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Bitola ( , ; formerly Monastir or Manastir; known also by several alternative names) is a city in the southwestern part of the Republic of Macedoniamarker. The city is an administrative, cultural, industrial, commercial, and educational centre. It is located in the southern part of the Pelagonia valley, surrounded by the Babamarker and Nidžemarker mountains, 14 km north of the Medžitlija-Níki border crossing with Greecemarker. It is an important junction connecting the south of the Adriatic Seamarker with the Aegean Seamarker and Central Europe. It is known from the Ottoman period as "the city of the consuls", as many European countries have consulates in Bitola. According to some sources, Bitola is the second largest town in the country, and to others the third. Bitola is also the centre of the Bitola Municipality.


According to Adrian Room, the name Bitola is derived from the old Slavic word Obitel (monastery or abode), since the city was formerly noted for its monastery. When the meaning of the name was no longer understood, it lost its prefix "o". The name Bitola is mentioned in the Bitola inscription, related to the old city fortress built in 1015. Modern Slavic variants include the Macedonian Bitola (Битола), the Serbian Bitolj (Битољ) and Bulgarian Bitolya (Битоля). In Byzantine times, the name was hellenized to Voutélion (Βουτέλιον) or Vitólia (Βιτώλια), hence the names Butella by William of Tyre, Butili by the Arab geographer al-Idrisi). The Aromanian name Bituli is also derived from the Slavic name.

Another Greek name of the city, which is currently in use, is Monastíri (Μοναστήρι), also meaning "monastery". The Turkish name Manastır ( ) is derived from the Greek name, as is the Albanian Manastiri.


The Italian boutique "Gruppo Fiori", next to an old block.
The Catholic Church "Holy Heart of Jesus", on the main street of Bitola.
Architecture in Bitola
Aerial view of central Bitola

The city is dispersed along the banks of the Dragor river at an altitude of 2,019 ft (615 m) above sea level at the foot of Baba Mountainmarker. Spreading on an area of 1,798 km². and with a population of 122,173 (1991), Bitola is an important industrial, agricultural, commercial, educational, and cultural center. It represents an important junction that connects the South of the Adriatic Seamarker with the Aegean Seamarker and Central Europe. Bitola has one of the oldest and most prestigious theaters in the country.

Traditionally a strong trading center, Bitola is also known as the city of the consuls. At one time during the Ottoman rule, Bitola had consulates from twelve countries. During the same period, there were a number of prestigious schools in the city including a military academy that, among others, was attended by the famous Turkish reformer Kemal Atatürk. Bitola was also the headquarters of many cultural organizations that were established at that time.

Baba Mountain overlooks Bitola from the east. Its magnificent Pelistermarker mountain (2601 m) is a national park with exquisite flora and fauna, among which the rarest species of pine, known as Macedonian pine or pinus peuce, as well as a well-known ski resort.


As of 2002, the municipality has 95,385 inhabitants and the ethnic composition was the following:



The Bitola area is very rich in monuments from the prehistoric period. Two important ones are Veluška Tumba, and Bara Tumba near the village of Porodin. From the Copper Age there are the settlements of Tumba near the village of Crnobuki, Shuplevec near the village of Suvodol and Visok Rid near the village of Bukri. The Bronze Age is represented by the settlements of Tumba near the village of Kanino and the settlement with the same name near the village of Karamani.

Ancient and early Byzantine periods

There are important metal artifacts from the ancient period, from the necropolis of Crkvishte near the village of Beranci. A golden earring dating from the 4th century BC is depicted on the obverse of the Macedonian 10 denars banknote, issued in 1996.

Heraclea Lyncestismarker ( - City of Hercules upon the Land of the Lynx) was an important settlement from the Hellenistic period till the early Middle Ages. It was founded by Philip II of Macedon by the middle of the 4th century BC, and named after the Greek demigod Heracles, whom Philip considered his ancestor. As an important strategic point it became a prosperous city. The Romans conquered this part of Macedon in 148 BC and destroyed the political power of the city. The prosperity continued mainly due to the Roman Via Egnatia road which passed near the city. Several monuments from the Roman times remain in Heraclea, including a portico, thermae (baths), an amphitheater and a number of basilicas. The theatre was once capable to house around 3,000 people.

