Located in Bitola, Macedonia in the Magnolia Square, is the city’s most iconic landmark, the clock tower. A local legend claims that a mysterious symbol is hidden somewhere on the tower’s facade. During our visit, we could not spot it despite doing a lengthy search. Luckily, a local guide confirmed the presence of an engraved falcon hidden on the Bitola Tower. This article will share the story of the symbol and reveal its location, thus solving the mystery of Bitola’s clock tower falcon.
Bitola Macedonia Clock History
The clock tower’s beginnings are a highly debated mystery. This is because it is unclear when the tower was actually constructed. There are records that speak of a clock tower in the city as early as the 14th century. However, it is unlikely that this is the exact tower that still stands today.
Some researchers suggest that the tower was constructed in 1830, at the same time as the nearby church of St. Demetrius. Others state that it was built during the period of Turkish rule, in the 14th century, along with the Yeni mosque.
Historians do know that 15 new bells (weighing 900 kg) were placed in the tower as a sign of gratitude for the construction of the Memorial Cemetery of German soldiers killed in the First World War.
Christians vs. Ottomans
In 1830, near the end of Ottoman occupation, the Church of Saint Demetrius was constructed. Under Turkish rule, the building of Christian churches was not permitted. However, as the Turkish empire weakened, permission was granted to build churches to keep the population happy.
The builders were required to follow strict rules when constructing the church. For example, the exterior needed to be plain without ornate decorations. Also, the church had to be constructed one meter below ground level so that it wouldn’t dominate the city’s skyline—meaning the church mustn’t stand taller than the Muslim mosque.
Bitola’s Hidden Symbol
The clock tower was also constructed by the Christians during the Turkish occupation. Legend says that in keeping with the Turkish rule of keeping the tower plain, the Christian builders hid the symbol of a falcon attacking a snake in its construction. This symbol represents the eternal struggle of good versus evil. It is placed on the 15th stone up, on the northeast side of the tower. It was purposely placed out of sight.
Bitola was one of our favorite stops on our tour of Macedonia. It has a charming, small city vibe with shady parks and a cafe-lined Main Street. Of all of Macedonia’s cities, Bitola feels the most European with its romantic 19th century neo-classical architecture. Visit our Bitola guide to learn more about the best things to do and see in Macedonia’s second-largest city.
From the Bitola Bus Station, we were able to walk about 1 mile to our hotel. We booked accommodations at the Theatre Apartments for about USD 30 night. It was a clean, comfortable place to stay with a kitchenette, washing machine, and a balcony. Also, the apartment is a short 5-10 minute walk from the city center.