Genesis of Bitola

Following the historic facts about the creation and existence of the settlements in this region we will have to go way back where even that sentence in the stories “Once upon a time…” has real meaning and content.

The oldest Neolithic sites discovered in the Pelagonia Valley speak about an extremely long continuity of the existence of life in the region. The achievements in the sphere of the material culture of the Neolithic men speaks about his high sensibility and balance between his inner spiritual life and his “real” material world.

Numerous altars through which he tried to picture his inner feelings and emotions, and his eternal quest for the divine, the female statues with emphasized reproductive organs, the Mother Goddess through which he tried to manifest the importance and the meaning of the Cult of fertility, are only one segment of the culture of the Neolithic men.

The late Neolithic with its own characteristics represents one of a kind herald of the achievements which later on were a base for the appearance and change from the Bronze to the Iron Age. The arrival of the Slavs in the region, by the end of the 6th and the beginning of the 7th century, represented one of a kind upheaval in the historic development of the region, and especially of the creation of Bitola.

The history of this new Slavic settlement, that was founded near the former city of Heraclea was first written about by the Slav tribe Brsjaci, in the middle of the 7th century. We assume that, the first written documents, about Bitola origininate from the 11th century.  It is mentioned here under the names of Buttela, Butili, Obitel, and later on as Monastir, Manstir but the most important and kept till today is the name of Bitola. In this period it is mentioned that the Byzantine Tsar Vasilij II, during his military raids trough Pelagonija, burned down the royal palaces of Gavrilo Radomir in Bitola.

Although Vasilij II destroyed a large part of Pelagonija, he didn’t completely conquer the city. The medieval cities always had their own fortresses that in case of war the local population could use them as a shelter, as well as a defensive object. So, this kind of fortress existed in Bitola too. This fortress during the long years of war and constant attacks was pretty much damaged, so the Tsar Jovan Vladislav in 1016 decided to restore the fortress. We assume that at the entrance of this fortress there was a marble board, in the scientific world known as “The board from Bitola”, where the name of Bitola was mentioned for the first time. The importance of this board is even bigger because it is the oldest monument inscribed with Cyrillic letters in this region.

Битолска плоча

The board from Bitola "Bitola plate"


Bitola played a very important role in the religious life of the population too. The Episcopacy of Bitola, which was under the administration of the Archiepiscopacy of Ohrid, is seen as a successor of the Episcopacy of the former city of Heraclea. The turbulent times, frequent battles, destructions and robberies left their mark on the population, as well as on the city. The attack of the Crusaders, Epirian, Bulgarian, Latin and Serbian conquerors more or less left their mark and worsened the bad situation of the population. The Serbian conquers in the time of Tsar Dusan only fulfilled the picture of the numerous wars and conquerors. This period was calmed down during the ruling of Volkasin and his sun Krali Marko (King Marko).

In this period Bitola started to become an important trade centre with very strong trade connections with Venice, Dubrovnik as well as the other cities, that in the same period played a very important role in European and world trade. At the same time Bitola was a place where different types of trade products were stocked, and then transferred to the other, farther markets.


Text: Meri Stojanova
NI Institute and Museum Bitola



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