Marko’s Monastery as a Literary and Culture Centre

Maja Jakimovska – Tošiḱ (Skopje University)


Markov Monastery

Marko’s monastery belongs to the group of the most important spiritual centers in Macedonia, fulfilling its role as an important scriptorium in the medieval period. The monastery church dedicated to St. Demetrius is located in the vicinity of the village of Sušica, on the left bank of the river Markova Reka, about 20 kilometers from Skopje. The lack of original written documents has been directing the scholars for several decades now to investigate the history of the monastery from the point of view considering the precise dating, architecture, fresco-paintings, donor’s inscription, donors’ portraits, establishment of its role as a spiritual, literary and culture center through centuries.

Markov Monastery

Thus the monastery is said to be the monument as an original document through the history. “The Marko’s monastery is a monument serving as a document through the history”.The inscription above the southern entrance, inside in the church, is considered one of the most important documents, with data about the construction of the church and the donors. “The most important preserved authentic document in the Marko’s monastery is the inscription above the southern entrance inside the church, which provides date on the construction of monastery church and its benefactors”. We present here the content of the inscription: "This divine temple of the holy Christ's Martyr, the victorious and the miracle - Worker Demetrius, has been renovated by the cordiality and the favor of the faithful king Volkasin and the faithful queen Elena and their very much beloved daughters and sons, their faithful king Marko and Andreaš, Ivaniš and Dimitar in the year 1377, and this monastery was started to be built in 1345 during the days faithfully tzar Stephan and the Christloving king Volkašin, and was completed durin the days of the faithful and Christloving king Marko".

The content of the inscription leads us to the fact that it was written after the fresco-painting of the temple was finished, and some clear contradictions in data are obvious. It reads that the church started to be built at the time of tsar Dušan in 1345, without the possibility that he might still have been king in that year, and that Volkašin began the reconstruction, who is not known when he become king yet, but it is known from 1366 he is found as a co-ruler to Uroš. The inscription was written after Volkašin died, after 1371, when Marko as a first born son became king. The temple is fresco-painted and finished by king Marko, and according to the cult of donors it is known as Marko’s monastery.

St. Demetreus Fresco

The inscriptions and notes left on the pillars and walls are considered historical documents. Clergy officials such as bishops, monks, priors signed their names, and by their names the years of 1604, 1670, 1676, 1730, 1801, 1838, 1858, 1866 etc. The inscriptions written by the prior Kiril Pejčinovik, carved on the north-west pillar which supports the wall of the narthex, and the second inscription on the northern façade at the altar apse. The changeable material positon of the monastery can be followed through the texts in the manuscripts, where the spiritual and literary work is recorded through the period of the Ottomans, visits of different people, maintenance and building of annexes to the temple, heights and regression depending on the political circumstances and the authorities in the Skopje Metropolitan’s diocese. Certain development is noticeable during the time of the prior Kiril Pejčinovik, who put a great deal of effort for its development as a spiritual centre. After he left in 1818, the period of the interruption of the monastic life, when the monastery properties were forcefully taken and destroyed, and the fresco-paintings were white-washed and repainted. This is characteristic for the entire 19th century.

Dormition, Markov Monastery

Today, after the conservation and restoration of fresco-paintings, and the architecture of the church was completed (1968-70), as well as the renewal and restoration of the monastery dormitories and the dining room of that period, but also of the newest period (2007), the monastery is given its previous, representative appearance. The monastery church which is impressive with its architecture and its fresco-painting represents the most valuable culture heritage of the monastery complex. Although there are no documents preserved about the masons-builders of the church, it can be said that according to the way it was built they depended on the building style of their time dictated in the art of Thessalonica, and thus the church belongs to the group of the monuments in Macedonia in the 14th century.

