Archbishopric of Ohrid
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Archbishopric of Ohrid
Map depicting the Archbishopric of Ohrid in ca. 1020 (1917).

The Archbishopric of Ohrid (Serbian: /Ohridska arhiepiskopija), also known as the Bulgarian Archbishopric of Ohrid[1] (Bulgarian: ?), originally called Ohrid Archbishopric of Justiniana prima and all Bulgaria (Greek: ? ' ?), was an autonomous Orthodox Church under the tutelage of the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople between 1019 and 1767. It was established following the Byzantine conquest of the First Bulgarian Empire in 1018 by lowering the rank of the autocephalous Bulgarian Patriarchate due to its subjugation to Constantinople.



In 972, Byzantine Emperor John I Tzimiskes (r. 969-976) conquered and burned down Preslav, capturing the Bulgarian Tsar Boris II (r. 969-977). The Patriarch Damyan managed to escape, initially to Sredets. In the coming years, the residence of the Bulgarian patriarchs remained closely connected to the developments in the war between the next Bulgarian monarchist dynasty, the Comitopuli, and the Byzantine Empire. Thus, the next Patriarch German resided consecutively in Moglena (Almopia), Vodena (Edessa) and Prespa. Around 990, the last patriarch, Philip, moved to Ohrid, which also became the permanent seat of the Patriarchate until emperor Basil II conquered the First Bulgarian Empire in 1018.


Mantle presented to the Archbishopric of Ohrid from the Byzantine Emperor, Andronikos II Palaiologos, with an inscription, saying that the Archbishop was the spiritual shepherd of the Bulgarians - Bulgarian National Historical Museum.

The Archbishopric of Ohrid was a Byzantine resurrection of the Archbishopric of Justiniana Prima. After 1018 it was the church of the Byzantine Slavs; Bulgarians and Serbs.[2] The Archbishopric was seated in Ohrid, in the Byzantine theme of Bulgaria, and was established in 1019 by lowering the rank of the previously autocephalous Bulgarian Patriarchate and its subjugation to the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. The official title of the institution's head was Archbishop of Bulgaria or Archbishop of Justiniana Prima and all Bulgaria.[3] Although the first appointed archbishop (John of Debar) was a Bulgarian, his successors, as well as the whole higher clergy, were invariably Greeks, the most famous of them being Saint Theophylact (1078-1107).[2] The Archbishops were chosen from among the monks in Constantinople. Adrianos Komnenos, under his monastic name of John (IV) (1143-1160), was the cousin of Emperor John II Komnenos, and was the first Archbishop who held the title of Archbishop of Justiniana Prima. The later archbishop John V Kamateros (1183-1216) was a former imperial clerk.

In the 13th and the first half of the 14th centuries, the territory of the Archbishopric was contested by the Byzantine Empire, the Latin Empire, the Despotate of Epirus, the Second Bulgarian Empire and later Serbia. After the fall of Constantinople to the Latins in 1204 and with the foundation of the new states on the territory under jurisdiction of the Ohrid Archbishopric, autonomous churches were founded in the states which did not accept the jurisdiction either of Constantinople or of Ohrid. After 1204, the Empire of Nicaea claimed the Byzantine imperial heritage and provided refuge to the exiled Greek patriarchs of Constantinople. In the newly founded Second Bulgarian Empire, a new Archbishopric was founded with its see in Tarnovo. Tsar Kaloyan (1197-1207) did not succeed in putting the Ohrid Archbishopric under the jurisdiction of the Tarnovo Archbishopric, but nevertheless managed to expel the Greek bishops and install Bulgarians instead. The next Bulgarian rulers were constantly trying to make the Ohrid Archbishopric inferior to the Tarnovo Archbishopric. The Latin conquests and the founding of independent Bulgarian and the Serbian states reduced the jurisdiction of the Ohrid Archbishopric immensely, but it did not disappear. During the time of Archbishop Demetrios Chomatenos, the autocephaly of the Archbishopric was confirmed with the act of anointing the despot of Epirus, Theodore Komnenos Doukas, as Emperor and in a correspondence with the Patriarch.

The southward expansion of the Serbian state in the second half of 13th century was also followed by changes in ecclesiastical jurisdiction of some sees. After the successful Serbian campaigns against Byzantine empire in 1282-1283, cities of Skopje and Debar were annexed and local eparchies transferred to the jurisdiction of Serbian Archbishopric of Pe?.[4]

Serbian expansion reached its apogee at the time of king and tsar Stefan Du?an (1331-1355). Du?an had conquered Ohrid around 1334.[5] Under Serbian rule the Archbishopric of Ohrid kept its autonomy. On 16 April 1346 (Easter), at the Serbian capital city of Skopje, a joined state and church assembly (sabor) was held, attended by Serbian Archbishop Joanikije II, the Archbishop Nicholas I of Ohrid, the Patriarch Simeon of Bulgaria and other hierarchs and dignitaries, including monastic leaders of Mount Athos. The assembly proclaimed the raising of the autocephalous Serbian Archbishopric to the rank of Patriarchate. The Archbishopric of Ohrid was not annexed to the Serbian Patriarchate of Pe? and kept its autonomy, recognizing only the honorary seniority of the Serbian Patriarch.[6][7]

After the Battle of Maritsa in 1371, and Battle of Kosovo in 1389, much of the territory of the Archbishopric of Ohrid was affected by expansion of Ottoman Turks, who conquered Skopje in 1392 and annexed all southern regions after the death of Prince Marko in 1395. The archbishopric managed to survive the transition and was legalized by new Ottoman authorities. Not long after the fall of the Bulgarian Patriarchate in 1394, some of the bishoprics under its jurisdiction also entered the Ohrid Archbishopric. Thus, in the beginning of the 15th century, the Archbishop of Ohrid, attached the dioceses of Sofia and Vidin to the Archbishopric. In 1408, Ohrid came under Ottoman rule. Still, the Ottomans did not reach after the Ohrid Archbishopric, mostly because of their tolerance for monotheistic religions, and left the people to govern themselves regarding religion.

