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New Europe

Day Twenty-nine: Ohrid to Prilep

Michael Palin - New EuropeThe compact basilica at the centre of the monastery has a pair of elaborately patterned doors, each one carved from a single piece of wood and depicting not only scenes of the life of Christ, but also a Buddha. They're supreme examples of the work of the Prilep School of Flat Wood Carving, Brother Kalist tells me proudly. In the narthex, where people are lighting votive candles, there are paintings from the fourteenth century and the decorations in the main body of the church are fifteenth century but look distinctly modern in their treatment of flowers and animals.

Brother Kalist points upwards. 'Have you seen our Gaudi ceiling?'

I peer up obligingly. It's a moment before I notice the twinkle in his eye.

'I tell my Spanish visitors it's by Gaudi.' He looks rather pleased with himself.

'Just for a joke.'

My favourite building in the complex is the sternly functional 650-year-old vaulted refectory, with its table made from one long stone block with niches cut around the base into which the monks could fit their feet. A long, finely carved gully runs down the centre along which bones and other left-overs could be sluiced away.

Brother Kalist regrets that he will have to leave us now, as the mayor of Prilep has arrived for the evening mass. I have the feeling that his visit is a rare event, less to do with devotion and more with appearances.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: New Europe
  • Chapter: Day Twenty-nine: Ohrid to Prilep
  • Country/sea: Macedonia
  • Place: Prilep
  • Book page no: 69

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