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Clement of Ohrid

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Clement of Ohrid
Климент Охридски
Icon of Saint Clement of Ohrid from the Orthodox Zograf monastery on Mount Athos in Greece, depicted as a disciple of Saints Cyril and Methodius.
One of the Seven Apostles of Bulgaria, Disciple of Saints Cyril and Methodius
Bornc. 830–840
Byzantine or First Bulgarian Empire[1][2]
Died(916-07-27)July 27, 916 (date of burial)
Ohrid, Bulgarian Empire[3]
(now North Macedonia)
Venerated inEastern Orthodox Church, Catholic Church
Feast27 July[4]
AttributesGlagolitic alphabet, Cyrillic script
PatronageOhrid, North Macedonia[5]

Clement or Kliment of Ohrid (Bulgarian, Macedonian, Serbian: Климент Охридски, Kliment Ohridski; Greek: Κλήμης τῆς Ἀχρίδας, Klḗmēs tē̂s Akhrídas; Slovak: Kliment Ochridský; c. 830 – 916) was one of the first medieval Bulgarian saints,[a] scholar, writer, and apostle to the Slavs.[7][8][9][10][11] He was one of the most prominent disciples of Cyril and Methodius and is often associated with the creation of the Glagolitic and Cyrillic scripts, especially their popularisation among Christianised Slavs. He was the founder of the Ohrid Literary School and is regarded as a patron of education and language by some Slavic people. He is considered to be the first bishop of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church,[b][13] one of the Seven Apostles of Bulgarian Orthodox Church since the 10th century, and one of the premier saints of modern Bulgaria.[14] The mission of Clement was the crucial factor which transformed the Slavs in then Kutmichevitsa (present-day Macedonia)[c] into Bulgarians.[15] Clement is also the patron saint of North Macedonia, the city of Ohrid[5] and the Macedonian Orthodox Church.[16][17]


Icon of Saint Clement, located in the Mother of God Perybleptos church, Ohrid
Fresco of St. Clement in the Church of St. Athanasius, Kastoria

The exact date of his birth is unknown. Most probably, he joined Methodius as a young man following him later to the monastery on Mysian Olympus. According to his hagiography by Theophylact of Ohrid, Clement knew the life of Methodius like no other. That is why most scholars think he was born in the Byzantine Empire in the territory where Methodius served during his political career, i.e. that he was a Slav from Southern Macedonia.[18] This gives rise to some researchers to indicate the area of Thessaloniki as the possible place of birth of Clement. According to others, the area of Southern Macedonia, including the northern approach to Thessaloniki, where he may have been born, was then part of the First Bulgarian Empire.[19] Most of Macedonia became part of Bulgaria between 830 and 840, i.e when Clement was born.[20] The Short Life of St. Clement by Theophylact of Ohrid testifies to his Slavic origin, calling him "the first bishop in the Bulgarian language,"[21] while The Ohrid Legend written by Demetrios Chomatenos describes him as one of the European Moesians, commonly known as Bulgarians.[d] Because of that, some scholars label him a Bulgarian Slav,[23][24] while Dimitri Obolensky calls Clement a Slav inhabitant of the Kingdom of Bulgaria.[25] A fringe view on his origin postulates that Clement was born in Great Moravia. This view is based on the lexicographical analysis of Clement's works.[26]

Clement participated in the mission of Cyril and Methodius to Great Moravia. In 867 or 868 he became a priest in Rome, ordained along with two other disciples of Cyril and Methodius, Gorazd and Naum, by bishops Formosus and Gauderic. After the death of Cyril, Clement accompanied Methodius on his journey from Rome to Pannonia and Great Moravia. After the death of Methodius himself in 885, Clement headed the struggle against the German clergy in Great Moravia along with Gorazd. After spending some time in jail, he was expelled from Great Moravia and in 885 or 886 reached Belgrade, then in the borders of Bulgaria, together with Naum of Preslav, Angelarius and possibly Gorazd (according to other sources, Gorazd was already dead by that time). Thereafter, the four of them were sent to the Bulgarian capital of Pliska, where they were commissioned by Boris I of Bulgaria to instruct the future clergy of the state in the Old Slavonic language.

