Metochion of St Achilles of Larisa

The end of XVIII and the mid XIX century is one of global economical, ecclesiastic-educational and artistic rise of the Bigorski monastery. During this period the competent and capable Abbots Hilarion, Arsenius and Joachim had established a great monastery property by purchasing land, obtaining houses and shops all the way from Elbasan and Prilep to Gostivar and Skopje. Then, the vigorous archimandrite Arsenius created a metochion with the church dedicated to St. George in the village of Rajcica, near Debar, as well as a metochion near the monastery, in the village of Trebishte, where he built a church dedicated to St. Achilles.

Црква „Св. Ахил Лариски"

The metochion in the village of Trebishte began to form somewhere around 1820, when the Bigorski Abbot Arsenius bought several fields and other properties in the village. Later, in 1835, smaller economic buildings were built on the land of the metochion and finally in 1840 a church was constructed dedicated to Saint Achilles, the Bishop of the town of Larissa and one of the 318 church fathers, participants in the First Council of Nicaea in 325. Later the cult towards this prominent ecclesiastical bishop from the early centuries of the Christianity got a new center in Prespa, because the Emperor Samuel transferred his relics from Larissa to the island of Achilles in 986.

The most deserving for the building of the church are Fr. Basil and the villagers of Trebishte. The name of Abbot Arsenius is not stated in the founder’s inscription about the building of the church, because he passed away in 1839; but there is no doubt it was his initiative. The same inscription also does not mention his successor, Abbot Joachim, which means that he had not been chosen yet for an Abbot of the Bigorski monastery.

According to its architecture, the church is a one-aisle construction with a wide and profiled octagonal dome above the nave and a small leveled gallery in the western part of the narthex. It’s made of stone without any use of brick or some kind of ceramoplastic decoration; while as the dome is built of skillfully shaped stone blocks and a visibly emphasized, profiled crown under the roof stone plates. With its congruent dimensions, outer appearance and inner shaped space, the church in the village of Trebishte can be included in the group of identical church buildings, typical for the Renaissance period of the XIX century in Western Macedonia; most similar to the churches of St. George in the village of Rajchica, St. George in the village of Lazaropole, St. Nicholas in the village of Tresonche, St. Virgin Mary in the village of Gary.

The church is dedicated to St. Achilles, bishop of Larissa and one of the 318 church fathers- participants in the First Council of Nicaea in 325.

The frescoes in the church are particularly interesting and are a work of Dico Zograf. The fresco painting was completed in June 1850, as mentioned in the founder’s inscription on the western wall of the nave, in the time of the Debar Bishop Meletius and Joanikius, Abbot of the Bigorski monastery. John Veljanoski, who financed the painting of the dome all the way up to the Evangelists was listed as donor of the frescoes along with the hieromonk Theodosius and the priest, Fr. Abraham, who financed the painting of the frescoes in the parts below the dome and in the lowest nave zone.

Christ the Pantocrator, the Divine Liturgy and presentations of the Old Testimony prophets are painted in the dome tambour; while as the four Evangelists are painted in the pendentives. Several scenes from the cycle of Great Holidays of Christ are painted in the space under the dome, as well as individual depictions of the Apostles, Martyrs and Holy Physician. The lowest southern wall zone of the nave is painted with a presentation of the patron of the church, St. Achilles accompanied by several Holy Fathers and Liturgists; while the Holy Soldiers are depicted on the northern wall. In the altar part only the niche for prothesis is frescoed with the composition of the Mourning for Christ. Previously, 1849-1851, Dicho Zograf painted the throne and the festive icons of the iconostasis. Later, in 1861, he painted the Cross above the Holy Table with The Crucifixion of Christ, The Mother of God and St. John the Forerunner.

The icons in the Deisis zone and the Apostles are a work of the icon painter Anthony Jovanovich and they seem to have been painted around 1840.

The church dedicated to St. Achilles in the village of Trebishte possesses a rich library of ecclesiastic books printed in Kiev, Moscow, Belgrade and Constantinople, as well as an interesting litany banner painted in 1864, with depictions of the patron of the church, Saint Achilles of Larissa on one side and the patron of the Bigorski Monastery, St. John the Baptist, on the other side. The banner is made by the example of the several litany banners from the Bigorski Monastery which were painted by Michael and Demetrius (hieromonk Daniel) from Samarina, and according to the stylistic features of the icon painting, it’s probably a work of the Makariev brothers from Galichnik.