Tag Archives: Church

Macedonia – Ohrid



Situated on the shores of Lake Ohrid, the town of Ohrid is one of the oldest human settlements in Europe. Built mainly between the 7th and 19th centuries, it has the oldest Slav monastery (St Pantelejmon) and more than 800 Byzantine-style icons dating from the 11th to the end of the 14th century. After those of the Tretiakov Gallery in Moscow, this is considered to be the most important collection of icons in the world

Writing, education and Slavonic culture – all spread out from Ohrid in the 7th to 19th centuries. It is a cultural centre of great importance for the history not only of this part of the Balkan Peninsula, but also for all nations of the Slavonic tongue and for world history and literature, with precious manuscripts and other rarities. This city and its historic-cultural region are located in a natural setting of exceptional beauty, while its architecture represents the best preserved and most complete ensemble of ancient urban architecture of the Slavic lands.

Ohrid is one of the most ancient human settlements in Europe, containing as it does Neolithic archaeological sites and others from the Bronze Age and the Hellenistic period. With its numerous prehistoric sites and its traces of the material culture of more than 5,000 years ago, Ohrid is indeed an archaeological treasury and the surroundings of the lake can be styled a magical land of archaeology. More than 250 archaeological sites with material remains dating from between the Neolithic period and the late Middle Ages have been excavated.

Within the very heart of the present city of Ohrid lies the antique city of Lichnid, significant and rich, as is its successor. The metamorphosis of ancient Lichnid into medieval Ohrid took from the 6th to the 9th century, creating one of the most significant medieval cities in the Balkans. The Ohrid saga reveals memories of the birth of Slavic literacy and culture in the works of St Clement and St Naum; St Clement is worshipped as a patron of the city: his three decades of work in the city (886-916) initiated the foundation of the Clement Slavic University.

In the old part of the town lying on the hillside below the double ridge of Lake Ohrid, which came into existence in a remote geological period as a result of tectonic shifts, are to be found remains of ancient temples and basilicas as well as numerous churches and chapels, built from the 9th to the 14th centuries.

The ancient Slavonic St Clement’s Monastery of St Panteleimon at Plaosnik was resanctified on 11 August 2002 when, after many years, the remains of St Clement of Ohrid, the first Slavic Bishop (893) and founder of the Macedonian Orthodox Church, were returned to this temple.

Archaeological excavations of the cathedral church of St Sophia, which is situated at the foot of the hilly part of Ohrid and close to the lake, show that it was built on the foundations of an early Christian basilica and was reconstructed at the time of Archbishop Leo (1037-56). The name of Theoranius, one of the most important painters of the 14th century, has been discovered on the archangel’s sword in the ‘Repentance of David’ fresco on the first floor in the Church of St Sophia and on painted frescoes and icons for the other churches of Ohrid. The frescoes of St Clement’s Church of the Holy Mother of God are primarily distinguished by the artists’ obvious tendency towards individual characterization of the portraits and a marked effort to move away from iconographic stereotypes.

On the pillars in the narthex of St Naum two inscriptions are to be found: made by priests, they are valuable documentary evidence of the development of the Glagolitic and Cyrillic scripts in the Ohrid region. The monumental Early Christian Episcopal Church lies in the hilly part of Ohrid. The Church of St John the Evangelist (or Theologian) at Kaneo, built and decorated towards the end of the 13th century, is of great relevance to a study of Ohrid’s medieval monuments as it is a highly successful combination of Byzantine and Armenian elements. The other monuments of Ohrid are Samuel’s Fortress, with its enceinte of medieval ramparts, and the classical theatre built about 2,000 years ago, either in the late Hellenistic period or shortly after the Roman occupation. The town’s architecture represents, with its old typical streets and houses and its particular atmosphere around old squares, the best preserved and most complete ensemble of ancient urban architecture of this part of Europe.



New Zealand – Lake Tekapo

Church of the Good Shepherd at Lake Tekapo

In the centre of the South Island of New Zealand lies Lake Tekapo. This highland lake and settlement at 710 meters (2300 feet) is in the heart of the Mackenzie District and surrounded by a vast basin of golden tussock grass. The name Tekapo derives from Maori words Taka (sleeping mat) and Po (night).

Situated on the shores of Lake Tekapo is the Church of the Good Shepherd, which, in 1935, was the first church built in the Mackenzie Basin. The church at Burkes Pass, St Patrick’s built in 1872 was the first church built by pioneers as a joint community effort, by Anglicans Presbyterian and Catholic settlers. Also a joint venture between Presbyterians and Anglicans, St Columba in Fairlie was built in 1879. The church at Lake Tekapo was designed by Christchurch architect R.S.D. Harman, based on sketches by a local artist, Esther Hope. The church is arguably one of the most photographed in New Zealand, and features an altar window that frames stunning views of the lake and mountains.