In the early Byzantine period (4th to 6th centuries AD) Heraclea was an important episcopal centre. Some of its bishops have been noted in the acts of the Church Councils as bishop Evagrius of Heraclea in the Acts of the Sardica Council from 343 AD. A Small and a Great (Large) basilica, the bishop's residence, a Funeral basilica near the necropolis are some of the remains of this period. Three naves in the Great Basilica are covered with mosaics of very rich floral and figurative iconography; these well preserved mosaics are often regarded as fine examples of the early Christian art period. Other bishops from Heraclea are known between 4th and 6th century AD. The city was sacked by Ostrogothic forces, commanded by Theodoric the Great in 472 AD and, despite a large gift to him from the city's bishop, it was sacked again in 479 AD.

It was restored in the late 5th and early 6th century. In the late 6th century the city suffered successive attacks by Slavic tribes and was gradually abandoned.

Arrival of the Slavs

In the 6th and 7th century AD the region around Monastiri experienced a demographic shift as more and more Slavic tribes settled in the area. In place of the deserted theater, several houses were built during that time. The Slavs also built a defence fortress around their settlement. Monastiri was conquered and remained part of the First Bulgarian Empire from late 8th to early 11th century. The spreading of Christianity was assisted by St. Clement of Ohrid and Naum of Preslav in the 9th and early 10th century. Many monasteries and churches were built in the city.

In the 10th century, Monastiri was under the rule of tsar Samuil of Bulgaria. He built a castle in the town, later used by his successor Gavril Radomir of Bulgaria. The town is mentioned in several medieval sources. John Skylitzes's 11th century chronicle mentions that Emperor Basil II burned Gavril's castles in Monastiri, when passing through and ravaging Pelagonia. The second chrysobull (1019) of Basil II mentioned that the Bishop of Monastiri depended on the Bulgarian Archbishopric of Ohrid. During the reign of Samuil, the city was an important centre in the Bulgarian state and the seat of the Monasir Bishopric. In many medieval sources, especially Western, the name Pelagonia was synonymous with the Monastir Bishopric, and in some of them Monastiri was known under the name of Heraclea due to the church tradition, namely the turning of Heraclea Bishopric into Pelagonian Metropolitan's Diocese. In 1015, tsar Gavril Radomir was killed by his cousin Ivan Vladislav, who declared himself tsar and rebuilt the city fortress. To celebrate the occasion, a stone inscription written in the Cyrillic alphabet was set in the fortress where the Slavic name of the city is mentioned: Bitol.

Following battles with tsar Ivan Vladislav, Byzantine emperor Basil II recaptured Monastiri in 1015. The town is mentioned as an episcopal centre in 1019, in a record by Basil II. Two important uprisings against Byzantine rule took place in the Monastiri area in 1040 and 1072. After the Bulgarian state was restored in late 11th century, Bitola was incorporated under the rule of tsar Kaloyan of Bulgaria. It was conquered again by Byzantium at the end of the 13th century, but became part of Serbiamarker in the first half of the 14th century, after the conquests of Stefan Dušan.

As a military, political and cultural center, Monastiri played a very important role in the life of the medieval society in the region, prior to the Ottoman conquest in mid-14th century. On the eve of the Ottoman conquest, Monastiri (Monastir in Ottoman Turkish) experienced a great boom, having well-established trading links all over the Balkan Peninsula, especially with big economic centers like Constantinoplemarker, Thessalonicamarker, Ragusamarker and Tarnovomarker. Caravans of various goods moved to and from Monastir.

Ottoman rule

Bitola in the 19th century
From 1382 to 1912, Manastır (now Bitola) was part of the Ottoman Empire. Strong battles took place near the city during the arrival of Turkish forces. Turkish rule was completely established after the death of Prince Marko in 1395. For several centuries, Turks were a majority in this city, while the villages were populated mostly with Slavs. Evliya Çelebi says in his Book of Travels that the city had 70 mosques, several coffee-tea rooms, a bazaar (market) with iron gates and 900 shops. Manastır became a sanjak centre in the Rumeli eyalet (Ottoman province).