The fresco-painting in the church of St. Demetrius belongs to the anthological patterns of Byzantine painting created in Macedonia the second half of the 14th century. The content of the fresco-painting consists of numerous cycles; The Cherubim hymns on the Divine Service, The Akathistos of the Holy Virgin, Miracles and Parables, hagiographies of St. Nicolas and St. Demetrius, The Weeping of Rahila of slaying the Bethlehem children, Divine Liturgy in the Altar, Angels and Demons on the columns. The Heaven with Christ Pantocrator, The Table with Christ Logos in the dome of narthex, Dormition of the Virgin Mary, etc. through which the hidden meanings in the complex ideology in the medieval Christian art are revealed. In the monastery church there is a cycle of frescos of the patron in which the scenes are presented in accordance with the hagiography of St. Demetrius, the same as the ones found in the Metropolitan church in Mistra. There is a separate presentation of the donors of the temple: on the northern wall are depicted king Volkašin and queen Elena, to whom he presents the model of the church St. Demetrius, and king Marko stands beside king Volkašin. The donors are also presented on the southern facade, above the entrance in their full size, wearing royal clothes both Volkašin and Marko, holding unfolded scrolls with written texts in which they are stated as donors.

What is considered of the exceptional importance is the discovery of several signatures: the signature of Maniša written on the south-west part of the church, inscription by Jovan Djak Bukureci on the northern column in naos, the signature of the proto-priest Dmitro on the western façade under the southern niche, inscribed at the same time when the fresco-paintings were created, and their presence raises a question if those are the names of the painters hidden in the fresco-paintings of the monastery.

Marko’s monastery as a literary centre

From the point of view of the literature the 14th and the 15th centuries were exceptionally productive, as great number of the literature works originate from this period. During the period of Turks the monastery had a status of an important scriptorium, although the literary activities were reduced. Most of the manuscripts which belonged to their collection or were part of their script collection, during centuries were taken away and taken to other institutions and libraries. Today they are kept in Moscow, (Historical Museum, collection of Hludov), Sofia, (National Library “St. Cyril and Methodius”), Belgrade (Archive SANU, National Library of Serbia or were a part of the Old collection of the National Library), Kraków (Jagelon Library), Zagreb (HAZU), Vienna (National Library) and others. This decreases the possibility for comprehensive identification of the total fund of manuscripts and literature created in this scriptorium.

From what is available for research today the following review of manuscripts written or kept in Marko’s monastery can be presented. The literary activities were taking place there even before it was renewed in 1377, i. e. in 1353.

