The sound of the bells resounds through the air and flutters the soul. It rejoices to the new lives and mourns about those that passed by. It rejoices and cries. It echoes as a century-old vein of the city. Partly dug in the ground this church is a witness of the wit and cleverness of our masters.
If we could only look back through history, and if we could unravel the secrets of the past we will come to a lot of surprises. The bells dominating in that vast courtyard with its sounds calls us to enter. Walking slowly, stepping into that vast yard that is revealed in front of our eyes, we will see a massive, but simple, stone building.
The year 1830, when this church was built, is not only a chronological sign but a part of the eternity. It is not only an empty content, because not even a single human moment, day or year can never be empty. They are filled with joy and happiness, with pain and suffering, with life and death. Entering through one of the entrances of the glass porch we will smell the incense and candles lightened by the trembling hands of the believers.
Praying for the health and happiness or honouring the deceased, they stop only for a moment, and enter some other world. Only in this temple, in this manner you can feel the God’s peace. Built on the place of a former “Paraklis” that burned down, with special approval according to the Sultan’s documents, it was rebuilt again. But no matter all the desires to build a tall and magnificent building, according to the Turkish law it wasn’t supposed to be taller than the previous one. So, to dig the church into the ground was the best way to respect the law, and to achieve their goal at the same time. Built, in only four months with donations from the Christians of Bitola, no matter what their ethnic belonging, this temple rises from the ashes and became a place where all the believers could freely address the God.
Numerous craftsmen: tailors, shop owners, tavern owners, slipper makers, goldsmiths and others, each of them according to their own possibilities, but unselfishly, helped in the building of this holy temple. Its internal richness will unfold in front of us as soon as we step down the stairs, descending about 1m dug in, tree arched basilica. Then before our eyes a huge room is revealed where you can hear the God’s Word.
Church St. Dimitrie
Two rows of massive pillars, six on each side, separate the church into three parts. The central part is the biggest one. The central part is arched, and its endings rest on the two rows of pillars. The floor galleries and all the church mobiliar give a special beauty to this temple. Thinking about the luxury and sensing the incense, in front of us we can see three altars, tall and magnificent.
The central altar is dedicated to St. Demetrius, the southern one to the Annunciation and the northern one to St. Nicolas. The whole iconostasis is made in gold plate, carved by the skilful hands of the, for now unknown, woodcarving group of craftsmen, that surely consisted of Macedonian masters. How many grape ivies and leaves are plaited to create this magic? It embraces the numerous icons that tell the story of Christianity. The lions, keepers of the temple, are following the ancient semantics, and looking from the magnificent iconostasis in each of us, they pour in appreciation before this beauty.
Text: Meri Stojanova
NI Institute and Museum Bitola