The Boyana Church, Sofia Bulgaria
Kirche von Bojana bei Sofia, Bulgaria

Боянската църква край София "Свв. Никола и Пантелеймон"


The Boyana Church, a general view from the northeast


Located on the outskirts of Sofia, Boyana Church consists of three buildings. The eastern church was built in the 10th century, then enlarged at the beginning of the 13th century by Sebastocrator Kaloyan, who ordered a second two-storey building to be erected next to it. The frescoes in this second church, painted in 1259, make it one of the most important collections of medieval paintings. The ensemble is completed by a third church, built at the beginning of the 19th century. This site is one of the most complete and perfectly preserved monuments of east European medieval art.

See also:



Христос сред книжниците, стенопис от Боянската църква от 1259 година
Христос сред книжниците.
Стенопис от Боянската църква от 1259 година



Светият Убрус - неръкотворният образ на Христа. Фреска от 1259 г. в Боянската църква в София
Светият Убрус - неръкотворният образ на Христа.
Фреска от 1259 г. в Боянската църква в София



The Boyana Church

Lozinka Koinova-Arnaudova
Vasil Kitov

:: Introduction
:: Architectural and Artistic design of the Medieval Churches and Their Significance
:: The Creators of The Boyana Church
:: The Art Techniques




Боянската църква край София, поглед към вътрешността на храма. During the Middle Ages the strong Bulgarian fortress of Boyana (Batil) stood on the lower slopes of Mount Vitosha in what is now the Sofia suburb of Boyana. This name is mentioned for the firs time in 969. Boyana was one of the thirty-five fortresses and settlements, which formed the fortification systems of the city of Sredets (Sofia). The Boyana Church was build within the fortress and is a magnificent example of medieval architecture and monumental art.

The Boyana Church is about 900 years old. During its existence, the Church has undergone many transformation and extensions, and thus its present complex volume differs considerably from the original. New buildings have been added to the First (East) Church, architectural transformations have been made, the decoration has been changed. At present the Boyana Church consists buildings - from the 11th, 13th and 19th centuries. Only the first two churches, built during the Middle Ages, possess significant aesthetic and architectural value.



Architectural and Artistic Design of the Medieval Churches and Their Significance

The oldest Boyana Church, the so-called East or first Church was designed and used as a chapel. It was a typical Greek-cross plan with a dome, and a concealed internal cross without free-standing support and without a narthex. It is made entirely of brickwork. The volume presents an almost perfect cube. a small semicircular apse protrudes from the east wall. The north and south facades are articulated on the outside with three blind arches each with the central arch higher than the side ones, The arches are not related to the structure of the building. The brickwork decoration are figural: archivolts with "wolf's tooth" and concentric rows of bricks above the arches. The Church has a hipped roof with the solid drum of the dome rising from the walls without any sort of transition.

The plan of the interior is reminiscent of a Greek cross and the transition between the square of the naos and the dome is accomplished by means of pendentives. The floor is covered with bricks. Many fragments, which probably belonged to the original stone iconostasis, have been found in the vicinity. The East Church was scantily lit by long narrow openings - one each on the north and south walls, four on the dome - as well as through one triforium on the apse.

The entire interior surface of the walls and dome was covered with murals. Some larger fragments have been preserved in the apse. As the First Church was painted again in the middle of the 18th Century, traces of the original paintings are noticeable only where the upper layer of murals has been destroyed.

The little preserved is not sufficient for the restoration of the whole composition scale and iconography of the murals, but we can infer something of their style and technique of execution. The murals were monumentally executed in al fresco. They convey a light and gentle water-colour effect. The technique is instrumental for defining the time of construction and decoration of the First Church. Some scholars date it to the 10th Century and others to the 11th or 12th Century. Recent investigations have shown that the First Church was redecorated and certain areas were painted a second time. The repairs were carried out before 1259. Fragments of this intermediate layer were found upon the west facade of the First Church (which is now in the interior of the Boyana Church ) and upon the southern interior wall. The repaired fragments show paintings with reduced proportion alien to the original colour scheme.