China – UNESCO – Temple of Heaven

The Temple of Heaven, founded in the first half of the 15th century, is a dignified complex of fine cult buildings set in gardens and surrounded by historic pine woods. In its overall layout and that of its individual buildings, it symbolizes the relationship between earth and heaven – the human world and God’s world – which stands at the heart of Chinese cosmogony, and also the special role played by the emperors within that relationship.


The Altar of Heaven and Earth, together with the wall surrounding the garden, was completed in 1420, the eighteenth year of the reign of the Ming Emperor Yongle. The central building was a large rectangular sacrificial hall, where sacrifices were offered to heaven and earth, with the Fasting Palace to the south-west. Pines were planted in the precinct of the Temple to emphasize the relationship between humankind and nature.

In the ninth year of the reign of Emperor Jiajing (1530) the decision was taken to offer separate sacrifices to heaven and to earth, and so the Circular Mound Altar was built to the south of the main hall, for sacrifices to heaven. The Altar of Heaven and Earth was renamed the Temple of Heaven. Concurrently, temples to the earth, the sun, and the moon were built in the north, east, and west of the city respectively.

The large sacrificial hall was dismantled fifteen years later and replaced by the round Hall of Daxiang, used for offering prayers for abundant harvests. In 1553 an outer city, which included the Temple of Heaven, was created around Beijing.

In 1749, the fourteenth year of the reign of the Qing Emperor Qianlong, the Circular Mound was enlarged, the original blue-glazed tiles being replaced with white marble. Two years later renovation work took place at the Hall of Daxiang, and it was given the new name of the Hall of Prayers for Abundant Harvests. This was the heyday of the Temple of Heaven, when it covered 273ha.

Ceremonial sacrifices to heaven were banned by the government of the Republic of China in 1911. By that date, 490 years after its foundation, the Temple of Heaven had witnessed 654 acts of worship to heaven by 22 Emperors of the Ming and Qing Dynasties. It was opened as a public park in 1918 and has been so ever since.


Poland – UNESCO- Lutheran Church of Peace in Jawor


The Churches of Peace in Jawor and Ś widnica, the largest timber-framed religious buildings in Europe, were built in the former Silesia in the mid-17th century, amid the religious strife that followed the Peace of Westphalia. Constrained by the physical and political conditions, the Churches of Peace bear testimony to the quest for religious freedom and are a rare expression of Lutheran ideology in an idiom generally associated with the Catholic Church.

The Lutheran Church of Peace in Jawor was designed by the architect Albert von Sabisch and constructed by the master carpenter Andreas Gamper from Jawor in 1654-55. Located outside the town, the church is surrounded by a park, the former graveyard, with the original layout of tree-lined alleys. The auxiliary buildings occupy a quarter of the site. The church is in the form of a basilica with one nave, two aisles and a presbytery. The building is timber-framed, filled with vertical wooden chips wrapped in straw and plastered with clay. It is covered with shingle roofs. The bell tower was erected in 1707 on a rectangular plan. The interior has two tiers of principal galleries and two tiers of auxiliary galleries, added in the 18th century. The polychrome decoration consists of ornaments in white and blue and 143 biblical scenes with inscriptions. The paintings, inspired by Mathias Merian, were executed by Georg Flegel. Similar decoration is also on the auxiliary galleries, and the decor is supplemented by cartouches bearing coats of arms. The high altar (1672) is a multistoreyed structure executed by the workshop of Michael Schneider of Landshut.


Italy – UNESCO – Milano

Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie

The refectory of the Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie forms an integral part of this architectural complex, begun in Milan in 1463 and reworked at the end of the 15th century by Bramante. On the north wall is The Last Supper, the unrivalled masterpiece painted between 1495 and 1497 by Leonardo da Vinci, whose work was to herald a new era in the history of art.

Italy – Assisi


Assisi, a medieval city built on a hill, is the birthplace of Saint Francis, closely associated with the work of the Franciscan Order. Its medieval art masterpieces, such as the Basilica of San Francesco and paintings by Cimabue, Pietro Lorenzetti, Simone Martini and Giotto, have made Assisi a fundamental reference point for the development of Italian and European art and architecture.

