the south annex shows that the Great Church is dedicated to the general cult of Euharistia, and the cross like church was used for the cult of Martyrs. The platform that surrounds the ambulacrum was used for storing the trunks with relics of the Martyrs. This arrangement in the edicula was covered with a kind of baldachine, the marble columns of which that were supporting the structure were found during the researches.


The analyses of the architectural elements of the uncovered east parts of the Great Temple on Bregalnica show that the church was constructed in the same time when the Martyrium was erected. The marble plates of the platform of this structure and the marble columns that were bearing the baldachine over it were marked with many signs, crosses, glagolic and cirylic letters.


These sings repeat on the architectural plastics of the whole researched site of the church. We find sings on the stone construction blocks as well as on the construction ceramics. On the floor of the cancel, a coin of the type Leo VI (886—912) was discovered. The whole archaeological evidence shows that the temple of Bregalnica was built in the second half of the 9th century and the beginning of the 10th century.


The literary and historical sources inform us clearly that just after this time the relics of the Fifteen Tiberiopolis Martyrs were transported from Strumica on to Bregalnica. This is the reason why we consider that this church represents a cathedral temple on Bregalnica constructed to accommodate the Fifteen Martyrs of Tiberiopolis — Strumica.


After the construction of the cathedral church with Martyrium on Bregalnica and after the construction of a large number of churches in the town and its surroundings, at the end of the 9th century and the beginning of the 10th century, the first educative, cultural and literary center was formed as well as the first Slav bishopric in Macedonia.


This bishopric center was not formed only for the regions along the river Bregalnica, but for the whole Macedonia and for the neighbouring regions in the central part of the Balkan Peninsula. This bishop eparchy was aimed not only to spread the Christianity, but also to spread the Slav literacy and culture and to make the church hierarchy independent, which was done during the construction of the cathedral temple with Martyrium, as we are clearly informed by Theophilact.


It should be noticed that these territories were exposed to the Byzantine influence because they were located along the Byzantine Empire





border, and such church organization was established from the middle of the 9th century and the beginning of the 10 th century.


The bishopric on Bregalnica was established in the region which was full of ruined Early Christian temples, on the territory where the old church organization existed, led by two bishop centers in Bargala and Zapara.


In order to strengthened and form a Slavic bishopric church center on Bregalnica, as well as the cultural and educative center, the relics of the Tiberiopolis — Strumica Martyrs were transported into the newly built cathedral temple on Bregalnica. The church was built in the time of transportation of Martyrs' relics. With this act, the bases of the first Slav church organization were set on the Balkan Peninsula.


The bishopric on Bregalnica, enriched with the Strumica martyr cult, who fell for the Christ religion, according to the records left by Theophilact, in the time of persecution of Christians by the Emperor Iulian Apostote (361—363), was planned to be vis-à-vis Thessalonica approximately at the same level, but as a great Slav center.


During the Early Christian period and later, in the Byzantine time. Thessalonica was a great strategic, political, church and cultural center on the Balkan Peninsula. It had a special significance according to the apostle tradition, because Apostle Paul stayed there four times. The town was enriched with the cult for St. Demetrius. This cult was very important for the town and for the church, and the relics of St. Demetrius were transported in Constantinople.


The bishopric on Bregalnica was established according to the rules and standards of the Byzantine church from the 9th and 10th century, which lived under the traditions of the Early Christian church from the 4th to the 6 th century. The bishopric on Bregalnica, together with the representative cathedral temple in which the church — Martyrium dedicated to the Strumica Martyrs was incorporated, became the first Slav bichopric eparchy in Macedonia and in the neighbouring territories of the Central part of the Balkan.


The selection of this town for the first Slav bishopric seat as well as for the church and cultural center, nearby Krupishte, was not by chance. This town, Raven, as pointed out even by Kunik as a later eparchy center, had, similar to Thessalonica, a strategic, economic, cultural significance and a strong missionary tradition, in the town in which the cultural and educational missionary activities among Slavs was developed by Constantine Cyril.


The discovered architectural and paleographic monuments enable us to say that the first Slav bishopric on Bregalnica was in the town of Raven, nearby Krupishte, the town which became the first Slav cultural and educational center in Macedonia.