After the Austro-Ottoman wars, the trade development and the overall thriving of the city was stifled. But in late 19th century, it again it became the second-biggest city in the wider southern Balkan region after Salonica. The city is also known as "city of consuls", because 12 diplomatic consuls resided here during the period 1878–1913.

In 1864, Manastır became the center of Monastir eyalet which included the sanjaks of Debremarker, Serfiçemarker, Elbasanmarker, Manastır (Bitola), Göricemarker and towns of Kırcaovamarker, Pirlepemarker, Florinamarker, Kesriyemarker and Grevenamarker.

Turkish bath

There is opposing ethnographic data from that period, but it appears that no specific ethnic or religious group could claim an absolute majority of the population. According to the 1911 Ottoman census, Greeks were the largest Christian population in the vilayet, with 740,000 Greeks, 517,000 Bulgarians and 1,061,000 Muslims in the vilayets of Selanik (Thessaloniki) and Manastır. However it should be noted that basis of Ottoman censuses was the millet system. People were assigned to ethicity according which religion they belonged. So all Sunni Muslims were categorised as Turks, all members of Greek Orthodox church as Greeks although it included vaste majority of Aromanians and certain number of Macedonian Slavs, while rest being divided between Bulgarian and Serb Orthodox churches. (Also see "Jewish community" below.) But the Ottoman register of Bedel-I Askeriye Tax of 1873 says the Manastır vilayet had about 150 000 Bulgarian men (heads of households), 40 000 Muslim and only 700 Greek. Ottoman population data from 1901 counts 566 000 Slavs, 363 000 Turks and 260 000 Greeks in the Thessalonikimarker and Manastır vilayets.[306].

In 1894, Manastır was connected with Selanikmarker by train. The first motion picture made in the Balkans was recorded by the Aromanian Manakis brothers in Manastır in 1903. In their honour, the annual Manaki Brothers International Film Camera Festival is held in modern Bitola. The Manastır congress of 1908 which defined the modern Albanian alphabet was held in the city.

Ilinden-Preobrazhenie Uprising

Street in Bitola in 1914

The Bitola region was a stronghold of the Ilinden-Preobrazhenie Uprising. The uprising was started as decided in 1903 in Thessaloniki by the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (IMRO). Gotse Delchev opposed the timing of the uprising, saying that the people were not ready. He was killed on 4 May 1903 near Banitzamarker village (today in Greecemarker). The uprising in the Bitola region was planned in Smilevomarker village in May 1903. The battles were fought in the villages of Bistrica, Rakovo, Buf, Skocivir, Paralovo, Brod, Novaci, Smilevo, Gjavato, Capari and others. Smilevo was defended by 600 rebels led by Dame Gruev and Georgi Sugarev, but when they were defeated, villages were burned.

Balkan wars

In 1912, Montenegromarker, Serbiamarker, Bulgariamarker and Greecemarker fought the Ottomans in the First Balkan War. According to the Treaty of Bucharest, 1913, the region of Macedonia was divided in 3 parts among Greeks, Serbs and Bulgarians. Bitola was to be in Bulgaria, according to a pre-war alliance agreement between Bulgaria and Serbia. But the Serbian army entered the city and refused to hand it to Bulgaria. From that moment, the city started to lose its importance and the population started rapidly decreasing, emigrating for Bulgaria and the New World.

World War I

During World War I Bitola was on the Thessaloniki front line. In 1915 Bulgarian forces took the city and the Serb forces were forced to either surrender or try a dangerous escape through the Albanian mountains. In 1916, Bitola was occupied by the Allied Powers which entered the city from the South fighting the Bulgarian army. Bitola was divided into French, Russian, Italian and Serbian regions, under the command of French general Maurice Sarrail. Until Bulgaria's surrender in late autumn 1918, Bitola remained a front line city and was almost every day bombarded by airplanes and battery and suffered almost total destruction.