The Roman plan of the city is based on the set of terraces, the construction of which started in the north-eastern part of the town (close to San Rufino), then extending toward the west. Culturally, the region belonged to Umbria but was on the border with Etruria. Abundant archaeological evidence, in fact, shows that the city’s foundation relates to the Umbrian phase, being later taken over by the Romans. The Roman monuments include the Temple of Minerva dating from the 1st century BCE to the time of Augustus, as part of an important sanctuary in the forum area, as well as theatres, bath-houses, and other public buildings. The ancient city walls were about 2300m long, enclosing some 55ha with vast green areas. The extent of the settlement and the fact that it was granted the status of municipium in 89 BCE demonstrate not only its role as a religious centre but also its political and economic significance. From the 3rd century CE, the city shows little evidence of construction until the beginning of the new millennium. Even so, the site continues being associated with religion, and the development and diffusion of Christianity are elements that deeply characterize the scenario, also closely associated with the ancient rituals and therapeutic treatments linked with water. The first Christian martyrs were killed in water, according to a legend, Bishop Rufino being one of them.

After the period of the barbarian invasions, which caused a considerable reduction in population, the regional layout of Assisi is characterized with the affirmation of Christianity, involving ancient sites associated with water and martyrdom. Water in fact becomes the symbol of life after death and its control takes on a liturgical nature. The territory is marked by the linkages between monastic and religious centres, settlements (eg San Vittorino, San Benedetto), and hermitages (eg Le Carceri). The region was subject to profound changes from the 11th and 12th centuries with the change of land ownership from important patrons to the classes of artisans and merchants. It also meant new types of cultivation and deforestation in view of new dynamism in development. A series of castles were built on the margins of the valley, and others were developed as centres of pastoral culture in the mountain region. In addition, there were new rural settlements, including the characteristic Umbrian building type of tower house, which remains a feature of all Assisi iconography until the present day.

Through the period from the 11th to the 14th centuries, the ancient town of Assisi was subject to important changes. The development focused on four main points: Piazza del Mercato, Murorupto, Santa Maria Maggiore, and San Rufino. The market becomes the centre of noble families, as well as having various churches (San Nicolo, San Paolo, Sant’Agata). The bishop’s citadel was built close to the ancient cathedral of Santa Maria Maggiore, and San Rufino became the new cathedral in the 11th century, rebuilt in the 13th century. The walled area was enlarged in 1260 and 1316, showing an increase in population.

The most important event in the history of medieval Assisi was undoubtedly the life and work of Francis of Assisi (1182-1226), who initiated the Franciscan Order, one of the most influential monastic orders in the Christian world, and who was canonized in 1228. Francis was born in Assisi and, although he travelled a great deal, some of the key references to his faith are in Assisi, including the grottoes of Le Carceri, San Damiano, and the Porziuncola, where he died. His companion, Clare, later canonized, founded the sister order to the Franciscans. After the canonization of Saint Francis, it was decided to build a monumental church in his honour, involving the Church of Rome as well as the City of Assisi. This construction was followed by the Basilica of Santa Chiara to honour Saint Clare.

The construction of the Basilicas of San Francesco and Santa Chiara represented a new input to the urban form of the town, and gave the relatively small medieval settlement a completely new physiognomy. This included the development of the main square over the former forum area with the Temple of Minerva. The construction of the Basilica of San Francesco, in particular, changed the earlier Franciscan symbol of humility into an exaltation of the figure of the saint, and the order thus affirmed its mission in the world. The city walls were once again enlarged in the 14th century, when also the fort, La Rocca, on the top of the hill was rebuilt as part of a series of castles to protect the interests of the papacy in the region.

The social and political events from the 15th to the 18th century left their traces in Assisi, in the form of new construction and improvements in management and draining of arable land. In the 14th and 15th centuries, Assisi was involved in wars with Perugia and in conflicts with Guelphs and Ghibellines, and the city suffered from sacks and fires. Through this period, however, the symbolic importance of Assisi in relation to Saint Francis continued. The first detailed town plan that has survived till today dates from 1599, by Giacomo Lauro, indicates Assisi as the patria of Saint Francis. In the late 15th century the most important urban project was the construction of the public squares in front of the Basilica of San Francesco,. In the 16th century Galeazzo Alessi designed the large basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli down in the valley, and it became a shelter for the Porziuncola of Saint Francis. He also restructured the cathedral of San Rufino and designed the tabernacle for the lower church of the Basilica of San Francesco. In the 17th and 18th centuries the city continued developing and a number of noble families built their palaces in the Baroque style. This period also included the church of San Francesco Converso by Giacomo Giorgetti in the 17th century.

In the 19th century, the discovery of the bodies of Saint Francis and Saint Clare gave new vigour to construction activities, including the restructuring of the convents of S. Damiano and S. Maria di Rivotorto. There were also some changes in the centre of Assisi, including the new postal offices in the Piazza del Comune. After World War II the renewed interest in Assisi provided an incentive for the protection of the historic town and its surroundings. In 1954, Assisi received the first conservation master plan in post-war Italy. At the same time, the entire municipal area became subject to nature protection.