The monastery complex with its church dedicated to the Dormition of the Mother of God is located at 1300 meters on a rocky terrain of difficult access. Its centuries-long history as a sacral place dating back to the early Christian times has been confirmed by archeological research. The architectural solutions that are visible today resulted from numerous alterations and date from the period between the late 13th century and the 19th century.
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The reverence and donations it had been receiving since Byzantine times made Treskavec particularly rich in terms of possessions and estates in the time of King Dušan, who himself issued a number of chrysobulls between 1336 and 1346 confirming his donorship. The continuous reverence of the monastery and its rich artistic life that thrived until the late 19th century is attested by the entries in the memorial books, the restoration work on the murals, icons and church furniture, as well as the works preserved in the monastery’s scriptorium. The church, whose layout is rather complicated, consists of a naos with a dome and apse, a narthex with a calotte in its south part and a chapel to the north with a structure that was once a porch, now closed with masonry from both the west and south. The monastic refectory, with its surviving authentic mediaeval stone dining tables, is a separate building to the south-west. The hospices surrounding the church have an entrance on the west side, where there is a quadrilateral two-storey bell tower.
The earliest paintings, produced in several stages, have survived in the exonarthex and have been dated to the period between the 1340s and 1360s. Among the compositions in this ensemble, the ones in its west part and in the north dome are particularly significant. The illustrated church calendar that contains various scenes and individual saints is supplemented with verses by the 11th century writer Christopher of Mytilene. The north dome is filled with the composition Heavenly Mansions, which is an illustration of Psalm 44 (45) and Dionysius the Areopagite’s Celestial Hierarchy. A separate ensemble in the south space is made up Jesus Christ’s bust in the lunette, Mother of God in the niche and the donor’s composition of the tepčija (nobleman) Gradislav and his wife, who had the chapel in Treskavec erected in the 14th century.
In 1430, an anonymous author from the circle of the fresco painter hieromonk Macarius painted the Mother of God with the infant Jesus above the church’s south entrance. Towards the end of the century, the frescoes in the naos were restored by a group of painters whom science identifies as the Kastoria Workshop from the 1480s. Their stylistic signature is evident in a number of fresco-ensembles in Greece, Macedonia, Bulgaria, Serbia and Romania.
The east part of the church was restored in 1570 and it was then that the frescoes in the altar space were painted, as is indicated in the inscription on the fresco that refers to the names of the donors Stojan Hrančev and his wife, the church’s hegoumen Pachomius and bishop Gregorius. Further surviving 16th century works are the wood carved church doors and a silver gospel binding.
The restoration work in the 17th century probably involved the refectory, judging by the stylistic features of the frescoes in the apse and in the niche above the entrance, while the iconostasis was renovated in the following century. The authorship of these works dating from the second half of the 18th century has been attributed to the fresco painter Mărgărit who is believed to have worked on Mount Athos. More extensive construction and painting works in the church were undertaken in the second half of the 19th century, when the space of the narthex with a calotte and windows at the basis was formed.
In 1849, in this calotte the famous fresco painter Michael of Samarina, together with his partner Zisi from Kruševo, painted the illustration of the hymn dedicated to the Mother of God “0 tebe raduetsja” (“In Thee Rejoiceth All Creation”). Other notable works dating from the second half of that century are the portrait of the hieromonk Samuel painted by the painter Dičo from Tresonče and few other icons by the popular painters from the village of Magarevo.
Serafimova A., Monastery at Treskavec, Christian monuments, Cultural heritage protection office, Skopje 2009, 134-139.
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