The Fifteen Strumica Martyrs cult was created in Strumica in the second half of the 4th century, on Macedonia land. This cult was born in a town Martyrs were killed and burried in the town cemetery, Sub Divo in area martyrs. One central crypt under the earth was for them and they are painted on the west side of the crypt. The other martyrs were buried near this crypt.


Theophilact informs us about the time of their torment, burial, glorification of their miracles, which is an integral part of the cult creation. He informs us about the names of the Martyrs, and Cv. Grozdanov confirmed that they were presented on the fresco paintings in the central crypt according to the list of their names.





These graves of the Martyrs were marked and worshiped by the believers. After the religious piece and after the proclamation of the Christianity as a governmental religion, a Martyrium was built over the Martyrs graves — ad corpus, and later it became a big church and in the central part of it this arched crypt was located.


There is a possibility that the temple which was built over the grave of the Martyrs had a plan of a basilica. Was it the first architectural structure over the Martyrs graves, the archaeological researchers should confirm this statement.


Later, this church was remodelled and over martyrs graves a crossdomed church with central and four domes at the corners was built. This type of church — Martyriums is characteristic for Iustinian's time throughout the entire Empire and in the provinces, even on the Balkan. As a prototype to all educated people, the church of Hosios David in Thessalonica from 5th—6th century, is important, and it is our opinion that the reconstruction of the church erected over the martyrs graves was done in the time of Iustinian, marked with strong construction activities and reconstruction of numerous temples throughout the Empire and the Balkan. It is possible that the church was ruined during the great invasions of the northern tribes and its ruins were reconstructed during the reviving of the Fifteen Strumica Martyrs cult in the 9th and 10th century.


The Strumica Martyrs cult was deeply rooted and praised in Macedonia and it was mentioned in the great number of literary sources. The mentioning of their praising and celebration in Asemain gospel and in the martyrship of Theophilact, shows that the cult for these Martyrs was present in the 9th—10th century and throughout the discovered historical and literary sources it was present up to the 18th—19th century.


The archaeological researches and excavations in Strumica and on Bregalnica showed two temples dedicated to the Strumica Martyr, and this confirmed the evidences given by Theophilact. The two temples dedicated to these Martyrs are cross-like structures, but with characteristic marks and architectural elements, and they contribute to belonging to different types and give a notion about the construction time. Nevertheless, these are the characteristics and marks of the buildings constructed in Constantinople and in the Empire provinces.


The Strumica Martyrs cult contributed to the glory of the town where they were buried. We found the same evidence in Theophilact who informs us about the protest of Strumica population, that the relics of a small number of Martyrs be transported on to Bregalnica.


The numerous architectural structures of sacral and prophane character belong to the great city on Bregalnica, but Theophilact does not mention its name, he mentions it only as a town. It is my opinion that he avoids the name on purpose, because the town presented a great Slav center with a long missionary tradition, where the acceptance of the Christ religion was born and the first Slav alphabet in Macedonia and on the Balkan introduced. This town could only be Raven, mentioned in all the manuscripts of the Thessalonica legend.


The town was encircled by high walls and towers, set near Bregalnica, in Ovche Pole which was full of forests and cut by the tributaries of Bregalnica river with plenty of cold wells and with thermal springs which exist even at present.


Two religious services were performed in the church on Bregalnica. One of the services was dedicated to the general cult of the Eucharistia and a special service dedicated to the Strumica Martyrs. The cult that was praised in this church was not restricted to Strumica Martyrs,





only, because the monument presented one of the main churches in the Bishopric on Bregalnica.


We should mention as an example that in the 9th century the patriarch Photuis in Constantinople explained to the representatives of Rome — the Latins, that they praised conducted more services in the same day and in the same altar.


The cathedral church on Bregalnica had contemporary characteristics of the Byzantine architecture, where the churches — Martyriums were at the head of the temples dedicated to the general cult or sideward, near the church, in special annexes or chapels. This is characteristic of the 9th and 10th century. In such Martyriums, the relics of Martyrs killed in the persecutions of Christians were kept.


The cathedral temple on Bregalnica enriched with the Strumica Martyrs relicts, whose cult was created in the second half of the 4th century in Strumica, becomes a great pilgrimage center in Macedonia and for the neighbouring regions settled by Slavs. The basis for the first Slav bishopric in Macedonia and on the Balkan were created, and it becomes a center for turning of Slavs into the Christian religion in these regions and a cradle of the Slavs literacy and culture.





