Depiction of a Church in the St. Naum’s Engraving Made by Hristofor Zefar
In 1743 Hristofor Zefar produced an engraving of Saint Naum of Ohrid, which
was commissioned by a Naum Bikerasz. In the same year, he made yet another
engraving of the saint in Vienna to fulfil the order of a Mikhail Gotounisz.
Iconographically, this second copperplate shows no difference from the first one.
The engraving entitled Saint Naum of Ohrid with Scenes of his Life follows the
structure of hagiographic icons with border scenes: the large-sized central panel is
framed by sixteen smaller scenes. The former represents the single figure of Saint Naum
of Ohrid, while the latter evoke events of his life. The hagiographic composition is
completed by a veduta at the bottom. Out of the sixteen compositions in the engraving,
nine involve a church building. The central panel, the veduta and five border scenes
include a church exterior, while two further border scenes a church interior. The
commissioner of this print, who lived far away from his mother country, intended to
strengthen his authentic identity by having a Saint Naum representation made for him.
This is implied by his wish to have the most significant saint and cultic place of his
motherland represented. Accordingly, there are several images of the cultic place of
Ohrid, Saint Naum’s church in the engraving, though none of them depict the existing
church. In his work, which is a Western type print, the artist follows the relevant
principles of representation and depicts Naum’s church as an imaginary building, as if to
provide scenery symbolic of a this-worldly environment. It is the veduta attached to the
hagiographic section of the engraving that features a verisimilar representation of Saint
Naum’s church in Ohrid.
Zefar complies with the intentions of his commissioner in both sections of the
print. In the upper, hagiographic unit, he evokes the most significant saintly and cultic
place of his old mother country in the manner of Western miracle pictures/engravings.
By this, he expresses on the one hand his commissioner’s strong attachment to his
birthplace, and on the other, Naum Bikerasz’s potential assimilation to his new
environment, which is manifested in the conformation of his artistic tastes to Western
models and materialises in the choice of a Western type artwork. For Naum Bikerasz,
Western artistic forms had already ousted Eastern ones in striving for an authentic
representation of his old mother country. The veduta in the lower section of the print –
the equivalent of a contemporary “photograph” – recalls the old mother country
touching upon the very practical, rational sensitivity of the merchant. Naum Bikerasz
found an excellent master in the person of Hristofor Zefar.
Saint Naum of Ohrid, Hristofor Zefar, Macedo-Vlachs in the Hungarian
Kingdom, church image, preservation of national identity, assimilation of ethnic