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Boyana Church, Sofia, Bulgaria

Boyana Orthodox Church stands at the foot of Vitosha mountain in Boyana district, Sofia. The church was located at the stronghold of Boyana, which in the past was one of the 35 fortresses and settlements that formed the fortification systems of the city of Sofia. The church received the name of the fortress, but originally it was a temple of St. Nicholas and St. Panteleimon.

The church consists of three multi-temporal structures. The first dates to X century, the next, second building - XIII, and the last wing was completed in the XIX century.

The first building is the smallest, with one dome. Transverse arch supports built-in cross-bearing. The second building is adjacent to the western side of the first wing; it is larger, two-story construction. In the first floor is the tomb of the Bulgarian King Kaloyan and his wife Desislava. The second floor is the family chapel. Outside walls of the church are decorated with ceramics. The third building is the most westerly and concedes with its inferior, architectural and artistic value. But in the first two buildings there are around 240 images.

Paintings of Boyana Church refer to the period of the Byzantine Empire. The cultural identity of the empire known as the source for the artistic techniques of the Orthodox world, but in spite of proximity to the Byzantine artistic roots, in Boyana murals distinguished a certain flatness, contour, sharp of portrait parties.

The frescoes, murals and icons are made in different times, many of them belong to the XI-XII centuries, and are located in the eastern building and some of them are under a layer of more recent works that have been made later, in 1259. Boyana Church became famous due to these works. Images are made in Tarnovo Artistic School style, but the names of the artist or maybe even artists are still unknown. The figures are made strictly in accordance with the canon, which was established by the Seventh Ecumenical Council in 787.

The frescoes and paintings featured to the image of Christ, the Virgin Mary with archangels, the four evangelists, saints, and biblical scenes, revealing the importance of the major religious holidays and ceremonies.

On the walls of the church you can also see the reflection of St. Nicholas's life. Complete painting of the 18 scenes from his life decorates the second porch of the church. These images are very different from painting style of those times; they are very rich, full depth of spirituality, but look very realistic. It is striking departure from the generally accepted canons of faces and images from the Gospel. Frescoes with young characters and the faces are very different from each other. In addition, the table in front of the members of the Last Supper is depicted realistically herbs, garlic and onions.

There are also lots of later dated works found in Boyana Church such as the Presentation of the Virgin Mary (XIV century), a portrait of St. Nicholas (XVI-XVII century), Presentation of St. Nicholas and St. Panteleimon (XIX century).

Boyana fortress is a magnificent and unique example of medieval architecture and monumental art of Eastern Europe. The Church, along with other historical sites of Boyana, was placed on UNESCO's World Heritage List.

By Lilit Vanesyan,


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