The question about location of the Clement's bishopric diocese, has been in the focus of interest in the Slavistic sciences all over the world, since the middle of the 19th century. A great number of evidences by many scholars, served for emerging many hypotheses in searching for the location of the bishopric eparchy of Clement. A great number of Slavists have been searching for the Clement bishopric from the Adriatic coast down to Thessalonica and Skopje, and other groups of scientists have been searching to the west of Rhodopes.


The new archaeological researches and excavations, when a great number of church monuments from the early construction activity of the Macedonian Slavs along Bregalnica were found, as well as the source evidences connected with Clement as bishop which are connected among themselves. The new archaeological discoveries will serve for definition of the place occupied by the Clement bishopric diocese.


Clement, together with other pupils of Cyril and Metodi, came in Macedonia in 886. The Wide Hagiography of Clement Ohridski informs us that after seven years of educative work in Devolski comitat he was appointed by Simeon 893/4 as bishop of Dremvica or Velica "ε'πισκοπον Δρεμβὶτζας ῆτοι βελιτζας προβάλλεται". With this appointment, Clement was „the first bishop of the Slav language". It is mentioned that Clement was returning from Velika in Ohrid, which is explained by the great distance of the eparchy from Ohrid.


The Short Hagiography of Clement informs us that Clement became a bishop of the entire Illyricum and of the Slav speaking countries.




The Dukandj's catalogue called — the list of archbishops of the Greek language, is from the middle of the 12th century, and it is preserved in one copy from the 13th century. In this catalogue, on the first place





the name of Clement is mentioned among the names of the archpriests from Ohrid archbishopric — patriarchy from the end of the 9th century till the end of the 11th century, as a bishop of Tiberiopolis — Strumica or (and) Velika. "Κλήμνς γενόμενος ἐπὶσκοπος Τιβεριουπόλεως ἤτοι βελὶκας".


It has been mentioned that he was ordered to control the third part of the Empire, from Thessalonica to Jerihon and Kanina or (and) Tasipiat.


Iv. Dujchev giving a comment on these evidences, points out that Clement was appointed as church leader in the south-west regions of the country around 886, in the time of the prince Boris—Michail, and appointed as a bishop around 893—894, in the time of Simeon. There are long discussions about the names of the bishopric among scientists.


The title of Clement is preserved in some national sources: in Cyril Ascending ??


In the „Mesecoslov" of the Assemani gospel under the date 27th of July ?? and in the praising words of Clement Ohridski about John the Baptiser, for „Cvetna Nedela" and so on, ??.


According to the Dikandj's catalogue, many scientists locate the Clement's eparchy in the Strumica region. V. Jagich in 1880 pointed out that Clement had been active on Bregalnica. Iv. Snegarov in his special study, analysing the suggestion of V. Jagich, located the Clement's eparchy in the central Macedonia, along Vardar. E. Georgiev thinks that the Clement's eparchy was in Macedonia, in the big region around Ohrid.


In the bishop list of Leo VI the Philosoph (886—912) the eparchies βελικιας βελὶκειας are mentioned which E. Golubinski in 1885 relates to the Clement eparchy. According to the analyses of these lists P. Koledarov locates the Clement eparchy in the south-west regions of the Rhodopes and to the name of eparchy he gives the meaning of a big-high-magnificent-huge country.


According to my opinion, the long debates among Slavists in respect to the location of the bishopric eparchy of Clement shall be solved by the archaeological researchers when material remains are found so that they will give us an opportunity to identify the location of the Clement bishopric.


The new archaeological discoveries of numerous architectural monuments of sacral character, which belong to the early construction activity of the Macedonian Slavs along Bregalnica and a great number of the above mentioned historical and literary sources correlate among themselves. They show that the ruined Early Christian temples in the battles of the Avaro-Slavic tribes were reconstructed again by the Slavs after their settlement in these regions. A great number of these monuments are marked with a lot of signs graffiti, crosses and letters in glagolic and cyrilic alphabet.


The Bregalnica valley, because of its geographic position, had great strategic, political and economic significance in the classical and the Byzantine period. In the late classic period, bichopric centers developed with a great number of built Christian temples in the regions under the jurisdiction which contributed to the fast spreading of Christianity in these regions of the Eastern Illyricum.


