As we know, in the frameworks of our secular and spiritual history St. Clement’s University operated from the end of the 9th century to the beginning of the 10th century, that is to say until the passing away of St. Clement from Ohrid, the first Slavic bishop, a saint, and enlightener of the Macedonian people. In the historic science, this early-middle-age educational and cultural institution was called the First Slavic University, which is the oldest in Europe. It is known that St. Clement and his associates had educated over 3,500 students who, after his death, spread among the Slavic countries and expanded the Christian religion, literacy, and science among the peoples of Slavic origin. The reflections of this University were felt throughout the Middle Age, and they are felt even today in the frameworks of the spiritual traditions that are our cultural and spiritual heritage. The space where St. Clement’s University operated is today’s Plaosnik in Ohrid, in the vicinity of St. Clement’s Church St. Pantelejmon, in the south pedestal of the citadel of Samoil’s Fortress. The cultural and educational processes were most probably taking place in the monastery compound, in the monastery night’s lodgings, in the tree-lined path and under the trees on Plaosnik. This important cultural and historic compound in Ohrid has its long history and with its cultural horizons from prehistory up-to-date it represents one of the most significant archaeological sites in the Balkans and one of the most sacred places in Europe where the life of civilization was continually taking place. So, back in the Neolithic era (early stone-age) there was life on Plaosnik, as well as in the later prehistoric periods (Bronze and Iron Ages), the ancient period when most probably the Temple of God Dionysius was erected (a beloved Divinity in old Lihnitida – the Ohrid region). In the 3rd century A. D. St. Erasmus baptized 20,000 Lihnitids (Ohridians) into Christian religion. From the 4th to the 6th century two early-Christian basilicas were erected on this space with monumental dimensions: the one of a quadrifoliate shape, the other five-naval, and both with glorious architectural elements and luxurious mosaics on the floors. These sacral architectonic facilities tell us that it was exactly on this space that operated the bishopric center of the New Epirus province. In the middle of the five-naval early Christian basilica, late on (at the end of the 6th and the beginning of the 7th century), a small three-leaf church was built. At the end of the 9th century St. Clement restored the small three-leaf church that had been destroyed and he dedicated the restored church to Saint Doctor Pantelejmon. Later on, St. Clement additionally expanded this building to the west probably with walls. On this space and at that time he started his historic mission that occupies an exclusively important place in the Macedonian sacral and secular history. Namely, in the frameworks of this compound the strong Christian, enlightening, and literature activity of St. Clement of Ohrid was developed, who was one of the best pupils of Ss. Cyril and Methodius, who managed to raise his academy, with his activity, to the level of a university, an educational and enlightening institution that met the criteria of that time. In 916, following his death, he was buried in the Church, in the grave that he had built while he was alive. At the end of the 15th century, after being totally demolished, over the remains of St. Clement’s Church Sultan Mehmed Mosque was erected, but after some time it had stopped being used in religious purposes. Since at one place, in important periods of world’s history, pagan temples used to be erected, including early Christian churches, Middle Age Christian churches, and a mosque, Plaosnik is actually one of the most sacred places in the world. Plaosnik experienced its revival on the outset of the third millennium. On the occasion of 2000 years of Christianity in Macedonia and in the world, the first phase of the big project was completed: the restoration of St. Clement’s Church St. Pantelejmon on Plaosnik in Ohrid. The second phase of this project is the restoration of St. Clement’s University, which has finally lived to see the light as a national project of the Republic of Macedonia. The Government of the Republic of Macedonia decided to restore this cultural and enlightening monument of the Macedonian history and together with St. Clement’s Church St. Pantelejmon on Plaosnik the totality of the church and secular focus will flash again on the most sacred place for Macedonia and for the entire Slavic race (Plaosnik). The restored university is projected to have galleries of icons, libraries, seminars, places for literature, scientific, and other centers, and an educational system within the Macedonian Orthodox Church, which means that a theological school or a Theological University will start operating there (depending on the decision of the Holy Synod of the Macedonian Orthodox Church). The architectonic forms that will complete the ambience entirety on Plaosnik will have to be incorporated in the space so as to represent a symbiosis of all relevant circumstances: sacral and secular, historic and modern.
Dynamics of the Activities
First of all, it will be necessary to create a Restoration Board composed of eminent experts from the Macedonian cultural and scientific peak that will design the program of activities and stand behind the accomplishment of the project (by the end of 2006). In March 2007 systematic archaeological excavations will start on adequate spaces on Plaosnik that will be run throughout the year. Parallel with these activities, the Project Program for the construction of monastery night’s lodgings will start and they will have to be designed for modern conditions operations. In the second half of 2007 there will be a tender for architectural groups for the preparation of the Conceptual Project. From the end of 2007 to the end of April 2008 the preparations for the Main Project will have to be completed. From the middle of 2008 by the end of 2009 the total activities will be completed in conformity with the anticipated program We believe that this endeavor of capital importance for the Macedonian history and culture will unite the sacral and secular achievements of the Macedonian people at this time, together with the restoration of St. Clement’s spirit and St. Clement’s time that have always served as an inspiration for the preservation of the Macedonian identity.
Mr. Pasko Kuzman is an eminent Macedonian archaeologist and director of the Directorate for Protection of Cultural Heritage of the Republic of Macedonia.