 Desislava, Frescoe from the Boyana ChurchIn the 13th Century the feudal ruler of the western region of the Second Bulgarian State, Sebastocrator Kaloyan, and his wife Desislava, who were closely related to the royal family, commissioned the extension of the church. The builders added a new two-storey building to the western wall of the First Church. The ground floor has direct access from the First Church and was intended as a narthex. It is rectangular, covered with a cylindrical vault. On the inside, the walls are decorated only with two niches on the southern and northern sides respectively. There is reason to believe that he niches intended for burials and narthex, for a family tomb. However, no graves have been found. The upstairs floor of Kaloyan's Church has an almost identical architectural composition to the older building - in the shape of a Greek cross. The upper floor was used as a family chapel. It was dedicated to the martyr healer St. Panteleimon. Access to the chapel is by on outside staircase along the southern wall. It is possible that the stairs connected the chapel with the house of the nobleman. there are grounds for believing that the event of danger, the mobile staircase was removed. thus, the upstairs chapel could also be used as a defense tower.

Tow-storey high mortuary churches of similar structure are to be found elsewhere in Bulgaria, e.g. the church in the Assen Fortress near Assenovgrad and the funeral chapel in the Bansko Monastery.

The Tasks facing the builder of Kaloyan's Church were very complex. First, he had to preserve the East Church; second, he had to be connected with the ground-floor of the existing church; and third, he had to erect a second floor to house the family chapel and to serve as defense tower in emergencies for the Sebastocrator and his family and friends. The builder has managed all these tasks brilliantly. The Boyana Church combines the East and Kaloyan's churches in an ingenious combination of functional, structural, architectural and decorative requirements.

The builder made some alterations in the old church but adhered to its existing building technology. The first floor of the new church is made of mixed brickwork and masonry. the bricks are used predominantly as leveling layers. the second floor is entirely of brickwork. The articulation of the facades is figural as in the First Church . The northern and southern facades have four blind arches each on the level of the second floor. One of the arches on the southern wall is wider and was used as an entrance to the chapel on the second floor. the eastern facade of Kaloyan's Church rises above the roof of the First Church. On the outside its surface is broken by a small semicircular apse.

Archangel Cabriel, Boyana Church, northern wallThe western, entrance facade is the most representative and has a pronounced monumental character. There is an evident wish to stress the two storeys of the volume. The builder aimed at uniting the appearance of the building and has repeated the articulation consisting First Church the four blind arches. The treatment of the surface corresponding to the first floor was probably influenced by the design of the southern and northern facades of the First Church. The wall contains an entrance with a niche for a painting of the donor above it, flanked by two larger niches. A solid dome stood above the roof supported on the square under the dome. This dome was destroyed (probably in one of the many earthquakes in the area during the 17th Century).

Apparently after that, the upper floor remained deserted for a long time without any attempts at repairing it. It is possible that it remained in this state up to the 19th Century when the Boyana Church was finally rebuilt and a very primitive building was added to the west facade of Kaloyan's Church. It is a great pity that the builder of this extension did not manage to the further develop the existing architectural composition; instead, he clumsily spoiled the overall impact. The extension and its decoration have no artistic value. The 19th Century building is merely a stage in the -life of the Boyana Church. It is two-storeys high. The first storey constitutes a passage to the downstairs floor of the medieval church. There was a staircase leading to the second floor. The connection with the St. Panteleimon chapel was through a large opening in the western medieval facade. The original entrance to the upper church was initially on the south facade but as present it is blocked. The destroyed solid dome similar to the present one. Today the two medieval churches are plastered on the outside. Thus all decorative elements on the facades have been hidden. Until several years age, the medieval architecture of the Boyana Church could not be seen; now the restoration works are gradually revealing the original appearance of the building.