Between the two World Wars

Macedonian partisans liberating the city of Bitola.
After the end of World War I (1918) Bitola was included in the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, later called the Kingdom of Yugoslaviamarker. The city became a neglected border town, just 14 kilometres from Greecemarker. Bitola's decline continued throughout this period, together with the general decline in Vardarska Banovina (Vardar Banovina), which remained one of the poorest regions in Yugoslavia.

World War II

During the World War II (1941-1945), the Germans and later Bulgarians took control of the city. But in September 1944, Bulgaria switched sides in the war and withdrew from Yugoslavia, and Bitola was freed by Macedonian Pro-Titoist Partisans. On 4 November, the 7th Macedonian Liberation Brigade entered Bitola victoriously. After the end of the war, a Macedonian state was established for the first time in modern history, within Yugoslavia. This had cost about 25.000 human lives. In 1945, the first Gymnasium (named "Josip Broz Tito") to use the Macedonian language, was opened in Bitola.

Jewish Community

After the Expulsion of 1492, Spanish-speaking Jews harassed and persecuted by the Inquisition, accepted by Sultan Bayezid II to the Ottoman territories and arrived in waves from the Iberian peninsula (Spainmarker and Portugalmarker). A majority settled in Salonikamarker, but a large community grew in Monastir and made up over ten percent of the city's population in 1900. The local Jewish population referred to themselves as Monastirli, and a Monastirli synagogue exists to this day in modern Thessalonikimarker.

There was little evidence of anti-Semitism among other local communities. The Jews and the Aromanians were the only communities who did not make a national claim on Macedonian territory and were generally seen as neutral in these disputes.

Most Jews of Monastir were murdered during the Holocaust, and at present none remain in the city.

Historical buildings

The city has many historical building dating from many historical periods. The most notable ones are from the Ottoman age, but there are some the more recent past.

Clock Tower

The clock tower in Bitola.
It is unknown when Bitola's clock tower was built. Written sources from the 16th century mention a clock tower, but it is not clear if it is the same one. Some believe it was built at the same time as St. Dimitrija Church, in 1830. Legend says that the Ottoman authorities collected around 60,000 eggs from nearby villages and mixed them in the mortar to make the walls stronger.
The tower has a rectangular base and is about 30 meters high. Near the top is a rectangular terrace with an iron fence. On each side of the fence is an iron console construction which holds the lamps for lighting the clock. The clock is on the highest of three levels. The original clock was replaced during World War II with a working one, given by the Nazis because the city had maintained German graves from World War I.
The headquarters of the Slavic Institute of Moscow in Bitola
The massive tower is composed of walls, massive spiral stairs, wooden mezzanine constructions, pendentives (triangular pass from square to cupola) and cupola. During the construction of the tower, the facade was simultaneously decorated with simple stone plastic.
The museum of Bitola, with a fountain in the foreground, next to an old block

St. Dimitrija Church

The St. Dimitrija Church was built in 1830 with voluntary contributions of local merchants and craftsmen. It is plain on the outside, as all churches in the Ottoman Empire had to be, but of rare beauty inside, lavishly decorated with chandeliers, a carved bishop throne and an engraved iconostasis. According to some theories, the iconostasis is a work of the Miyak engravers. Its most impressive feature is the arc above the imperial quarters with modeled figures of Jesus and the apostles.

Other engraved wood items include the bishop’s throne made in the spirit of Miyak engravers, several icon frames and five more-recent pillars shaped like thrones. The frescos originate from two periods: the end of the 19th century, and the end of World War I to the present. The icons and frescos were created thanks to voluntary contributions of local businessmen and citizens. The authors of many of the icons had a vast knowledge of iconography schemes of the New Testament. The icons show a great sense of color, dominated by red, green and ochra shades. The abundance of golden ornaments is noticeable and points to the presence of late-Byzantine artwork and baroque style. The icon of St. Dimitrij is signed with the initials "D. A. Z.", showing that it was made by iconographer Dimitar Andonov the zograph in 1889. There are many other items, including the putiri made by local masters, a darohranilka of Russian origin, and several paintings of scenes from the New Testament, brought from Jerusalem by pilgrims.

The opening scenes of the film The Peacemaker were shot in the "St. Dimitrija" church in Bitola, as well as some Welcome to Sarajevo scenes.

