8 December, St. Clement of Ohrid Day, Republic of Macedonia

St. Clement of Ohrid was born ca. 840 in what is today Macedonia, and was a disciple of the famous SS. Cyril and Methodius.

St. Clement of Ohrid, icon, 13th-14th century (Wikimedia Commons).

As a means to counter Byzantine influence, the Bulgarian King Boris I decided to promote Old Slavonic as the linguistic norm of his empire.

With this in mind, he established two Slavonic schools on his territory, one of them led by St. Clement and located at Ohrid, which taught the Bulgarian version of Old Slavonic utilising the glagolitic script.

St. Clement is also commonly accredited with inventing the Cyrillic alphabet, though several historians doubt the accuracy of that claim.

St. Clement of Ohrid, together with his patrons, SS. Cyril and Methodius, are claimed as national symbols both by Macedonians and Bulgarians – the latter often viewing Macedonians as Bulgarians “gone astray”.

While the University of Skopje is named SS. Cyril and Methodius, its equivalent in Sofia is named after St. Clement; however, the University Library of Sofia is named after SS. Cyril and Methodius, and that of Skopje is named after St. Clement.

It is not uncommon to hear Macedonians and Bulgarians quarrel over the origins of the mentioned saints, as is the case with the origins of a score of other “common” national heroes and symbols.

Glagolitic alphabet (Wikimedia Commons)

Only Macedonia celebrates St. Clement of Ohrid Day as a national holiday, though.

Yet the history of this red-letter day as a state tradition is of recent origin; it was celebrated with a day off for the first time in 2007.

As part of the ritual of the holiday, a St. Clement award is presented in the Macedonian parliament (Sobranie) to citizens with outstanding lifetime achievements in the fields of art, culture or sports. SS.

Cyril and Methodius Day on 24 May is also a national holiday in Macedonia, concurring with their neighbors’ celebration of the Day of Bulgarian Enlightenment and Culture and of Slavonic Literacy, in which – unsurprisingly – the renowned saints play the main role.

Published Aug. 24, 2010 1:36 PM - Last modified Aug. 24, 2010 2:49 PM