For the foundation of the Kaloyan Church the builder has used huge stones, some of which are carefully hewn. He was particularly careful with each stone and has included in the masonry stonework with reliefs and elements from the old medieval stone iconostasis of the First Church, as well as fragments of antique buildings - parts of columns, cornices, etc. - some of them with considerable dimensions and elaborate decoration. The artistic work of the fragments gives grounds for supporting that they belonged to some of the monumental buildings in the ancient city of Serdika.

The attitude of the builder to tradition is very significant. His respect for the existing church, which he preserved and included in the composition is only an element First Church his professional respect for his predecessors. Apparently the donor of the Church himself, the Sebastocrator Kaloyan, the ruler of the region, which included Sredets (ancient Serdica), had a similar attitude towards continuity He was related to Tsar Constantine Assen Tikh; and the Church was built during his reign. The portraits of the royal couple in the Boyana Church emphasize the relation First Church the family of the Sebastocrator to the court in the capital of the Second Bulgarian State, Tirnovo. At that time Tirnovo was a flourishing cultural centre,, since the favorable political and economic climate there resulted in the development of literary and artistic work. Continuity is an element of humanism which was a characteristic feature of the period. The Church of the Forty Holy Martyrs was built in Tirnovo in the 13th Century. Among its many columns this church contains one which was brought there: it is an old column from the time of Khan Omurtag and marks the connection between the First and Second Bulgarian State. The donor of the Church of the Forty Holy Martyrs, Tsar Ivan Assen II, after the victorious battle at Klokotnitsa, wanted particularly to emphasize this continuity. Some stonework from the ancient city of Nikopolis ad Istrum was used in the construction both of the Church of the Forty Holy Martyrs and the metropolitan Church of S.S. Peter an d Paul. These facts indicate that the builder of the Boyana Church had direct links with the cultural centre of Tirnovo. An emphasis on continuity, along with an admiration for the aesthetics of Antiquity, were typical features of the Palaeologus style, which at that time was spreading throughout the Mediterranean world.

Apart from the stonework from ancient buildings included in the construction, the Kaloyan Church processes other characteristics decoration of the facades. During restoration, the layers of plasters that had been later added were removed and it was revealed that a band of glazed ceramic ornaments consisting of alternating small rings and four-leaved clovers was placed above all arches (Four each on the south, north and west facades) as well as above the two niches, which flank the entrance and above the donor's niche on the west facade. Fragments of the band are preserved. The cornices were probably made of bricks arranged in "wolf's tooth" ornament similar to the original cornice above the apse of two-storey high church. All other cornices have been altered during repairs in the second half of the 19th Century, when the third part of the complex was built and the medieval facades were plastered over.

Concerning the spatial proportions and plastic design the East Church and the Kaloyan Church bear the characteristic features of the time when they were erected. But the builder of Kaloyan's Church respected the existing church and succeeded in incorporating the existing volume in a harmonious composition with dynamic expressiveness. The layout of the plans were widespread in Bulgaria. The ornamentation of the otherwise austere facade is very significant. The archivolts with "wolf's teeth" along the facades of the East Church were traditional elements in the decoration of religious buildings at the time of the First Bulgarian State and particularly for the Lake Okhrid building school. The glazed ceramic ornamentation was very elaborately used in Tirnovo and Nessebur during the Second Bulgarian State. Thus the decoration of the Boyana Church may be regarded as an example of skillful implementation of two decorative devices widely used in Bulgarian architecture during the Middle Ages. The development of facade decoration may be traced here and in very few other places. Furthermore, here we observe not the juxtaposition but the harmonious integration of two decoration methods, each in its own right.


The new church, extended and renewed by the family of the Sebastocrator, was decorated with paintings and consecrated in 1259, which we deduce from the donor's inscription: "The immaculate temple of Church's holy Hierarch, Nikola, and of the holy eloquent, martyr of Christ, was erected with means, care and great love of Sebastocrator Kaloyan, cousin of the tsar and grandson of St. Stefan, King First Church Serbia. Painted in the Bulgarian kingdom during the reign of the pious and devout Tsar Constantine Assen, index 7, 6767". This date corresponds to the year 1259.