After the adoption of Christianity in 865, religious ceremonies in Bulgaria were conducted in Greek by clergy sent from the Byzantine Empire. Fearing growing Byzantine influence and weakening of the state, Boris viewed the adoption of the Old Slavonic language as a way to preserve the political independence and stability of Bulgaria. With a view thereto, Boris made arrangements for the establishment of two literary academies where theology was to be taught in the Slavonic language. The first of the schools was to be found in the capital, Pliska, and the second in the region of Kutmichevitsa.

Southeastern Europe in the late 9th century.

According to his hagiography by Theophylact of Ohrid, while Naum stayed in Pliska working on the foundation of the Pliska Literary School, Clement was commissioned by Boris I to organise the teaching of theology to future clergymen in Old Church Slavonic in the southwestern part of the Bulgarian Empire, in the region then known as Kutmichevitsa.[27] For a period of seven years (between 886 and 893) Clement taught some 3,500 disciples in the Slavonic language and the Glagolitic alphabet. At that time, Clement translated Christian literature into Old Church Slavonic, and in this way, he and his co-workers laid the foundations of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church.[28] In 893 he was ordained archbishop of Drembica, Velika (bishopric). Upon his death in 916 he was buried in his monastery, Saint Panteleimon, in Ohrid. Soon after he was canonized as a saint by the Bulgarian Orthodox Church.[29]

The development of Old Church Slavonic literacy had the effect of preventing the assimilation of the South Slavs into neighbouring Byzantine culture, which promoted the formation of a distinct Bulgarian identity in the Empire.[30] During the first quarter of the 10th century, the ethnonym “Bulgarians” was adopted by the Slavic tribes in most of Macedonia, while their names were abandoned.[e] Clement's life's work played a significant role in this transformation.[32]


Tomb of Saint Clement within the Church of Saints Clement and Panteleimon, Ohrid, North Macedonia.

Clement of Ohrid was one of the most prolific and important writers in Old Church Slavonic. He is credited with the Panonic Hagiography of Saint Cyril and Saint Methodius. Clement also translated the Flower Triode containing church songs sung from Easter to Pentecost and is believed to be the author of the Holy Service and the Life of St. Clement of Rome, as well as of the oldest service dedicated to Saint Cyril and Saint Methodius. The invention of the Cyrillic alphabet is also usually ascribed to him although the alphabet is most likely to have been developed at the Preslav Literary School at the beginning of the 10th century (see Cyrillic script).

Medieval frescoes of Clement exist throughout the modern-day territories of North Macedonia, Serbia and northern Greece, with the vast majority being located in North Macedonia.[33] The Church of St. Clement of Ohrid is located in Skopje and is the largest cathedral of the Macedonian Orthodox Church.

The first modern Bulgarian university, Sofia University, was named after Clement upon its foundation in 1888. The Macedonian National and University Library, founded on November 23, 1944, also bears his name.[34] The University in Bitola, established in 1979, is named after Clement, as well as the Bulgarian scientific base, St. Kliment Ohridski on Livingston Island in the South Shetland Islands of Antarctica.

