Boyana Church (World Heritage)

According to aparentingblog, the church at the gates of Sofia impresses with its unique wall paintings, which were created in 1259 under the reign of Tsar Konstantin Asen and the governor Sebastokrator Kaloyan.

Boyana Church: Facts

Official title: Boyana Church (Sofia)
Cultural monument: Church buildings from the 10th to 13th centuries, including the chapel of St. Nicholas and St. Panteleimon; In addition to religious scenes such as the representation “Christ in conversation with the scribes in the temple”, which is rare in Byzantine wall paintings, there are also figurative representations of Tsar Konstantin Assen and Tsarina Irina (1257-77) as well as the monk Euphremius
Continent: Europe
Country: Bulgaria
Location: Boyana, on the outskirts of Sofia
Appointment: 1979
Meaning: one of the most important medieval fresco paintings and the most important testimony of old Bulgarian painting

Boyana Church: History

10/11 Century oldest part of the church
1259 Painting of the church under the reign of Tsar Konstantin Assen and the governor Sebastokrator Kalojan
1882 Annex and bell tower

Beyond the traditional canon

It is above all the wall paintings that substantiate the extraordinary cultural and historical significance of the Church of Boyana. As is so often the case with medieval works, the creator of the wall paintings is not known. Many art historians assume that there must have been two masters who, however, managed to create a uniform work. Scenes with more than 200 figures now cover walls and ceilings, even if many of the paintings are now badly damaged. These wall paintings can be found at the foot of the Vitosha Mountains in three churches, which together form a sacred unit.

The center of attention from art experts and historians is the brick church from the 10th century, the murals on the ceilings and walls are still partially preserved. The regional feudal ruler Sebastokrator Kalojan had this chapel enlarged in the 13th century and a two-story church added. Both churches were cleverly connected to one another; Testimony to the founder’s respect for previous traditions. As an inscription shows, this church was completely painted when it was consecrated in 1259.

Without a doubt, the frescoes are based on the canon of medieval painting, as determined by Byzantine art of the time. This applies above all to the selection of religious topics and their arrangement. But the masters of Bojana had succeeded in breaking the prevailing traditional forms and equipping their figures with a degree of individuality and presence that only developed elsewhere much later in the Renaissance. In their gestures and individualized facial features, the biblical figures and saints express movement and agitation beyond the traditional canon, which point to a period of upheaval. The depicted scenes from the life of Jesus and the saints, including numerous “warrior saints”, were used in order to visualize general human impulses as well as thoughts relating to the time at that time. It is above all this ability that does not leave today’s observer unimpressed. This can be clearly seen in the representation of the worldly persons. In addition to the then tsar Constantine and his wife Irina, who were related to the donor couple, the portrayal of the donor couple in particular inspired art experts themselves. First and foremost, it is the portrait of Kalojan’s wife, Dessislava, that testifies to the great talent of the artist. It is commonly referred to as one of the most perfect portraits of women of the Middle Ages. The depictions of St. Euphremius and some of the figures of Jesus are of similar expressiveness.

The masters of the Boyana Church were obviously influenced by the icon painting of that time, whose sense of color, representation of nature, attention to detail and imagery they transferred to their wall paintings. In other scenes, on the other hand, in “Jesus among the scribes”, the artist’s concern is to insert elements and details of the present into the historical representation and thereby to give the depicted a presence.

For many years the frescoes have been subject to an elaborate and complicated restoration process, the end of which is not in sight. The fact that the frescoes are no longer accessible to the public serves to protect them; they were too badly affected by the flow of visitors. What remains are the images of these unique works of art.

Boyana Church (World Heritage)