1. Prolog for the months September-November from 1353.
373 ff. Paper, Raška orthography (without juses). Contains the Homily for Michael and Gabriel by St. Clement Ohridski (ff. 327v-332v). Written mainly by two hands: djak Drajko (from p.1 to p. 209) and Stanislav Lesnovski (ff. 210-373) and two more scribes-assistants. The participation of Stanislav Lesnovski in the creative process is confirmed by the notes on the manuscript, as well as the paleographic and orthographic comparisons conducted between this and other known manuscripts of Stanislav Lesnovski. Notes by the writers: on f. 210r - Stanislav; on f. 209v - Drajko; note (on f. 1v) by the prior of the monastery, monk Kiril Pejčinovik in 1809; and the other one note (on f. 1v-2r) from 1673, in which it is confirmed that Skopje Metropolitan Teodosij rebound the Prolog, and that the writing took place in Marko’s monastery 320 years earlier, i.e. in 1353. Today the manuscript is kept in Sofia, NL no. 24/1923 (Стоянов, Кодов 1964, бр.1039).
Lit: Иванов 1931, 125; Стоянов, Кодов 1964, 246-252; Велев, 1991, 196; Велев 1996, 195; Поп-Атанасов, Велев, Јакимовска-Тошиќ 1997, 183.
2. Apostle from 1362.
366 ff. parchment. Written by monk Varlaam. Raška orthography (one jer, without juses); uncial letters, simple initials in red. On f. 366, the writer left a note about the year when he wrote the manuscript, but not the place where it was written. On f. 193v, a note from 1812 by Alexa from Zubovce, where it is stated that at the beginning of the 19th century the manuscript was in Marko’s monastery near the village of Sušica, Skopje, from where it was taken to Sofia. It is also possible that the monk Varlaam made the copy in Marko’s monastery, the possibility which is not excluded neither by L. Mirković nor by Z. Tatić. Today it is kept in NL, Sofia (No. 52, Цонев, 1910Nr. 88).
Lit.: Иванов 1931, 125; Цонев, 1910, 68; Мирковић, Татић, 1925, 4; Поп-Атанасов, Велев, Јакимовска-Тошиќ 1997, 183-184.
Prolog for the months December-February from 1370
160 ff. parchment, written by Radoslav Skopčik. Raška orthography, one jer; small constitutional letters. Decoration-headlines and initials in red. According to V. Mošin, the manuscript is a part the Prolog for the March half of the year written by djak Nikola in 1370, (Collection of Hludov, No. 188). It is believed that the two writers work on the preparation of the codex for the needs of Marko’s monastery within the monastery (stated by G. Trifunović, I. Velev, M. Georgievski ). According to D. Bogdanović, the thesis that the two Prologs are part of the joint codex remain unconfirmed. The note by Radoslav Skopčik on f. 160 says that he wrote the Prolog for a period of three months (December-February). Today the manuscript is kept in Zagreb, HAZU III v 19-Mihanović 4.
Lit.: Попов, 1872, 377; Mošin 1955, 175-178; Трифуновић 1974, 297-298; Богдановић 1976, 47; Георгиевски 1979, 73; Велев, 1996, 70-71; Поп-Атанасов, Велев, Јакимовска-Тошиќ 1997, 184-185.
4. Prolog for March-August from 1370
282 ff. parchment. Without the beginning or end, the first and the last folia are missing, as well as folia in the middle of the manuscript. Raška (without juses) orthography, semi-uncial letters in two columns. Decoration – headlines in cinobar, capital and small initials in neo-Byzantine style; elements in cinobar for the headlines of months. The manuscript represents a Versified Prolog, and at the same time it is the oldest dated complete copy of a Versified Prolog for the summer half of a year. It is believed that it is a part of a joint codex, together with the Prolog for December-February, written by Radoslav Skopčik. A colophon by the writer on f. 282. Notes on f. 282v (from the 15th century and another one from 1808), prove that the manuscript belongs to Marko’s monastery until that period. After that it became a part of the collection of A. Gilferding under number 15, and later a part of the Hludov's collection. The Prolog of djak Nikola is kept in Moscow, The Historical Museum, Hludov's collection No. 1880.
Lit.: Попов, 1872 377; Стојановиħ, Записи I, бр.129, 44, Записи V, бр.8981, 272; Записи VI, бр.9344, 3; Трифуновић 1974, 297-298; Богдановић 1976, 47; Георгиевски 1979, 73; Велев, 1996, 70-71; Поп-Атанасов, Велев, Јакимовска-Тошиќ 1997, 184-185; Николова и др. 1999, 72–73.
5. Selective Reading Menaion for months from December to June, from the end of the 14th century