After the Slavs settled on the Balkan Peninsula the importance of the regions along the middle course of Bregalnica river was not reduced. These territories had a significant role in the economic development of the country because they were connected with the most vital roads on the Balkan.





The construction of the great number of churches on the territory of the old early-Christian bishoprics had a distinguished role for establishment of an independent church organization among Slavs in Macedonia.


According to the tradition of the Old Early-Christian bishopric in Bargala, the first Slav bishopric was organized here on Bregalnica, and it became a big and organized church and educational center. For this bishopric, a temple is built where relics of the Tiberiopolis Martyrs were kept, whose cult was well known and praised in the larger portion of the Balkan Peninsula. The erection of the church and transportation of the relics was in the time of Boris and Clement. The church was served by the clergy trained by Clement, and this shows the possibility that the temple was built after Clement's comming in Macedonia. The second transportation of the relics was in the time of Simeon and Clement, and in 893 he was appointed bishop of Dremevic and Velika.


The dedication of the temple in the bishopric on Bregalnica with the relics of the Fifteen Tiberiopolis Martyrs has its special meaning. The relics of the saints of the well known cult were brought a cult which was created on the Balkan. With the relics of these Martyrs, miracle and healers, known in the Strumica region, the bases for the first organized bishopric church center of the Macedonian Slavs were put on the Balkan. This was the idea of the church and of the first Slav educator Clement. The government helped him to realize this great and ingenious idea, the work that played definite role in the development of the rest of the Slav churches on the Balkan peninsula. After the establishment of the first independent Slav church center on Bregalnica, the bases for fast acceptance of Christian religion were put among the Slavs in Macedonia and on the Balkan. In the same time, the bases of the Slav literacy were put, and the development of the literature and construction activities of sacral character among Slavs, started.


In Strumica and on Bregalnica, there are two temples dedicated to the Tiberiopolis Martyrs. The first temple was built over their graves, and the second one was for keeping the part of their relics.


The bishopric on river Bregalnica, mentioned as Provatska at the Synod in Constantinople 879—880, is the same bishopric we were informed by Theophilact, once mentioned according to the territory where it was, in Ovche Pole, and then mentioned because of the river where it was. With the relics of the Strumica Martyrs it becomes the first organized bishopric church organization of Slavs in Macedonia, served by the clergy established by Clement.


It should be the bishopric from the Dikandj's catalogue mentioned under two names. It is the name of Strumica, where the church with the graves is, and the name of the Bishopric on Bregalnica, where the same relics were transported. We think that the same bishopric is mentioned in the Wide Hagiography by Clement, under the name Dremvica and Velika, or Velichka bisopric in our nation source.


Clement is the organizer of Velichka bishopric on the river Bregalnica, the first Slav bisporic eparchy on the Balkan Peninsula, which became an organized center for slavenizing the church and the education, as well as the literature in Macedonia and in the neighbouring countries settled by Slavs. This is confirmed in the Brief Hagiography by Clement where he is mentioned as a bishop of the Illyricum.


The church on Bregalnica river near Krupishte, dedicated to the Strumica Martyrs cult, and the church of the Fifteen Martyrs in Strumica served for appointment of titles to the clergy of the Clement bishopric under the name Dremvica and Velica.





The new archaeological findings, the historical and literary sources, give us the opportunity to locate the bishopric eparchy Velica on Bregalnica river at the foot of the old Early-Christian bishopric on Bargala, nearly Krupishte. At the end of the 9th century and at the beginning of the 10th century, the first church was built here as an organized cultural and educational center of the Slavs on the Balkan Peninsula. This church bishopric center was the first organized independent church organization among Slavs settled on the territories to the north of Thessalonica.


The records in the eparchy catalogue by Leo VI the Philosoph (886—912) βελικιας (βεκικειας) that E. Golubinski relates to Velika, could be connected to Velichka bishopric led by the first Slav bishop Clement from 893, since its organizing and building was in that time.


The explanation of P. Koledarov about the meaning of the word Velika is acceptable to my mind, but to this word I would add the meaning of something large and Krupishte, mentioned in 1354 in the Charter of the Synod led by Stephan Dushan in Krupishte, on Ovche Pole. For today's population in Krupishte, who came from more distant places, the destroyed (ruined) town is known as Large town or Krupishte.


