CNN’s Nic Robertson discovers an ancient city of hundreds of churches and monastries.
CNN’s new series i-List takes you to a different country each month. In May, we visit Macedonia focusing on changes shaping the country’s economy, culture and its social fabric.
The oldest traces of human habitation in Macedonia are the cryptic, 30,000 year-old stone engravings or rock art unearthed in the Kratovo area, as well as the astronomical observatory/ religious ritual site of Taticev Kamen, dating back almost 4,000 years.
The word Macedonia instantly conjures up memories of Philip II and his son Alexander the Great, legendary emperor of the 4th century B.C.E. who brought great expanses of the known world under Macedonian rule. In this period, and the Hellenistic and Roman ones that followed it, Macedonia reached the apogee of its influence and power. Today, many ruins remain to attest to this ancient heritage, in the sites of cities such as Heraclea, Stobi and Skupi, strewn with amphitheaters and temples, and decorated with intricate mosaics and frescoes.
The missionary Apostle Paul brought Christianity to Macedonia for the first time. Nine centuries later, his Byzantine successors Cyril and Methodius created a brand new alphabet, the precursor to Cyrillic, to expedite their missionary work with the Slavic-speaking Orthodox Christians of the Balkans. Macedonias experience of Christianity has thus always been linked with literacy and education. In fact, the first Slavic university was established in the 10th century, in placid Ohrid – famous during Byzantine times for its 365 churches, one for each day of the year.