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The life and miracles of St. Naum of Ohrid

The feast of St. Naum of Ohrid, the Miracle Worker, is celebrated on July 3rd, to honor the medieval scholar and writer, who, together with St. Clement, is credited with building upon the work of the sainted brothers Cyril and Methodius to spread Christianity among the Slavic speaking peoples of Europe. Naum is known as the "living saint" for the numerous miracles that are attributed to him even today, centuries after his death in 910, at an age of 80 years.


St. Naum was the youngest of the disciples of Ss. Cyril and Methodius and attended the mission to Moravia, as well as numerous other missions across central Europe where he helped distributed Bibles written in the Old Church Slavonic language, that was instrumental in converting many pagan peoples. Naum worked from the scriptorium in Pliska, and later moved to the scriptorium in Ohrid, where, alongside St. Clement, he wrote, preached, taught and led a group of scholars in translating and transcribing the Bible. This is considered the golden age of Ohrid's medieval cultural era. Between 893 and 900, St. Naum led the Ohrid scriptorium, and in 900 he became a monk at the monastery of St. Michael, which was later renamed after himself. The legend of the miracles performed by St. Naum grew quickly and people from across the region flocked to the monastery to seek his help. The monastery quickly grew, with donations from grateful petitioners, which included the regional royalty. The monastery is at the exact opposite side of the lake from the church of St. Clement, and legend has it that the two saints, who are said to have been brothers in some accounts, began work to expand and rebuild their respective shrines, at the same time, even agreeing to ring the bells to notify each other when construction starts. According to this legend, a flock of gulls flew into the rope of the bell of one of the monasteries and made it ring before time, but there are disputed accounts if this regards the monastery of St. Naum or the church of St. Clement.

Naum died in 910, but the wonders continued, and soon an annual fair was introduced, initially on January 5th - the day of his death, but later, in the 18th century, to distinguish it from Christmas, the fair was moved to July 3rd. "This synod order, confirmed with the seal of the Patriarch, declares to all and everywhere, that the holiday and feast of our holy and barefoot father Naum the Miracle Worker, who is interred in the Livin of Devol, due to its immense honor and glory, is moved from January 23rd to June 29th", the preserved order of Archbishop Joasif of Ohrid from 1740 informs. The date was later moved to July 3rd.

Until the Communist times, in 1941, each day two baskets of bread were baked in the monastery that bears his name, at the southernmost edge of lake Ohrid. People from the area, but also from far away. would come, have a bite, and pray at the grave of the saint for the troubles or ailments that tormented them. If highwaymen would try to rob somebody, carrying a small loaf with the brand of the monastery was usually enough to be granted safe passage, as nobody would dare attack such pilgrims.

The new Communist authorities tolerated the fair and even allowed pilgrims from near by Albania to continue visiting the monastery which is right across the border of the town of Pogradec, despite the strict rules preventing cross-border traffic between the antagonistic Communist states. For several years more the open borders regime continued around the feast of St. Naum, until worsening political relations put an end to this practice.

Archbishop Joasif said that the wonders and blessings attributed to St. Naum are "more numerous than the stars in the sky". He is especially credited with healing ailments of the mind. Unfortunately, many of them were not written down at the time, but continue to live in the collective memory of Ohrid, through folk tales and legends. Doctor Nkola Boshale, who researched this period, says that these legends of miracle working and healing the sick who came to him and later to his grave are not without a grain of truth in them.

In 1925, the Serbian appointed Bishop Nikolaj of Ohrid published a book with 30 miracles attributed to St. Naum, in which it is said that he continues to live in the souls of the people. The stories include accounts of mute people who received the power of speech, cripples who threw their crutches and especially instances in which disorders of the mind were dispersed. Robbers reported seeing the saint or having a visit in their dreams, with orders to return the stolen loot, including with threats of sift punishment if they fail to do so. A report from 1930 documents how a group of visitors tried to leave using a boat, but the boat was dead in the water despite all efforts from the rovers. Finally, they realized that one of the passengers had stolen a silver fork from the monastery - upon its return, the boat could proceed swiftly. Despite the reported celestial protection, the monastery suffered a major robbery in 1985, when a well organized group of robbers took 13 icons painted in 1711 by the monk Constantine which are yet to be returned. It is the single largest heist of Christian relics in Macedonia.

The wonders of St. Naum remain portrayed in the church of the monastery, which was painted in 1400 by master Trpo, son of Costantine from Korca, at the time of abbot Stefan. The frescoes represent the life and miracles of St. Naum. Because of the numerous reported cases, even Muslims would flock to the grave of St. Naum. The Bekteshi order would visit the monastery leaving their shoes outside and bowing to the church, their face always turned to the altar. 
Even the Crn Drim river, which flows into lake Ohrid close to the site of the monastery, and flows out at Struga, is attributed to St. Naum, who, the legend says, wanted to console a girl who lost a valuable necklace in the lake. From her tears, a famously clean spring began to flow into and through the lake.
Blaze Minevski

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