363 p. (without the beginning or the end but with three extra pages at the beginning and end, added at binding), parchment. Raška orthography; medium semi-uncial in two columns; three scribes. Decorations - large initials in neo-Bizantine style, in some parts red faded. The manuscript valuable for its content, because there are a great number of texts by St. Clement Ohridski: Homilia for the Birth of Christ, Homilia for All Saints, Homilia for John the Baptist, Homilia for Cyril the Philosopher, Second Homilia for Nativity by Joan Exarch. Three writers took part in its writing: Maniša, djak Dobroslav and the third anonymous one, who left a notes on the manuscript (on f. 6r Maniša left a note, and on f. 129v the same person left a signature; on f. 347v - a note by Dobroslav). The notes on f. 342v from 1792 show that the manuscript was in Marko’s monastery and represents an appeal for protection of monastery valuables, which were subject to robbery not only by the people who were only visiting it, but from the Metropolitan Zaharie, as well as by his deputy Metropolitan-Antim, Greek who was sent by Constantinople Synod to Skopje in 1799. The writer Maniša, among scholars (G. Boskovik, Sp. Spirovski, N. Nospal-Nikuljska), is said not only to have done writing but, it is probable that he was one of the masons-painters in Marko’s monastery. His signature is seen on the south-west pillar of the church-southern side, and also on the stone block on the supporter of the drum of the narthex, signed clearly and visibly, which only says of the reputation and the importance of this religious creator from Marko’s monastery. Considering the inscription on the north-west pillar, where the name of Jovan Djak Bukureci appears, it is believed that under this name it should be looked for the third, anonymous writer of the manuscript. For confirmation of these speculations it certainly needs to be worked on further. Today the manuscript is kept in Moscow, Historical Museum – Hludov's collection, No. 195.
Lit.: Попов, 1872, 384, 413; Иванов 1931, 119; Бошковић 1938, 68; Климент Охридски 1970, 378, 381-395, 428, 440-442; 1977, 193-222, 225, 227-247, 249, 252-258, 391, 404-407; Ношпал-Никуљска 1975, 407; Георгиевски 1979, 85; Николова и др. 1999, 83–84.
6. Miscellany with panegyric texts and penitence, from the last quarter of the 14th century
318 p. paper. First 12 p. considerably damaged, without the end. Raška orthography, without juses. Most of the texts are works of Gregorios the Theologian. The note found on the last page on the cover, written by Filotej shows that the manuscript originates from Marko’s monastery. Some scholars believe that the Filotej was the writer of the manuscript, and that the note is from to the time of the creation of the manuscript, written in Marko’s monastery. On the other hand, some scholars believe that the note is from later period, and the manuscript (only) resided in the monastery. The manuscript was taken from the monastery to Belgrade and today it is kept in the Archive of SANU, No. 21.
Lit.: Стојановиħ 1901, оп. бр. 90, 73; Мирковић, Татић, 1925, 4; Ношпал-Никуљска 1975, 407; Георгиевски 1979, 78; Поп-Атанасов, Велев, Јакимовска-Тошиќ 1997, 185.
7. Festive Menaion from 1420.
350 ff., paper. 10 folia are missing at the beginning and so are 11 from the middle. Raška orthography, without juses; uncial letters. There are notes. Written by Milivoj in 1420 in one of the nunneries in the vicinity of Skopje. Milivoj left interesting notes to the manuscript in which he thanks the nuns Elisaveta, Kalina, and Teodosija who took care of him. L. Mirković says that if writing of the manuscript is connected with Marko’s monastery, then the above mentioned nuns must have been in the monastery. The exact place were the manuscript was written is not established, but it resided in Marko’s monastery, or in the church of St. Demetrius in Skopje, and later it came into Bulgarian Trade Agency in Skopje. In 1936 it was purchased by a private collector and was transferred into NL in Belgrade, where it was the part of the Old collection under No.1330, Sv. M. 64. It was destroyed in the fire on 6th April, 1941.
Lit.: Мирковић, Татић, 1925, 4; Грујиħ 1935, 205; Матиħ 1952, 18; Георгиевски 1979, 78; Стојановиħ 1986, бр. 6113, 6114, 6115, 6116, 6117 (24-25); Поп-Атанасов, Велев, Јакимовска-Тошиќ 1997 319-320; Поп-Атанасов, Велев, Јакимовска-Тошиќ 2004 258-260.

