St. Nicholas church – Gradešnica village, Mariovo

Sv. Nikola, Gradesnica, Mariovo (Градешница Мариово)


At the end of the XVIII and early XIX century, major political, social and economic changes occurred in the Ottoman Empire as a result of the military defeats that drove the country into economic and political dependence on the European countries.

In that period, Macedonia still has been an integral part of the spacious Rumeli vilayet, with the center in Sofia, that has been transferred to Bitola soon due to military, strategic and political reasons.

More benefits to the Christian population under the Ottoman ruling have been approved with the Peace Treaty from Edirne in 1828 and the Treaty between Russia and Turkey from 1830.

With the release of Turkey’s top government decree, Gjulahan hatisherif from 1839 for the first time the Sultan Abdul Mecit proclaimed full equality before the law for all citizens regardless of religion, ethnicity and social status. These reforms opened a permanent process of political, socio-economic and cultural trends and in this context, new social progress.

Gradesnica village in Mariovo
View toward Gradesnica village

The impact of social relations will be felt mostly on a spiritual, cultural, educational and artistic plan. With the abolition of the autonomy of the Ohrid Archbishopric, Constantinople Patriarchate became conductor of Greek influence, the Bulgarian Exarchate of Bulgarian influence, later on Serbian also, standing against the initiatives of the Macedonian population in terms of its economic and cultural upbringing.

But, despite everything, in the nineteenth century, the so-called revival period was ongoing in Macedonia that was still within the Ottoman Turkey; but larger process was also present in Macedonia – Industrial revolution that was taking place in Europe. In the period of revival increased activity of restoration of churches and monasteries started in Macedonia. Construction activity for the needs of the Christian population was intensified, too.

Architecture, painting, carving, begin to fully manifest the psychological characteristics of the times and the new life, and its expression – the spiritual atmosphere of the era. With increased economic empowerment of Macedonian element construction of larger and higher religious buildings – churches of solid material began. They begаn to be built in a distinctive architectural style of the XIX century, with large basilica disposition, which represents a high technical achievement for the period when built.

The village of Gradeshnica also continued its building tradition during the XIX century. In that period in the village of Gradeshnica was built such a religious building in the center of the village.

It is the church of St. Nicholas, which we learn from the inscription of the founder that the temple was built in 1862. Twenty years later, the church was wall-painted.

In 1918, during World War I the church suffered major destruction. There are opinions that the XIX century church was built on the foundations of an older one.

In order to confirm or refute this thesis, it is necessary to carry out extensive research including the archaeological. But it is known that the church, as well as many other facilities in the village, suffered severe damage during World War I, i.e. in 1918. Because of that, renovations were carried out on the architecture in 1923, a wall painting was restored in 1927, in the upper zones of the aisles and central nave.

Read more: Gradesnica village, Mariovo region

These damaged areas were re-painted by Costa Nikolikj with his sons, Jakim and Theodosia, originating from Lazaropole, during Metropolitan Joseph of Bitola. More recently additional restoration has been performed to the roof and porches from the west and the south side of the church.

St. Nicholas church during the First World War

In the period from 1881 to 1893, the Debar zografs, students and followers of Dicho Zograf, led by his son Avram (Abraham), painted some revival churches in Mariovo; in their painting program common composition with figures of St. Cyril and St. Methodius will be present.

Although the signature of Avram Dichov is found only in the monastery church St. Elijah (St. Ilija) in the village of Melnica, whose paintings are dated in 1881, this painters’ group can be attributed several painted churches in Mariovo. Among the generation of painters, students, and followers of Dicho Zograf, whose painting program encompasses the figures of St. Cyril and St. Methodius, are the brothers Josif and Jacov Radevikj, originating from Miak village of Lazaropole, of a family of Mazhovski. Their wall-painting activity was especially fruitful in the last quarter of the XIX century in the region of southwestern and northern Macedonia. More plausible is that painting group of brothers Josif and Jakov Radevikj was engaged for painting the church of St. Nikola in the village of Gradeshnica.

Фотографија бр. 1 Изглед на црквата од југ
Photo no. 1 View of the church from the south
Фотографија бр. 2 изглед на црквата од исток
Photo no. 2 view of the church from the east