The world-famous Boyana Church is in fact the extended and renewed church of Kaloyan with murals an three areas - in the family chapel, on the second floor dedicated to the martyr St. Panteleimon, and the church chapel with the narthex-tomb on the lower floor dedicated to St. Nikola.

Sebastocrator Kaloyan invited artists for the painting of the Church. How did they face the challenge?

The murals in the St. Panteleimon Chapel on the second floor are severely damaged. Only small fragments are preserved, which do not allow the reconstruction of the overall composition and the iconography. Parts of scenes and images can be distinguished: St. Panteleimon and the Archangel Michael, parts of the scene with Mary, Mother of God and Saints, a fragment of the figure of the donor and several other small details. These paintings are,, however, sufficient to indicate that the murals in both of Kaloyan's churches were painted simultaneously and by the same artists. The southern wall of the church bears traces of repairs.

The interior of the new Church of St. Nikola, extended downstairs, were entirely covered with new murals, while the fragments of preserved frescoes of the First Church were covered with a thick layer of plaster. Thus the old paintings disappeared for centuries.

The arrangement of the scenes in the overall decorative and monumental composition of the downstairs and upstairs churches follow the Byzantine iconographic models established in the 11th Century. Very few scenes and images have been borrowed from the Byzantine models; only the most important ones. The monumental image of the Church the Almighty is painted on the dome of the downstairs church, which rises above the old east building. The medallion with the image is supported by eighth angels. The four Evangelists are painted on the pendentives of the dome and the area around them contains the four incarnation of Church. Further down, in the niches along the north, south and west walls, upon the thickness of the arches the most important episodes of Church's life are depicted. They are arranged so that the subject of Church's sufferings and death are opposite the life-vindication scenes. This arrangement is not accidental. It is closely related to the inventions of the author and to his personal attitude towards the problem of the beginning and of human existence and life itself. This juxtaposition the small area of the family chapel adjoining the family tomb provokes contemplations on the tragic cycle of human life. The figures emanate perfection and simplicity. They float out of their own.

Another element expressing the personal choice of the painters concerning the context of the composition is the often repeated image of Christ. It is neither accidental, nor a canon requirement, that his image is repeated twenty-one times upon the walls of such a small church as St. Nikola's.

Regardless of the fact that religious symbols were the only means for artistic expression of the medieval artist, the images of Christ possess other meaning as well. They represent a graded apotheosis of man. These images are tremendously impressive with particular absorption, sadness, gentleness and wisdom - the Infant Jesus in the Nativity, the youth in the episode of Christ among the Scribes, the mature Saviour in the Descent into Hell and the Transfiguration, Christ the Almighty, benefactor, victor and all-powerful, depicted upon the dome. The paintings convey this meaning with profound emotion and insight today, 726 year after they were painted.

Warrior - saint, Boyana Church, southern wall To a certain extent the artist's way of thinking is expressed in the choice of images for the frieze of upright saints. The frieze encircles the most visible part of the interior - immediately above eye level. The figures have almost normal human height. Those painted in the First Church are warrior, patrons of the Sebastocrator's family and his friends. Andrey Grabar has noted that they are of a specific Bulgarian variety, which is also to be found in the family chapels from the same period on the Trapezitsa Hill in the former capital city of Tirnovo (Churches Nos 10 and 13). This tradition was preserved in the following centuries as well. The choice of saints is obviously related to the desire of the donor Sebastocrator Kaloyan to emphasize link between the Boyana painting and the traditions in the Bulgarian capital.

The selection of the upright figures is also carefully premeditated. the first row contains portraits of saints who led exemplary lives. Among them are the portraits of four secular figures: the donors Sebastocrator Kaloyan and his wife Desislava on one side, and opposite them, the ruling Tsar Constantine Assen Tikh and Tsarina Irina. The portraits are of a very high quality. In fact, these are the oldest known portraits in Bulgarian art. Their proximity and the donor's text from 1259 emphasize once again the close relation of the Sebastocrator's kin to the royal family. The Bulgarian influence is stressed with the portraits of two Bulgarian saints painted in the thickness of the niches - St. Petka and St. Ivan Rilski (this is the oldest portrait of the hermit, who lied in the 10th Century).

