Journeys from Home: Church of St. Sophia

Explore the 11th Century Basilica on the Shores of Lake Ohrid

By CyArk

st. sophia aerial (2018) by CyArkCyArk

Church of St. Sophia

Located on the shores of one of the deepest and oldest lakes in Europe, the city of Ohrid has been inhabited for millennia. Built on the foundations of a 5th century Roman church, the Church of St. Sophia has been rebuilt several times and illuminates the history of Ohrid.  The paintings covering the walls of St. Sophia Church document four centuries of achievement in Byzantine art.


3D model of Church of St. Sophia by CyArkCyArk

From the foundation’s mortar to the heavy roof, St. Sophia Church illuminates centuries of an area ruled by Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman empires, reflecting the diversity of religious life that people have cultivated in the area for over 1,000 years.

Built on the foundations of a 5th century Roman temple, rulers have continually destroyed and rebuilt the structure, reusing materials from previous buildings.

The church is dedicated to Saint Sophia or holy wisdom, a spiritual quality. 

The church was the capital of the Archbishopric of Ohrid which ruled an area from present-day Serbia to the Italian peninsula from 1019-1767 CE.

Many of the frescoes visible inside the church were painted between 1037 and 1056 CE.

Due to their great age, the frescoes inside the church depict important figures from both Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox traditions meaning that the paintings were completed before the Great Schism of Christianity which occurred in 1054 CE.  

The frescoes are some of the best examples of Byzantine religious art found anywhere. 

Learn more with local guide Katerina Vasileska

Ms. Vasileska is an Ohrid native and gives tours of the historic city and surrounding environment.

Open Heritage 3D Graphic by CyArkCyArk

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