The territory that was occupied by Velichka bishopic, the evidence from the Brief Hagiography by Clement, point out that Clement was the bishop of the entire Illyricum. Our archaeological researchers of the monuments from the 9th and 10th centuries and from the time of Samoil church organization show us that the bishopric of Clement was on a vast region, to the north of Thessalonica, in the central part of the Balkan Peninsula.





In Macedonia Secunda, one of the provinces under the jurisdiction (mentioned in the XIth novela by Iustinian) of the old archbishopery Prima Iustiniana, with two bishopric seats in Bargala and Zapara, the foundation of the Slav church organization was established. At the foot of the bishopric town Bargala, nearby the tributary Zletovka, in the town of Raven, the first Slav bishopric on the Balkan was formed.


The choice of this town for organization of a religious and educational center was not accidental. The ruined classic town with plenty of church structures reconstructed by Iustinian's construction activity, was not only a significant religious but also political and economic center to the east of river Vardar in the former province Macedonia Secunda.


The beginning of organization of the church on the Balkan Peninsula is very old. Iustinian organized in Taurisius near Bederiana i new church center of the order of an archbishopery. The church and the political center was transported from Thessalonica to Prima Iustiniana. During the lifetime of this church and government center, the policy about the relationships between church organizations of East and West was led by the archbishop from Prima Iustiniana who persecuted the policy of the Emperor. After the end of this church center in the Eastern Illyricum (602 was not mentioned) the church and political center was again transported to Thessalonica.


On the former region of Iustiniana archbishopery a part of the rest of the romanized Christian population remained, as well as a great number of Slav tribes. The Slav tribes settled on the Balkan Peninsula and they started to form their state organizations.





They started to accept the Christianity after the contacts with the already christianized population of Byzantium and after enlisting for the paid Byzantine army troops, with „flame and sword", with the expeditions undertaken by the Byzantine emperors, and the baptizing missions by the church organized by the Pope himself and the missionary activities organized by the Byzantinium.


The most important missionary activity for the Slav conversion into the Christian religion was the mission of Constantine Cyril the Philosoph in 855, and the Latin mission of 866—869. The last one was appointed by the Pope and ordered to act on the territory of the former Bulgarian state, consisting of large territories on the Balkan. According to the evidences and to the discovered monuments, in the time of the Latin mission a great number of church monuments was built, marked with the characteristic symbolism of the Western church, with Latin inscriptions and letters.


The mission of Constantine Cyril for the Slav conversion into Christian religion on the Balkan was, according to the literary and legendary sources, on the river Bregalnica, in the town of Raven. The latest archaeological excavations and researches show that the town was nearby today's Krupishte.


This educative and cultural mission on Bregalnica river left significant traces on the architectural monuments in the town and its surroundings. They are the palaeographic monuments of which, besides the enigmatic letters „dashes and hyphens", mentioned by Chernorizetz the Hrabar the first glagolic letters of Cyril, letters from the first Slav alphabet created for the Slavs were found.


The existing findings of such monuments in the vast region to the east of the river Vardar and north east of Bregalnica basin show that this cultural and educative activity covered large territories of Macedonia.


The missionary activities on the Balkan Peninsula and a great number of christianized Slavs contributed that the thought be born for an organized church institution, which will develop independently the activity of conversion of Slavs into the Christian religion, which will further perform all church and legal affairs in its domain and will direct the building church activity on its territory. Definitely, this was significantly influenced by the ambitions for forming some greater state organizations on the Balkan, especially after the creation of the first state nuclei, and very early there was a need for creating of church organization on the Balkan Peninsula.


Long negotiations were carried out among Rome, the Pope and the Byzantine Emperor, the Constantinople patriarch and representatives of the Eastern Church, for the jurisdiction over this church on the Constantinople Synod of 879—880. The church of the former Bulgarian state lived in the shadow of this Synod, which was very important for the independent development of the church organization on the former territory of the archbishopric of Prima Iustiniana in the Eastern Illyricum.


R. Ljubinkovich, according to the analyses of evidences from the 12th and 13th centuries, concludes that the first Slav church on the Balkan and the later Ohrid archbishopric were regulated on legal bases from the time of the emperor Iustinian and these churches present a historic metamorphosis of the same Iustinian legal decision. According to Theodor Velsamon this decision was the CXXXI Iustinian novella. The same novella found its place in the Code for the legal regulations in the first years of the reign of Leo the 6th (886—912), known under the name of Vasilika.





