"IF ISTANBUL BURNS DOWN - DEBAR WILL BUILD IT UP"
This saying existed during Ottoman Empire, when Debar was famous as a town of great and skilful construction-masters. Debar construction-masters, particularly those who processed stones, were also famous in the Middle East.
Debar is a town settlement in Debar Field by Krchin Mountain, it is located in a bordering part of the Republic of Macedonia towards the Republic of Albania. It covers the southern part of Debar Valley. Its traffic connection to Gostivar is along the Valley of Radika, with Ohrid-Struga Valley along the Valley of the River Crni Drim and there is also one road that connects this town with Albania.
History and development
During the 16th century, this town experienced rapid development because several important caravan roads leading from Albania towards Struga, Ohrid, Bitola and Kichevo passed through Debar. Due to its topographic-geographic position, this town grew into an administrative, military and trade centre for the wider region. In the year 1521, in the firman( decree) of Sulejman, Debar was represented as a significant settlement which was the seat of the qadi and in the year 1545 a map of Valvasorius was published in Venice in which Debris was marked in the northeast part of Macedonia. At the end of the sixteenth century, this settlement was mentioned as Dibra and it was also mentioned in the atlas of Mercator. During the 17th century Debar was developed as a centre of trade and crafts, and during the second half of the 19th century it grew into a sandzak's seat. At the end of the 19 th century its population was approximately 12.000. In the year 1900 there were 15.000 ethnically mixed inhabitants. Prior to the breakout of the Balkan Wars there were approximately 18.000 inhabitants. After the Balkan Wars and the First World War, as well as the period between the First and Second World War, a great number of Muslim population moved to Turkey and it led to a decrease of population figures. After the Second World War, Debar had an increase of population and a moderate development of its economy.
There was a constant increase of population from 1948 to 1994, and the greatest population increase was recorded from 1971 to 1981 as a result of the migration village-town and increased birth rate of population. Nowadays, Debar has approximately 15.000 inhabitants and represents a functional centre for its immediate surrounding and poorly developed secondary activities.
Lake Debar as well known as the accumulation Shpilje, it was erected on the river Crni Drim in the vicinity of Macedonian-Albanian border. It occupies the valleys of the rivers Crni Drim and Radika. This accumulation was filled in 1969 and occupies 13,2 km', with useful area of 70x106 m3. It has earthwork dam with pebble break-water and clay essence. It is used for electrical energy and irrigation. It is 13 kilometres along the valley of Crni Drim and 8 kilometres along the valley of Radika, lake surrounding is complemented the town of Debar, the spas Kosovrasti and Banjishte, the monastery Rajchica and mountain peaks in the vicinity. This lake has become attractive for sports-recreational and tourist purposes.
According to the inscription above the entrance to the mosque, written in an irregular sulus script in ive lines, the mosque was built in H.872/M.1467-68, but the inscription also states the year in which it was extensively rebuilt (H.1357/M.1941), which is probably an error, since the year H.1357 corresponds to M. 1938-39. the Hunkar Mosque is the endowment of Fatih Sultan Mehmed Khan (1541-1481). It stands in a spacious courtyard with a large number of old graves with richly decorated gravestones. it has a rectangular loor plan of 12.70 x 9.38 m and is covered with a hip roof. The surviving original part of the mosque is the harim, the prayer hall, where the old walls and window frames have preserved their original form and position. The mihrab, a niche with modest stalactite decoration stands in its interior, while the minbar and the mahvil were added later. the wooden ceiling was probably restored during the reconstruction in 1941. the porch on the northwest side was added during the restoration of the mosque in the period that followed. research has shown that the porch, supported by ten cylindrical columns, was probably closed up during the reconstruction before World War ii, i.e., nine window openings were placed between the columns and the entire porch was covered with the mosque’s roof. The slender minaret on the southwest side of the mosque that stands on a square base dominates with its height and emphasizes the vertical outline of the mosque. its shaft is polygonal, while the stalactite decoration continues onto the şerefe (balcony of the minaret). Although modest in terms in its architectural features and decorative elements, this mosque is an expression of the local building style of the second half of the 15th century, characterized by purity and precision of forms. the courtyard of the Fatih Sultan Mehmed Mosque is also the site of the tűrbe (mausoleum) of Şaban Baba. it belongs to the type of open octagonal tűrbes. the polygonal columns that form it are spanned with vaulted arches. it was built of ine-chiseled rectangular stone blocks, which testiies to the importance of the personages buried there. it has two graves.