In November 2008, the Macedonian Orthodox Church donated part of Clement's relics to the Bulgarian Orthodox Church as a sign of good will.[35]

In May 2018 was announced that in the ruins of a Ravna Monastery, near the village of Ravna in Provadiya Municipality, the signature of Clement was identified on a stone plate with a large amount of graffiti on it. The signature is dated as of April 24, 889. The finding gives reason to assume that the disciples of Cyril and Methodius were settled there at one stage, after being expelled from the Great Moravia and their reception in Bulgaria.[36]

See also


  1. ^ "He died at an advanced age in 916. His disciples buried him in the monastery "St. Panteleimon" in Ohrid, which he had established. He was canonized in X c. and joined the pantheon of the Bulgarian saints."[6]
  2. ^ "...the First Bishop of the Bulgarian language".[12]
  3. ^ In the Byzantine Empire, a province or theme named Macedonia was formed out of the original theme of Thrace, whose capital was Adrianople in today's Turkey. The modern nation of Macedonia was ruled by the First Bulgarian Empire during the 9th and the 10th century and was incorporated into the Byzantine Empire in 1018 as part of the theme of Bulgaria.
  4. ^ "This great father of ours and light of Bulgaria was by origin of the European Moesians whom the people commonly known as Bulgarians…"[22]
  5. ^ "Early in the tenth century, the name 'Bulgarians', in its wider meaning, was widespread and used throughout the country, while the names of the separate Slav tribes were abandoned. An interesting instance of the use of the name 'Bulgarians' is found in the so-called 'Expanded Biography of Clement of Ochrida'... It, therefore, mirrors developments and the situation in the south-western Bulgarian territories (Macedonia) in the beginning of the tenth century. It is this disciple of Clement, namely, who wrote in the tenth century, that called himself and his compatriots by the name 'Bulgarians'. This is obvious from a text in the biography, which glorifies Clement that he gave everything, related to the church 'to us, the Bulgarians'. This means that the name 'Bulgarians' was already firmly established among the population in the south-western Bulgarian territories early in the tenth century."[31]