Manuscripts Which Resided in Marko’s Monastery

Except for the above mentioned manuscripts, for which it is proved or it is believed that they were written in the Marko’s monastery, there is one more group of manuscripts which are known as manuscripts that resided in the monastery and were part of its library.

8. Lenten and Festive Triodon from the end of the 13th century.
191 p. - parchment, plus three more pages added at the beginning and end at the binding. Two juses and two jers orthography. Medium semi-constitutional, several hands. Decoration-small kinovar plaited signs, large and medium terathological initials. It contains Lenten and festive triodon with paremea readings from Monday of the third week of the Lent until Sunday of All Saints. In services for the third Saturday of the Lent in the sixth, seventh, and eighth, song/chant (f. 7v), and the fourth Saturday of the Lent in the sixth, seventh, eighth, and ninth song/chant (ff. 22v - 23 v), are preserved parts from Lenten acro-versified canons by bishop Konstantin Preslavski. It was a part of the collection of manuscripts of Marko’s monastery, where it was found by A. Gilferding in 1868 and at first it was a part of his collection, under No. 121. Today it is kept in Moscow, The History Museum - Hludov's collection No.133.
Lit.: Попов, 1872, 290-291; Милетич 1905, 95-112; Куев 1986, 90-91; Николова и др. 1999, 56-57.
9. Ilovica kormčaja, from 1262.
400 ff., parchment. Raška orthography, uncial letters in two columns. Modest decorations – small red initials. Written by Bogdan under the order of the bishop of Zeta Neofit for the church of Archangel Michael in Ilovica, in Prevlak, where was the residence of the bishops of Zeta. The content represents the St. Sava Redaction of the Kormčia. The manuscripts was in the Marko’s monastery from mid 18th and during the 19th century. The evidence for that is found in numerous notes, and the most significant is the note on the p. 399 b by the prior of the monastery - Kiril Pejčinović on 27.12.1807. It is kept in Zagreb, HAZU, III c 9 - Mihanović 26.
Lit.: Mošin 1955, 48-54.
10. Dobrejšo’s Gospel from the beginning of the 13th century.
175 ff., parchment. Two jers orthography; uncial letters, with semi-uncial elements. According to Z. Ribarova, the origins of the manuscripts can be located in Northern Macedonia, where it was copied on the basis of the Southern Macedonian model. The illumination is interesting and various, the image of the priest Dobrejšo next to the Evangelist. In this Gospel the names of the priest Dobrejšo (from Edrene), Vălcho the Sinner and Strezo, who are possible writers, illuminators, ordered or donated the manuscript. The writing on the manuscript notifies that it resided in the Marko’s monastery. Part of the manuscript is kept in Sofia, NL 17 (307), and one part of it belonged to NL in Belgrade, No. 214. The part kept in Sofia now was first kept in Odrin, and then in Tulča (Dobrudža), and in 1899 it was transferred in National Library in Sofia.
Lit.: Цонев, 1906; Цонев, 1910, оп. бр.17, 15-18; Десподова, Славева 1988, 116-117; Рибарова 1991, 104-105.
11. Fragment of Eucholohion, from the 13th - 14th centuries.
122 ff. - parchment and paper. A part of the manuscript represents palimpsest of Greek manuscript in fragments from the 11th and from the 13th century, while ff. 26 and 27 were written on very old texts, which in shrift resembles Codex Suprasliensis. It comprises readings from Lent and Festive triodon, from Office Menaion and from the Octoechos. It resided in Marko’s monastery. In 1863 directly from its library it was taken by Dr Rudolf Gutovski, who was a doctor working for Turkey and a son-in-law of Mihail Čajkovski (Saduk Pasha), in whose regiment he was doing his service. Today the manuscript is kept in Jagelon Library in Krakow under sign. Rps. BJ. 932.
Lit.: Куев 1986, 127.
12. Menaion for Decembre, in the third fourth of the 14th century
207 ff., parchment and paper; Rashka orthography, without juses; medium semi-constitution, several in parchment and paper; Raška orthography, without juses, several writers. Decoration – large cinobar initials in neo-Byzantine style at the beginning of readings and small and medium initials. The manuscript belonged to Marko’s monastery: detail note on f. 150v from 1799 by prior Hrisant, in which he informs about the appointment of Metropolitan Antim, from Skopje Metropolitan, by the Constantinople Synod. On f. 150r, a writing-autograph handwritten by Kiril the monk Pejčinović, signed in 1802. The manuscript was found in Marko’s monastery by A. Gilferding, and once was part of his collection under No. 65. Today it is kept in Moscow, the Historical Museum, Hludov's, No. 147.
Lit.: Попов, 1872, 303-304; Стојановиħ 1903, Записи, II, бр. 3795, с.315, бр. 3793, с. 324; Георгиевски 1979, 84; Николова и др. 1999, 38.
13. Typicon from the last fourth of the 14th century.
197 ff., paper and parchment (ff. 1, 4 and 5). Raška orthography; medium semi-uncial, one hand. Decoration – headpiece on f. 1r, medium and small initials. Content: Jerusalem Typicon, prayers. In the calendar from the Slavic saints are mentioned: the Commemoration of St. Petka (f. 19r), St. Cyril the Philosopher (with troparion), and St. Joakim from Osogovo (with collection of hymns, ff. 142r - 143r). The note on f. 114r from 1840 prepared by prior Gerasim, informs about construction works, adding the porch (artika), conducted in Marko’s monastery. The manuscript was found by A. Gilferding, it was part of his collection under No. 60. It is kept in Moscow, Historical Museum, Hludov's No. 122.
Lit.: Попов 1872, 285-286; Николова и др. 1999, 65.
14. Apostle from 1433/1434.
294 ff., paper. Resavian orthography. It resided in the library of Marko’s monastery, written in 1433/1434 for the church St. Assumption in the village of Vitomici, Skopje and for its donor Šagman. The facts are given in the notes made by the man of letters djak Andrej on f. 249r. After this church was abandon, the manuscript appeared in Marko’s monastery. The manuscript was a part of the NL, Belgrade (old collection), No. 1164, Sv. M. 46, where, from the Marko’s monastery, it was brought to by professor Vlad. R. Petkovik and where it was burnt in the fire on 6th April 1941.
Lit.: Матиħ 1952, 12-13; Поп-Атанасов, Велев, Јакимовска-Тошиќ 1997, 33-35; Јакимовска-Тошиќ 2001, 94.
15. Lent triodon from the 15th century.
225 ff. paper, without two pages at the beginning and without three at the end. Raška orthography; constitution, written in two columns. According to writing from 1747 on the cover and on f. 16r, by hand of djak Mihail, it belonged to the collection of manuscripts of the Marko’s monastery. Bought by G. Naslas in 1925/6 and brought to Belgrade, NL (Old collection), No.1219, Sv.M. 126. Burnt in fire on 6th April 1941.
Lit.: Матиħ 1952, 31.
16. Panegyric from 1580.
307 ff., paper, Resavian orthography. Writen upon an order by Pech Patriarch Gerasim, and kept in the temple dedicated to the Dormition of the Virgin Mary in Gračanica, and then it belonged to the Marko’s monastery. The manuscript was taken to Belgrade, NL (Old collection), No. 28, Lj. St. 451.
Lit.: Стојановиħ 1982, Каталог, оп. 451, 237-244; Стојановиħ, Записи, I 1982, бр. 751, с. 228-229.

