The Devil is in the Details at Osogovo Monastery, Macedonia
Our last stop in Macedonia was one of the most unique sights we’ve seen to date. After swooning over gorgeous lakes, visiting monasteries with peacocks and eyeing beautiful rural landscapes, we stopped just outside the town of Kriva Palanka for a date with the devil-at Osogovo Monastery.
Most people go to church to avoid meeting Satan, but that’s not possible at Osogovo, where the Dark Prince peers out from the frescoes adorning the outside of the church.
It’s unusual to see frescoes on the outside walls of churches and monasteries, but even more unusual to see a Judgement Day theme. People were burning in hell, disfigured animals were torturing townfolk and the village was on fire. Is it just me, or is someone saying there are a lot of sinners in Kriva Palanka? Maybe we should have spent more time there…
Even the cherubim looked serious. I’d be angry too, if only my head made it to heaven.
I don’t know why Osogovo has such an unusual theme. According to Macedonian Wikipedia and Google translate, the frescoes were the work of painter Dimitar Pogradiškog Antonova, who worked on them from 1884 – 1945. (Though that might be his life span rather than the length of time he worked on the frescoes.) The icons may be painted in a Bulgarian style, but my “Iconographic schools of Eastern Europe” book seems to be missing. AGAIN.
Osogovo dates back to the 12th Century, but the original church was destroyed. The one pictured here is from the 19th Century. There is also a smaller, older church on site that features traditional frescos, similar to the interior of Osogovo. While pretty, it’s a bit boring to walk inside and see frescoes and paintings that speak to the history of the church. The interior is also quite dark, foiling icon lovers and church bloggers trying to take photos on the sly.
It is no longer a functioning monastery (the last monk died in 1967), but Osogovo has a simple, 80-room hotel for pilgrims and morbidly curious housewives. Despite the hellish rain (sorry, I couldn’t resist), the mountain setting was serene. A monastery is an odd place for a date with the devil, but a perfect place for Church on Sunday.