  1. ^ Russian Church Singing, vol. II, Johann von Gardner, Vladimir Morosan, St Vladimir's Seminary Press, 1980, ISBN 0881410462, p. 11.
  2. ^ Alban Butler, Paul Burns and David Hugh Farmer, Butler's Lives of the Saints, Volume 7, A&C Black, 1995, ISBN 0860122565, p. 220.
  3. ^ Karl Cordell, Stefan Wolff, Ethnic Conflict: Causes, Consequences, and Responses, (Polity Press, 2009), 64.
  4. ^ "Western American Diocese - July 27". westserbdio.org. Archived from the original on 1 May 2017. Retrieved 11 January 2022.
  5. ^ a b "Patron Saints Index: Saint Clement of Ohrid". saints.sqpn.com. Archived from the original on 2008-06-20. Retrieved 2008-06-12.
  6. ^ "XI Century", Official site, Sofia: Sofia University.
  7. ^ Who are the Macedonians? Hugh Poulton, C. Hurst & Co. Publishers, 2000, ISBN 1850655340, p. 19.
  8. ^ Biographical Dictionary of Christian Missions, Gerald H. Anderson, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1999, ISBN 0802846807, p. 138.
  9. ^ A Concise History of Bulgaria, R. J. Crampton, Cambridge University Press, 2005, ISBN 0521616379, p. 15.
  10. ^ Byzantium's Balkan Frontier: A Political Study of the Northern Balkans, 900-1204, Paul Stephenson, Cambridge University Press, 2000, ISBN 0521770173, pp. 78-79.
  11. ^ The A to Z of the Orthodox Church, Michael Prokurat, Alexander Golitzin, Michael D. Peterson, Rowman & Littlefield, 2010, ISBN 0810876027, p. 91.
  12. ^ Theophylact of Ohrid, cited in Ramet, Pedro (1989), Religion and Nationalism in Soviet and East European Politics, p. 373, ISBN 0-8223-0891-6.
  13. ^ Bakalov, Georgi; Kumanov, Milen (2003). "KUTMICHEVITSA (Kutmichinitsa)". History of Bulgaria electronic edition (in Bulgarian). Sofia: Trud, Sirma. ISBN 954528613X.
  14. ^ Michael Prokurat et al., The A to Z of the Orthodox Church, Scarecrow Press, 2010, ISBN 1461664039, p. 91.
  15. ^ John Van Antwerp Fine, The Early Medieval Balkans: A Critical Survey from the Sixth to the Late Twelfth Century, University of Michigan Press, 1991, ISBN 0472081497, pp. 127-128.
  16. ^ Official site of the Macedonian orthodox church Archived 2010-03-24 at the Wayback Machine
  17. ^ "Macedonia Travel info". Archived from the original on 2010-11-01. Retrieved 2010-09-19.
  18. ^ The Oxford Dictionary of Saints, Fifth Edition Revised, David Farmer, OUP Oxford, 2011, ISBN 0191036730, p. 394.
  19. ^ Butler's Lives of the Saints, vol. 7, Alban Butler, Paul Burns, David Hugh Farmer, A&C Black, 1995, ISBN 0860122565, p. 220.
  20. ^ Dimitar Bechev, Historical Dictionary of the Republic of Macedonia, Historical Dictionaries of Europe, Scarecrow Press, 2009, ISBN 0810862956, p. xx.
  21. ^ The Voices of Medieval Bulgaria, Seventh-Fifteenth Century, East Central and Eastern Europe in the Middle Ages, 450-1450, Kiril Petkov, BRILL, 2008, ISBN 9047433750, p. 153.
  22. ^ Kosev, Dimitŭr; et al. (1969), Documents and Materials on the History of the Bulgarian People, Sofia: Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, p. 54.
  23. ^ Historical Dictionary of Croatia, Robert Stallaerts, Scarecrow Press, 2009, ISBN 081087363X, p. 87.
  24. ^ Greek in a Cold Climate G - Reference, Hugh Lloyd-Jones, Rowman & Littlefield, 1991, ISBN 0389209678, p. 123.
  25. ^ The Byzantine Inheritance of Eastern Europe, vol. 156 from Collected studies, ISSN 0961-7582, Dimitri Obolensky, Variorum Reprints, 1969, ISBN 086078102X, p. III.
  26. ^ Andrej ŠKOVIERA: Svätí slovanskí sedmopočetníci. Bratislava: Slovenský komitét slavistov - Slavistický ústav Jána Stanislava SAV, 2010, ISBN 978-80-89489-02-2, pp. 110-113. Ján STANISLAV: Starosloviensky jazyk I. Bratislava: Slovenské pedagogické nakladateľstvo, 1978, pp. 20-21; 174, 219-230.
  27. ^ The entry of the Slavs into Christendom: an introduction to the medieval history of the Slavs, A. P. Vlasto, CUP Archive, 1970, ISBN 0-521-07459-2, p. 169.
  28. ^ Alban Butler et al., Butler's Lives of the Saints, Volume 7, A&C Black, 1995, ISBN 0860122565, p. 220.
  29. ^ Кирило-Методиевска енциклопедия: И-O, том 2, Институт за литература (Българска академия на науките), Университетско издателство "Св. Климент Охридски", 1995, стр. 334.
  30. ^ Crampton, R. J. (2005). A Concise History of Bulgaria (2nd ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-61637-9. p 15.
  31. ^ Angelov, D. (1971), "София [Summary]", Издателство Наука и изкуство [The Formation of the Bulgarian Nation] (in Bulgarian), pp. 413–414.
  32. ^ Michael Palairet, Macedonia: A Voyage through History (Vol. 1, From Ancient Times to the Ottoman Invasions), Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2016, ISBN 1443888435, p. 260.
  33. ^ The Sacred Landscape of Saint Clement of Ohrid as Reflected in his Frescos, Markus Breier and Mihailo Popovic, Department of Geography and Regional Research, University of Vienna (2015)
  34. ^ The official site of the National and University Library "St. Kliment Ohridski", retrieved on October 9, 2007.
  35. ^ "Македония дарява частици от мощите на Св. Кл. Охридски". 24 November 2008.
  36. ^ Константин Събчев, Откриха подписа на Климент Охридски. Политика, 25.05.2018.


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