Late Middle Ages

The Late Medieval period is elaborately described as the last phase of military-political occupation by representatives of the Serbian tribal elite. Their territorial aspirations towards the south especially were strengthened by the proclamation of the kingdom and the first longer lasting occupations of the northern part of Macedonia in 1282 and later; they culminated in stabilization and the proclamation of the Serbian empire in Skopje in 1346.

Showcase 155 presents the most exclusive items of Late Medieval society, represented by two finds from the monastery of Gurishte, Sveti Nikole: an exclusive medallion or cross-encolpion made of gold and decorated with precious stones, and an earring. The miniature dimensions of the small and neatly made lunate earring reveal the real value of gold in the XIV century, despite the monogram of Maria Paleologina on its front; she was a member of the Byzantine imperial family and the wife of King Stephen the First Crowned. The elevated spirituality of medieval society is reflected in the high quality of several items for liturgical use. The dove as a symbol for the Holy Spirit with a vessel for sacred oil, on display near the altar, is a unique piece of gilded bronze with multicolor enameling, from the workshops in Limoges, France, in the late XIII century. Very similar is the part from the stone furnishing, probably from the imperial gates of the archiepiscopal cathedral church of Ohrid, Sveta Sofia or Bogorodica Perivleptos, with quality of craftsmanship and representation similar to that of St. Blagoveshtenie from the XIII-XIV centuries. They show the close relations between the imperial medieval kingdom of the Serbs and the imperial families of Europe.

By far the most luxurious archaeological discovery from the Republic of Macedonia is the hoard from Krusharski Rid, at the village of Gorno Orizari, Kočani. This unique collection was accidently discovered and the greater part came to us. It included three pairs of massive gold earrings made by various goldsmithing techniques, with inserted semiprecious stones and originally decorated with pearls, which were not preserved. The collection is completed by an extremely luxurious and precious goblet on a high foot, of gilded silver; on the interior of the cup is a depiction of a lion standing on its hind legs against a blue enamel background.

An important testimony to medieval imperial culture is the enormous sword Volchjak with an image of a leaping wolf, made with intarsia technique on the blade; the sword is named for the wolf. Belonging to one of the high imperial knights of the XIV century and discovered in the Bregalnica River, the sword was made in a shop for weapons in Passau, Germany; it bears witness to trade relations within Europe and to the unique relationship of important local dignitaries with the major production centers.

Showcase 156 aims to complement general knowledge about the quality of life in the Late Middle Ages, observed through several specific aspects. The most important is the religious aspect of medieval society, where the depth and the dedication of religion are illustrated by a portable icon bearing the image of St. Jovan Bogoslov and a cross-pendant, both made of steatite in a Thessaloniki workshop during the late XIII or the XIV century. The following items also originate from the XIV century: a unique votive pendant with an inscription, made of gilded bronze and decorated with cornelian and amber; a bronze cross-encolpion of a high priest from an unknown site, and a reliquary in the form of a wooden cross as a symbol of the origin of the cross of Christ’s crucifixion, inserted at some time into a silver chain in the shape of a throne cross. It comes from the church of St. George, at the village of Zdunje, Gostivar. The museum has owned this item since the 1950s.

In the lower part of the showcase are exhibited the finds from grave 105 at Crkvishte, in the village of Morodvis, Kočani, from the XII-XIII centuries; the burial was extraordinarily rich in both the number and variety of decorated items. They include 16 glass bracelets, two rings of glass and silver, a cross-pendant, a pendant, and a pair of silver and gilded earrings.

In the right half of the showcase is placed various material, which in part, through a star from a spur of the XIV century, part of a hilt of a sword from the late XIV or the XV century, and a ring with the image of a single-headed eagle from the XV century, represents the knightly equipment of courtiers. In the middle part of the showcase is a selection of jewelry from the XII-XIII to the XV centuries, with several typical bronze bracelets of various types from an earlier period and a forehead band from Crkvishte, Demir Kapija, from the XV century. There are also typical items for everyday use, such as a sheath for a knife made of deer horn and part of a glass bottle, of which unfortunately only part of the neck and rim are preserved.

In the lower part of the showcase are a series of massive iron tools for agricultural use, such as a sickle, sawdust, plow, a battle axe and a Byzantine spear, from the XI / XII until the XIII century.

The rapid course of events, beginning with the appearance, the enthronement, the general social connection of the wide Central Balkan area with strong proliferations towards the north, northwest, west and south, and the dynamics of internationalization of Late Medieval society under the Serbian kingdom, follows the fate of its predecessor, the Byzantine Empire. Under the strong impact of the unstoppable Ottoman conquests, already by the last decades of the XIV century began the fall of Serbian medieval rule of the Balkans. It gave up piece afterpiece of its own territories, leaving them to local rulers as representatives of the central authority, so that gradually the Ottoman empire took over and transformed them into vassals of the Ottoman emirs, who irresistibly conquered and ruled the Balkans. The fall of the medieval kingdom is closely connected with the loss of Constantinople to the Turks in 1453. The intensive medieval development and events had a strong impact on the continuing existence of the typical Late or Post-Medieval culture, which survived throughout the Balkans, reflecting the deeply rooted traditions of Byzantine thought and culture, while at the same time establishing a basis for introduction of regional forms, styles and tendencies that reflected the wide erudition that dominated in this period.

Showcase 157 is intended to give an overview of urban culture in the medieval capital of Kale Skopje, but due to the incompleteness of our collection, the selection is complemented by items from other sites.

The religious aspect, which is of course the dominant public aspect urban life, is represented by a collage of preserved fresco fragments from the only church discovered in the fortress, dated to the late XIV century. On the upper level, they are accompanied by two bronze crosses or pectoral necklaces and a throne cross from Crkvishte, Demir Kapija, X-XI century, a bronze goblet from the fortress from the XVI century, and a star-asterisk from Crkvishte, Morodvis, from the XIII century. Secular life is illustrated by one of the earliest partially preserved ceramic vessels, a jug from the fortress, IX-X century; the lock of a box and a stylus found in a destruction deposit from the late XIII century; and the gilded silver ring of a dignitary with a depiction of a lion from the late XIV century. The diplomatic activity of this important military, ecclesiastical, and administrative center is illustrated by a precious series of lead seal stamps from documents of Byzantine origin, eight of which belong to the XI and XII centuries and one each from the XIII and XV century.

In the foreground are shown items for common use in households, vertebras, bone spools for weaving, needles of bronze and bone, a red pigment for dyeing fabric from Demir Kapija, and a series of earrings in full evolutionary formation from small rings to very large earring such as the Tokai type (XII to XIV century).

In the lower part of the showcase are presented five ceramic pots for kitchen use, dating from the XIII-XV centuries.

M.A. Ljubinka Dzhidrova, custodian advisor.