The Sanctuary of
the Holy Great Martyr Dimitrij
- Skopje -

Decorated with its own dignified constructional simplicity throughout the centuries, situated on the right side of the river Vardar, under the Skopje fortress, there lies the sanctuary of the Holy Great Martyr Dimitrij. This sanctuary represents the oldest church constructions in the central city area, as oasis of the spiritual in the very center of Skopje which witnesses the past and takes part in the future making. If we pay enough attention to this small place, we will notice that besides the temple there are also a bell tower, baptistery as well as official church premises.

The oldest testimonials on the presence of this Christian sanctuary date from the end of the XIII century, according to the testimonials of the Byzantine travelogue Teodor Matohit who in the year of 1299 wrote: “Under the city fortress, there is also a suburb with the most beautiful cathedral church that I have seen in this region.” The temple, dedicated to the Holy Great Martyr Dimitrij, have lived in this area throughout centuries along with all its spiritual splendor. The most difficult period for the temple is the period of Ottoman rule in which they turned the Christian sanctuaries into mosques, desecrated them and very often ruined them. There is a witnessing that the temple “St. Great Martyr Dimitrij” remained untouched by the hand of the infidel government not even in the time of the great destruction of the churches in Skopje and the area in 1535. Further on, during the Austro-Turkish war (1688-1690), the Austrian army set the city on fire during the withdrawal of troops and what remained after the great fire were the bare walls as silent witnesses of another huge tragedy. With a great will and hard work of the population the temple was quickly restored but never had the former splendor.

Under the Ottoman government and spiritual jurisdiction of several neighboring churches (Serbian, Bulgarian and Greek), the church life in the following centuries was nothing more but assimilation attempts over the Macedonian population by the church authority. The construction of the temple grew, developed and in the period from 1886 to 1896 the craftsman Dame, son of the great church craftsman Andreja Damjanov, led the great reconstruction of the temple. As the building was finished, the writings on the mural were made by the crew of Dimitrija Andonov Papradiski, that also created the iconostasis in the temple (saved to this day).

Unfortunately, the temple suffered great damages after the catastrophic earthquake in 1963 in Skopje especially the mural - a lot of frescoes were completely destroyed. The reconstruction of the frescoes in the period from 1963 to 1973 were made by Krste Nikolov Kolovski and his crew. Inside the temple, on the west side, rests the first head of the restored Ohrid Archdiocese, presenting the Macedonian Orthodox Church, the Archbishop of Ohrid and Macedonia Dositej (1958-1981). The grave of his throne successor, the Archbishop Angelarij lies on the outer east side of the temple (1981-1986). It is worth mentioning that throughout the history the temple “St. Great Martyr Dimitrij”, was a cathedral of the Skopje Metropolitan until the construction and consecration of the temple of “St. Kliment of Ohrid” in 1990.

A miracle, when in an odd way the frescoes self-cleaned inside the temple, happened on April 8th 2012, on the celebration of Palm Sunday (the Entrance of the Lord Jesus Christ in Jerusalem), a festivity always celebrated one week ahead of Easter. Namely, over time, by lighting candles and oil lamps, the frescoes were covered with soot, to that extent, that on some of them the painted faces were unrecognizable. On this day, miraculously, with God’s thoughtfulness, the frescoes began to self-clean and bring back the liveliness of colors from more than 50 years ago. This process lasted for two weeks, from the celebration of Palm Sunday (from 8th of April 2012- one week ahead of Easter) until the celebration of the Tomas Sunday (22nd of April 2012- week after Easter). From that day on, the frescoes remain unchanged.

A miraculous icon, dedicated to the Mother of God, is preserved in the baptistery of the temple “St. Great Martyr Dimitrij” and it is one of the oldest and the most respected ones in the city of Skopje. A great number of believers have a need to visit the icon every day and say a prayer for their own health and the welfare of their close ones.