Ajdar-kadi mosque

The Ajdar-kadi (Turkish judge) Mosque is one of the most attractive monuments of Islamic architecture in Bitola. It was built in the early 1560s, as the project of the famous architect Mimar Sinan, ordered by the Bitola kadija Ajdar-kadi. Over time, it was abandoned and heavily damaged, but recent restoration and conservation has restored to some extent its original appearance.

Jeni mosque

The Jeni mosque is located in the center of the city. It has a square base, topped with a cupola. Near the mosque is a minaret, 40 m high. Today, the mosque's rooms house permanent and temporary art exhibitions. Recent archaeological excavations have revealed that it has been built upon an old church.

Ishak mosque

The Ishak mosque is the inheritance of the famous kadi Ishak Çelebi. In its spacious yard are several tombs, attractive because of the soft, molded shapes of the sarcophagi.

The old bazaar

The old bazaar (Macedonian: Стара Чаршија) is mentioned in a description of the city from the 16th and the 17th century. The present bezisten does not differ much in appearance from the original one. The bezisten had 86 shops and 4 large iron gates. The shops used to sell textiles, and today sell food products.

Deboj Bath

The Deboj Bath is a Turkish bath (hamam). It is not known when exactly it was constructed. At one point, it was heavily damaged, but after repairs it regained its original appearance: beautiful facade, two large cupolas and several minor ones.


Bitola is located in the south-western part of Macedonia. The Dragor Rivermarker flows through the city. Bitola is located at an elevation of 615 meters above sea level.

Bitola today

Bitola is the main economic and industrial center of southwestern Macedonia. Many of the largest companies in the Republic are based here. The Pelagonija agricultural combine is the largest producer of food in the country. The Streževo water system is the largest in the Republic of Macedonia and has the best technological facilities. The three thermoelectric power stations of REK Bitola produce nearly 80% of electricity in the state. The Frinko refrigerate factory was a leading electrical and metal company. Bitola also has significant capacity in the textile and food industries.

Eleven countries have so far opened consulates in Bitola:


There are three Bitola Television Stations: TERA, Orbis and Medi, four regional radio stations: the state Radio Bitola, and the private Radio 105, Aktuel Bombarder and Radio Delfin as well as a local weekly newspaper — Bitolski Vesnik.


Heraclea Festival

The "Heraclea Festival" or also known as "Heraclea Evenings" is a summer event that takes places throughout the whole summer and its main concentration is on theater, art, and music.At the moment, the Heraclea Festival is highly appraised European Festival with a determined future for its artistic conception and tendency for a new vision for the next millennium.

Manaki Festival of Film and Camera

In memories of the first cameramen on the Balkans, Milton Manaki, every September the Film and Photo festival "Brothers Manaki" takes place. It is a combination of documentary and full-length films that are being shown. The festival is a world class event and it is a must see.

"Ilindenski Denovi"

Every year, the traditional folk festival "Ilinden Days" takes place in Bitola. It is a 4-5 day festival of music, songs, and dances that is dedicated to the Ilinden Uprising against the Turks, where the main concentration is placed on the folk culture of Macedonia. Folk dances and songs are presented with many folklore groups and organizations taking part in it.

"Small Monmartre of Bitola"

In the last few years, the Art manifestation "Small Monmartre of Bitola" that is organized by the art studio "Kiril and Metodij" has turned into a successful children's art festival. Children from all over the world come to express their imagination through art, creating important and priceless art that is presented in the country and around the world. "Small Monmartre of Bitola" is a winner of numerous awards and nominations.

"Serenada on Sirok-sokak"

Bitola, Sirok-sokak, love, friends, singing, drinking.... remembering the old days in cosmopolitan Bitola, the most modern city since the time of the Consuls. This is the reason the festival "Serenada on Sirok sokak" was created by artist and musicians from Bitola and since then it is organized every year. About 25-30 songs are performed in 2 days, and what is significant about the festival is that artist perform live. Awards are given according to audience decision.The general manager of festival is Mile Serdenkov.


Every May, Bitola hosts the International children's song festival Si-Do, which in recent years has gained much popularity.