When the last medieval Serbian Patriarch died in 1463, there were no technical options to elect a new one, so the Ohrid Archbishopric had laid its claim over many of the Serbian Patriarchate's eparchies on the basis of its old 1019 territorial rights, predating Serbian autocephaly. By the 1520s, the Archbishopric of Ohrid had managed to put practically the entire Serbian Church under its jurisdiction, however by intervention of Sokollu Mehmed Pasha in 1557, the latter was renewed and reorganized. During the 15th century, dioceses from the other side of the Danube, from the duchies of Wallachia and Moldova, fell under the jurisdiction of the Archbishopric. Nevertheless, this did not last for more than a hundred years. Towards the beginning of the 16th century, the Ohrid Archbishopric expanded its jurisdiction even over territories in Southern Italy, as well as in Dalmatia. The flock of this diocese was made of Greeks and Albanians. Towards the middle of the 16th century, the Ohrid Archbishopric lost the Diocese of Veroia, however, at the beginning of the 17th century, it gained the Diocese of Durazzo from the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. Since then and until its abolishment in 1767, the Archbishopric neither lost nor gained a diocese under its jurisdiction.


The autocephaly of the Ohrid Archbishopric remained respected[clarification needed] during the periods of Byzantine, Bulgarian, Serbian and Ottoman rule and the church continued to exist until its abolition in 1767, when it was abolished by the Sultan's decree, at the urging of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, and was placed under the jurisdiction of the Patriarch of Constantinople.[8] The division into phanariotes and autochthonists which occurred among the diocesan bishops of the Ohrid Archbishopric and, the difficult financial position of the Ohrid Archbishopric over a longer period of time, contributed to its abolishment. Just a year before, the Patriarchate of Constantinople abolished the Serbian Patriarchate of Pe? in the same manner, and its dioceses adjoined to the Patriarchate of Constantinople.


The Greek language quite early replaced Old Church Slavonic as the official language of the Archbishopric. All documents and even hagiographies of Bulgarian saints, for example the hagiography of Saint Clement of Ohrid, were written in Greek. Despite this, the Slavonic liturgy was preserved on the lower levels of the Church for several centuries.


The Archbishopric of Ochrid was an autocephalous church, with full internal ecclesiastical self-governance, but remaining within the supreme ecclesiastical jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople.

The following eparchies (dioceses) are mentioned in 1019:

See also

References and notes

  1. ^
    • T. Kamusella in The Politics of Language and Nationalism in Modern Central Europe, Springer, 2008, ISBN 0230583474, p. 276;
    • Aisling Lyon, Decentralisation and the Management of Ethnic Conflict: Lessons from the Republic of Macedonia, Routledge, 2015, ISBN 1317372042, p. 24;
    • R. Fraser, M. Hammond ed. Books Without Borders, Volume 1: The Cross-National Dimension in Print Culture, Springer, 2008, ISBN 0230289118, p. 41;
    • H. Cox, D. Hupchick, The Palgrave Concise Historical Atlas of Eastern Europe, Springer, 2016, ISBN 1137048174p. 67;
    • J. Rgen Nielsen, Jørgen S. Nielsen ed. Religion, Ethnicity and Contested Nationhood in the Former Ottoman Space, BRILL, 2011, ISBN 9004211330,p. 234;
    • John Phillips, Macedonia: Warlords and Rebels in the Balkans, I.B.Tauris, 2004, ISBN 0857714511, p. 19;
    • Frederick F. Anscombe, State, Faith, and Nation in Ottoman and Post-Ottoman Lands, Cambridge University Press, 2014, ISBN 110772967X,p. 151;
    • D. Hupchick, The Balkans: From Constantinople to Communism, Springer, 2002, ISBN 0312299133, p. 67;
    • Chris Kostov, Contested Ethnic Identity: The Case of Macedonian Immigrants in Toronto, 1900-1996, Peter Lang, 2010, ISBN 3034301960, p. 55.
    • J. Pettifer as ed., The New Macedonian Question, St Antony's Series, Springer, 1999, ISBN 0230535798, p. 8.
  2. ^ a b Alexandru Madgearu; Martin Gordon (2008). The Wars of the Balkan Peninsula: Their Medieval Origins. Scarecrow Press. ISBN 978-0-8108-5846-6. 
  3. ^ Dimitar Bechev, Historical Dictionary of the Republic of Macedonia, Scarecrow Press, 2009, ISBN 0810862956, pp. 163-164.
  4. ^ Fine 1994, pp. 261.
  5. ^ ?irkovi? 2004, pp. 63.
  6. ^ Fine 1994, pp. 309.
  7. ^ ?irkovi? 2004, pp. 64-65.
  8. ^ John Shea (1997). Macedonia and Greece: the struggle to define a new Balkan nation. McFarland. p. 173-. ISBN 978-0-7864-0228-1. Retrieved 2011. 
  9. ^ Balcanoslavica: Volumes 6-9: "The letters of the archbishop of Ohrid Theophylact from the end of the 11th century sent to the bishop of Pelagonija, as well as the charter of Basil II, show that Bitola was the seat of the bishopric of Pelagonija"
  10. ^ The entry of the Slavs into Christendom, p. 208


External links

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