St. Sofia (Sveta Sofija, Света Софија) church in Ohrid

Church St. Sofia in Ohrid is one of the most significant monuments of medieval art and architecture in Macedonia.

There is no precise historical data about the construction of the church. According to some, the present church was built on an older cult site. There are opinions that the old church probably existed in the time of Tsar Samuel, but for an unknown reason it was ruined and the later the church of St. Sofia was built during the time of Archbishop Lav (Leo) I (1035-56).

Church St. Sofia is one of the largest medieval churches in Macedonia and for a long time it was the cathedral church of the Ohrid Archbishopric.

During the Turkish rule, the church St. Sofia was transformed into a mosque. The act of transformation of the church into a mosque was likely due to the rebellion of Archbishop Dorotej (Dorotheus) against the Turkish authorities.

“Sophia mosque” seen from the western side End of September 1863


“Sophia mosque” seen from the eastern side End of September 1863


After the transformation of church Saint Sophia into a mosque, its exterior and interior appearance were changed and adapted to Muslim service. Then iconostasis completely lost his native look.

At the north side of the outer porch was built a minaret, which was crumbled in 1912.

At the north side of the church, somewhere in the nineteenth century, the Turks have built an open porch using stone columns from other ruined buildings.

Later additions, repairs, a test of time, and the consequences of earthquakes, took the church Saint Sofia in a very unenviable position.

After the Second World War and liberation of Macedonia, immediately were taken conservation works on the architecture and paintings, which made the church Saint Sofia a representative object which can be proudly shown to the whole world.

With extensive conservation works carried out in 1950-56, the paintings became visible with the remarkable frescoes that represent the great achievements of medieval paintings in Macedonia and the world.

In the church, Saint Sofia are preserved paintings from several periods: XI, XII, and XIV century.

The frescoes in the church Saint Sofia present a major artistic work of church painting in the eleventh century and are among the most preserved sections in Byzantine monumental painting from that time. Here, in this church for the first time appear saved more iconographic themes that would later become commonplace in the art of painting in the Macedonian churches and monasteries.