The inscription on one of them states that it is the grave of Şaban Baba, but thee is no reference to the year of its building. However, on the basis of its stylistic features, it can be assumed with a high degree of certainty that it was built in the late 18th or early 19th centuries, the time of the building of the tűrbe of Kaplan Pasha in tirana (albania), which possesses the same stylistic and architectural characteristics. the presence of the tűrbe and the building technique applied in the erection of the minaret are indicative of the possible presence of an earlier cult structure on this site.
Monastery St. Gjorgji (George) the Winner (11th century)
This monastery is located in the village of Rajchica, three kilometres from Debar. Monastery quarters were built in 1835, and the church was decorated with frescoes from 1840 to 1852. Today it is a female monastery. A piece of the cross of Jesus Christ and a part of the sacred bones of St. George the Winner have been kept there. Monastery residence has a capacity to accommodate about one hundred guests, besides spiritual peace, visitors can see and feel nuns life-starting from their nutrition to religious rituals. Here are several workshops in the monastery complex, where the nuns neatly and devotedly make mitres (decorative hats which are worn by episcopes during ceremonies), icons, prayer beads and other church objects. High quality mitres made here are required by episcopes. The nuns have made more than 270 unique mitres, which are worn by dignitaries of Macedonian Orthodox Church - Ohrid Archbishopric as well as orthodox churches in America, Africa, Russia, Greece, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Romania, Serbia and Montenegro.
The existing written records do not refer to the year of the building of the new Hamam. It stands in the centre of Debar, in the immediate vicinity of the old Bazaar. A number of shops stand along the south side of the hamam (steam bath), which is only natural, due to the fact that it is close to the old Bazaar. Its stylistic features, Baroque elements in the stone decoration and the concept of its design plan indicate that it should be dated to the irst half of the 18thcentury. The building material and the building technique strongly suggest that the şadrvan hall (baths with a fountain) which was part of the hamam, must have been built in the 19th century. The years 1887 and 1907 that were inscribed in the dome of its tambour probably refer to the years in which this building underwent certain reconstructions or was decorated. In terms of its conception and function, the hamam belongs to the developed types of hamams. Its simple and pure spatial and functional plan, the presence of an upper storey with a gallery and a tambour in the şadrvan hall, as well as the building technique are features which testify to a high degree of building experience and emphasize its values; one of its unique characteristics is that it possesses all the necessary functional components. All the rooms, such as the kapaluk (anteroom/waiting room in the winter period), the halvet (the central bathing space covered with a dome and with four smaller halvets) are accessed from the şadrvan hall, while a hazna (a water cistern) and the kulhan (furnace) stand on the easternmost part of the structure. It possesses yet another unique feature, and that is the well-preserved “gobektash” (a stone or marble platform in the middle of the hot room of a hamam) in the halvet, which also served as a resting place. In addition to its architectural signiicance, of special importance are the decorative stone elements combined with geometric forms; this ornamentation is especially visible in the rendition of the kurna (marble basins) and the şadrvan (fountain). the painted decoration on the vault of the tambour consisted of loral and geometric motifs with rich colour scheme. This new Hamam in debar served as a public stram bath as late as until 1992, which means that it remained in use for the longest period of time compared to all the other hamams in Macedonia. today, it is an art gallery.
Saint Jovan (John) Bigorski Monastery (11th century)
The St. Jovan Bigorski Monastery is located by the road between Gostivar and Debar in the canyon of the River Radika, surrounded by the dense forests of Mountain Bistra. The edifice is on foundations of a basilica dating back to 1021, and a testimony of it is the fresco-painting memorial book. The monastery was demolished by Ottoman Authorities in the 16th century, and only one little church was left from the entire complex. It was rebuilt in 1743, and it got its present look in the 19th century. The monastery complex is composed of a church, the charnel house, the defence tower, monks' quarters, and the newly built guest quarters. There is a bell tower built of travertine blocks as a part of the church complex. There is a Gallery of icons opened in the monastery complex, where around seventy icons dating back to the 17 th, 18th and 19th century are displayed. There are remains of a church in the monastery, which dates back to the 16th century, i.e. 17th century and 18th century, and the big icons are preserved from it. Bigorski Monastery enchants with its beauty. Here is a fortune of frescoes, icons and a magnificent iconostasis with beautiful engraving, and other woodcut inventory: analogy (bookstands), pews, bishop's throne, amvon etc. The frescoes are work by the famous fresco-writer, Dicho Zoograf.