It appears that the organization of the first Slav church on the Balkan was the continuation of the reghts of already created church organization Prima Iustinian by the Emperor Iustinian. There is one but very important difference, that this church bears pure Slavic features. Its bishop, the clergy and the believers consisted of the newly settled Slavs. Their alphabet is Slavic, at first glagolic and then cyrilic letters.


The organization of archbishopric on Bregalnica presents the beginning of the first organized Slav church on the Balkan. The transition of Iustinian CXXXI novella into Vasilika and Velsamov's connection of this novella with the Bulgarian church and Ohrid archbishopric, given in his comment on the Pseudo-Photi Nomocannon, is according to R. Ljubinkovich a real picture of the legal situation, because this attitude was accepted by the official authorities and was included into the official legal church and prophane codes of the Byzantine Empire.


In the Sigillions of Vasilius II the right of Ohrid archbishopric were not related to the rights of Prima Iustiniana. However, this could devaluate the statements in the official legal codes. The Sigillions are with limited law influence and could not provide such evidences.


At the background of the first Slav church organization and the Ohrid Archbishopric on the territory of the former Eastern Illyriyum Prima Iustiniana from its beginning it was the Iustinian legal act — CXXXI of the Iustinian novella.


In the complex church and political situation on the Balkan Peninsula, the organization and establishment of the first Slav church organization started in Macedonia. This took place after the coming of Clement with other refugees from Moravia in Macedonia in 886. After his coming in Macedonia, the preparation began for establishment of the first Slav church on the Balkan.


As a seat of the first Slav episcopy, the town of Raven was selected on Bregalnica, in which the missionary activity for christianization was performed by Cyril. The reconstruction and building of the city begins with construction of many churches and public buildings. The cathedral temple was built again with a Martyrium where the relics of the famous Fifteen Tiberiopolis Strumica Martyrs who died for the Christian religion in Strumica, were put.


This is the bishopric on Bregalnica, Velika βελικιας episcopy, the first Slav church organization created on the Balkan peninsula. It was organized north of Thessalonica on the territory where in the past the archbishopric Prima Iustiniana was formed.


Thessalonica, as in the Early Christian time, and in the Byzantine time, remained strong church and political center. Its church which was born during the organizational era of Christianity and in the time of the religious councils was respected through centuries as an old church institution that conquered the paganism and affirmed the Christianity and its institutions.


The church history is repeated. On the territory to the north of Thessalonica densely populated by the Slav tribes, with a great number of Christianized Slavs, the bases for the first Slav church organization were put against the church of one of the Byzantine metropollas. Enriched with the first Slav glagolic alphabet and afterwards with cyrilic alphabet with which letters were inscripted on the facades of the reconstructed and newly built churches, the walls of fortresses and other monuments and tombstones.


The territory covered by the first Slav episcopy on Bregalnica was not limited to a small area. The large and detail preparations for its organization, establishment and appointment of Clement for it first Slav





bishop in 893, were not done for a small and isolated territory, as some educated people think, but for the vast regions north of Thessalonica, settled by Slavs.


This can be seen in the source data that mention Clement as the bishop of the entire Illyricum. This is confirmed by the new archaeological discoveries.


The great first Slav episcopy was on Bregalnica near Krupishte, where a great church and educational center was established. For the territories which were under its jurisdiction we see the evidence given by J. Ivanov. The existing discoveries point out some vast territories. They cover the regions on the south-north axis, to the north from Thessalonica. The archaeological researches (s)hould define these borders because the church monuments of the first organized Slav church bear clear marks and signs. We must systematically find and understand these messages.


Our new discoveries and rich literary source data contribute to the excellent study of R. Ljubinkovich. On the former territory of the archbishopric Prima Iustiniana, to the north of Thessalonica, the first Slav church organization was formed on the territory of Macedonia and on the Balkan. Later, during the time of Samoil, it grows into an independent church organization, of the order of patriarchy, and even later, after the fall of Samoil state, it preserves its status of an autochephalous archbishopric. The nomination of its archbishop from the 12th and 13th centuries is quite justified, according to R. Ljubinkovich — "αρχιεπισκοπος πρτος Ἱουστινιανης".


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