The review of the manuscripts given above, created in the Marko’s monasteries, or which were a part of its manuscript collection, speaks about the size and the reputation of this spiritual centre during the medieval period. The increase of the activities in the literary field is notified in 14th and 15th centuries, but the monastery was not abundant in later period, which is proved through numerous notes on the manuscripts in which the economic situation of the monastery is noted, construction works conducted on the building, visits of important figures, the records on migration of manuscripts into and from the neighboring regions, notes on care and negligence about literary and culture heritage, created in the monastery through centuries. It is noticeable that priors in the monastery had intention of creating rich, monastery library with various Slavic manuscripts. The evidence for this is the presence of a huge number of exceptionally important manuscripts brought in Marko’s monastery from other scriptoriums, but at the same time some others were taken out. In favor of facts connected with the procedure of taking out documents from the monastery, speaks the report given to Skopje metropolitan Silvester in the writing on the Chronicle from Joan Zonara from 1663. It is a chronicle written by Joan Debarski and kir Akakie in 1534. In the note he informs that the manuscript is being sent to his disciple in Moracha, where he used to be a monk, too, by his fellow monk kir Nikon. The manuscript is kept today in Vienna National Library, Cod. Slav.126.

Anyway, Marko’s monastery exercises certain development with the coming of the prior monk Kiril Pejcinovik. He came to the monastery as a prior in 1801, and stayed until 1818. He developed broad activity in establishing a kind of school to instruct students in literacy, he renewed the monastery library, he formed and visited neighboring monasteries, took care of the material position of the monastery, wrote his own original works, as his text Mirror, published in 1816 in Budim. About his activities we can found in numerous notes left in manuscripts, and he also left notes in the temple itself. In 1818 he was calumniated by the Greek bishop for his Slavic teaching activities with Ali-beg, he was forced to leave the monastery with loads of books, icons and other things and to go to Leshok, where he renewed and raised the monastery to the significant spiritual center. In Marko’s monastery came Valach prior, who burnt tens of loads of Slav manuscripts.

Today after a difficult period for the monastery in the 19th century, when the best part of the manuscripts were taken to different libraries throughout the world, the monastery church dedicated to St. Demetrius, with its architecture and fresco-paintings, represents representative culture heritage as part of the monastery complex.

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