Children from different countries all over Europe participate in this event which usually consists of about 20 songs. This festival is supported by ProMedia which organizes the event with new topic each year.

Festival for Classical music Interfest

It is an international festival dedicated mainly to classical music where many creative and reproductive artist from all over the world take place. In addition to the classical music concerts, there are also few nights for pop-modern music, theater plays, art exhibitions, and a day for literature presentation during the event. In the last few years there have been artists from Russiamarker, Slovakiamarker, Polandmarker,and many other countries.For the reason of Bitola being called the city with most pianos, there is one night of the festival dedicated to piano competitions. One award is given for the best young piano player, and another for competitors under 30.

Pop music festivals

The festival "Interfest" for adults, and "Si-do" , for children is where the talent of Bitola in modern music is found. Artists from this category that come from Bitola are Karolina Goceva, Suzana Turundjieva and others.


St. Clement of Ohrid University of Bitola ( . Климент Охридски — Битола) was founded in 1979, as a result of dispersed processes that occurred in education in the 1970s, and increasing demand of highly skilled professionals outside the country's capital. Since 1994, it has carried the name of the Slavic educator St. Clement of Ohrid. The university has institutes in Bitola, Ohridmarker, and Prilepmarker, and headquarters in Bitola. With its additions in education and science, it has established itself, and cooperates with University of St. Cyril and Methodius from Skopjemarker and other universities in the Balkans and Europe. The following institutes and scientific organizations are part of the university:
  • Technical Faculty – Bitola
  • Economical Faculty – Prilepmarker
  • Faculty of Tourism and Leisure management – Ohridmarker
  • Teachers Faculty – Bitola
  • Faculty of biotechnological sciences – Bitola
  • Faculty of administration and management of information systems — Bitola
  • Medical college – Bitola
  • Tobacco institute – Prilep
  • Hydro-biological institute – Ohrid
  • Slavic cultural institute – Prilep

The city also has seven high schools and ten primary schools.The ten Primary Schools in Bitola are:

  • "Sv. Kiril i Metodij"
  • "Sv. Kliment Ohridski"
  • "Goce Delcev"
  • "Elpida Karamandi"
  • "Dame Gruev"
  • "Todor Angelevski"
  • "Kole Kaninski"
  • "Trifun Panovski"
  • "Stiv Naumov"
  • "Gorgi Sugarev"

People from Bitola

Some notable people born in Bitola are:

International relations

Twin towns — Sister cities

Bitola is twinned with:
Bitola participates in town twinning to foster good international relations. Its current partners include:


File:Bitolj.jpg|Bitola seen from Baba mountainFile:Bitolj - crkva svete bogorodice.jpg|Holy Virgin Church in BitolaFile:Mount Pelister MK.jpg|Bitola - The National park Pelister.File:Dragor downflow.jpg|The Dragormarker river and a bridge for pedestrians.File:Dragor upflow.JPG|The Dragormarker river and a bridge for vehicles.File:Pelagonka 2 Bitola.JPG|A building block known as Pelagonka 2.File:Grozdot Bitola.JPG|A building block known as Grozd.File:Bitola center MK.jpg|Bitola in Winter (January 2006).File:Bitola fountain.JPG|The fountain in front of the museum.File:Goce Delchev Bitola.JPG|The school building of the Goce Delchev primary school.File:Goce Delchev Bitola 2.JPG|The school building of the Goce Delchev primary school.Image:Philip II statue being built in Bitola.JPG|The building site of the statue of Philip II of Macedon in Bitola, with the clock tower in the background, as well as the Ishak mosque.Image:Philip II statue being built in Bitola 2.JPG|The building site of the statue of Philip II of Macedon in Bitola, with the clock tower in the background, as well as the Ishak mosque.Image:Sirok sokak and the Macedonian flag.JPG|An old building block, and the big flag pole with the Macedonian flag in the background.File:Bitola Clock Tower.JPG|Bitola Clock Tower



  • Basil Gounaris, "From Peasants into Urbanites, from Village into Nation: Ottoman Monastir in the Early Twentieth Century", European History Quarterly 31:1 (2001), pp. 43–63. online copy

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