The Boyana ChurchThe frescoes of Boyana Church (Boyanskata tsarkva) have been painted by the Bulgarian icon-painter Vasiliy from the village of Subonosha, the region of Sersko, in 1259, and funded by the bequest of the governor of Sredets district (Sofia). The frescoes of Boyana Church (Boyanskata tsarkva) have been painted by the Bulgarian icon-painter Vasiliy from the village of Subonosha, the region of Sersko, in 1259, and funded by the bequest of the governor of Sredets district (Sofia). Sebastocrator Kaloyan and his wife Desislava. Restored by Prof Grigoriy Grigorov and Vladimir Tsvetkov in 2006 - 2008.
By the charitable bequest of
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The Boyana church is a medieval Christian temple built stage-by-stage during 11th, 13th and 14th century. The church is a cultural heritage under the protection of UNESCO. UNESCO’s World Heritage List consists of about 1,000 cultural monuments all over the world and the Boyana church is one of seven listed Bulgarian monuments. The Boyana church is famous mostly for the frescoes dating back to 1259, which were drawn by a very talented painter, whose means of expression are said to be revolutionary for the European art of painting. Some scientists call him the predecessor of European Renaissance.
The church was built in three separate construction stages:
The oldest section (the eastern church-10th-11th century) is a small cross-vaulted church (The Old Church) which was renovated in 12th century.
The second section (13th century i.e. under the reign of the Bulgarian Tsar Constantine Asen Tikh and Tsaritsa Irina) was commissioned by Sebastocrator Kaloyan and his wife Dessislava and adjoins the eastern church. During that time a spacious narthex and a small chapel devoted to St Panteleimon were drawn. In 1259 the whole church was repainted by Bulgarian icon-painters.
The iniciative “The eternal buildings of Bulgaria” layed the beginning of the third stage in its building structure.
Boyana church has three pictorial layers, painted in 11th, 13th and 16th century. According to the donor’s inscription the second layer of frescoes dates back to 1259.
The Boyana Church is the only one and most impressive wholly preserved monument from that period of the Turnovo School of Painting.
The painter has created a valuable gallery of his contemporaries.
Тhe world famous frescoes in the Boyana Church played an important role in the development of mediaeval Bulgarian and European art of painting.
But who is actually the painter of the church? According to scientific publications by the beginning of 2008 it was usually stated that: “The name of the painter has remained unknown.” During the middle ages painters used to remain anonymous as a result of the Church’s official opinion that it is God and not talent setting the painters’ hands in motion. The canon of icon-painting demanded that artists remained anonymous, which was considered an act of Christian modesty and humbleness.
But some painters did not agree and found ways of disclosing their names. During the restoration of the west external wall of the church in 1259, the restorers Prof Grigori Grigorov and Vladimir Tsvetkov found the following inscription on the so called rough coat: “I, Vasiliy, wrote (painted – A/N)”. These engravings have been done with a drawing charcoal that painters used for mural paintings and drawings of the characters’ contours. The painter knew that his name would remain unknown under the second layer of stucco hundreds of years ahead, but he was also aware that one day people will know the actual creator of these masterpieces. Prof Kazimir Popkonstantinov and Associate Prof Zarko Zhdrakov found the name of “Icon-painter Vasiliy from the village of Subonosha, the region of Sersko” in the so called Boyana Monument (a list of Bulgarian tsars who are given memorial services).
Scientists have long since noticed that the frescoes are marked by the “three hands”. The main characters such as sophisticated persons and saints were painted by one painter, while secondary saints were portrayed in less visible spots by apprentices. Associate Prof Zhdrakov assumes that the second artist was called Dimitar judging by the inscription on the sword of St. Dimitar. The weapons of saints used to be the perfect places for writing the name of the artist. The name of the third painter (apprentice) still remains unknown.
Thus, Vasiliy and Dimitar are considered the names of the two talented
Bulgarian painters who created the frescoes in 1259- the masterpieces of the Boyana Church.
In 2006 within the “The eternal buildings of Bulgaria” initiative the world of business and culture joined hands to perform an extremely noble act– the restoration of the building and its frescoes. More than 60 donators– construction companies, financial organizations and private persons have taken part in the initiative.
In March 2006 a project by the National Institute of Cultural Monuments (NICM) was approved and a restoration team, lead by Prof G. Grigorov started operating on the project. In June 2008 the restoration of the frescoes and the building have been successfully completed. In 2005, within the “Building of the Year” National Contest a new award was founded - “The eternal buildings of Bulgaria”. It is initiated by the organizers of the contest and the sponsor of the contest Euromarket Group. The aim of the award is to raise funds for the restoration of cultural and historical monuments which are said to be valuable national heritage. The Boyana Church “St. Nicholas and St.Panteleimon” was the first building to win the award.