Through the Dead-ends of the Legends About Krk-kardaš and Beyond
On the 28 October 2012 in the cathedral church of Bitola were canonized as saints the “Forty Monk-martyrs of Bitola” and an appropriate short book appeared, prepared by the Bigorski brotherhood. It is obvious that the monks engaged knew of a paper by Aleksandar Sterjovski, one that encouraged me to reexamine the circumstances. After I searched through the available literature, it seemed inevitable to conclude that there is no decisive evidence for the existence, not to speak of sanctity of such local characters from the time of the Ottoman conquest. There are many versions of the relevant legend, Christian and Muslim, in the first category the dominant motif being that of warrior-monks, defending the town by the sword, while in the second that of warriors similar to those witnessed especially in the cults of Central Asia. It appears possible that on the same place where we today find the church dedicated to the Forty Martyrs of Sebaste or on another, closer to the Reverse-grinding watermill, there was a church by the same name already in pre-Ottoman times and so the partially known life of these ancient Christian saints could be confused with the local legend for the conquest of Bitola together with that church. Or even that there was a “Krk-kardaš” (Christian?) before Krk-kardaš (Muslim?), which could lead to a fatal confusion of legends and locations. In other words, the executed canonization is baseless and irresponsible.
Key words: Bitola, legends, monks, warriors, churches, mosques, saints.
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