The row of upright figures in the narthex is interrupted by two large scenes with careful, precise compositions: Christ among the Scribes, in the southern niche, and the Presentation of Mary, Mother of God, in the Temple, in the northern one. The latter was painted later over a second layer of plaster. These is a reason to believe that the original painting of 1259 is still preserved under the plaster. The composition of the presentation of Mary accords with the established iconographic model. It is of high artistics quality but is executed in a different style, colour range and technique. The style and execution of this scene support the dating, proposed by A. Grabar: 1346. According to the text of the mural, the painting was a gift from somebody called Ivanko. Another mural from the same period was destroyed in 1912 in order to reveal the scene of Christ among the Scribes. Konstantin Irechek and S. Verkovich recorded an important text before the mural was removed. The text confirmed that the painting was dedicated to Altimir, who died in 1346 and was probably buried in the Church.

The upper layer of paintings in the niches to the left and right of the entrance to the medieval church belong to the same period. It is very likely that this was the time when southern wall of the St. Panteleimon Chapel was repaired. Two more murals - of Christ and St. Nikola - were executed during Ottoman rule. The style indicates that the two portraits were painted after 1346. One of them, that of Christ, was removed in 1912, revealing Christ the Benefactor, seated on the throne.

Three waist-line portraits of St. Euphremus - are painted in the triangles next to the niches on the level of the upright figures in the narthex. Even if all that were left of the murals of the Boyana Church were a few images including that St. Euphremus, this would have been sufficient to uphold the unique nature of this art and its painter and to include it in the world history of art.

Eighteen scenes form the life of St. Nikola, patron of the Church, are arranged in four rows along the vault of the narthex and on the west lunette, This was a rare subject in religiouns art. Some publications consider several of these scenes and the legend that they portray as evidence of the artistics' direct contact with the capital of the Byzantine Empire, Constantinople. Thus the scenes of the Miracle of St. Demetrius and the Miracle of the Carpet illustrate two miracles which were of renown only in Constantinople.



The Creators of the Boyana Church

Who were the creators of the Boyana wall-paintings? Of course the donors, the builder and the artists. We know the names only of the donors. They were bound to participate in the selection of the subjects and in determining the style of the paintings. That is why we consider them to have played an important role in the team of creators. The name of the artist or artists who executed the paintings remains unknown. There are, however, many speculations. Thus Krastyo Miyatev believes the initials are marked upon the handle of St. Demetrius's sword and on the sword of the executioner in the scene where St. Nikola saves the unjustly condemned people. It is possible that the two words " Inscribed Iliya" carved into a piece of stone left from the old building and used again in the south wall of Kaloyan's Church are related to the subject, but how?

We believe that the most likely place for the names of the artists is in the small triangle below the donor's text where there is a special place left for this purpose. There are even lines cut into the wet plaster, but there are no letters. We also agree with those scholars who consider that two artists worked in the Boyana Church. The analysis of the style and techniques suggests two persons, each with his own individuality. It should be emphasized, however, that the painters have succeeded in the producing an integral composition. One of them was the innovator, the experienced artist and his work processes the new trends in 13th Century art. He painted most of the muralist the Boyana Church. Apparently his work included the most expressive scenes in images - those of the donors Kaloyan and Desislava, Tsar Constantine Assen and Tsarina Irina, St. Euphremus, Christ the Benefactor, the upright saints in the south and north areas of the lower church, as well as scenes in the First Church, the scene of Christ among the Scribes, some of the portraits in the upper church, etc. The other artist is more decorative and his style manifests more archaic elements. He has worked on the images of St. Panteleimon in the upper church, of St. Barbara and St. Nedelya in the lower church as well as some of the images in the scenes from the life of St. Nikola up on the vault.

The Bulgarian people, however, have a well-established idea that the Boyana wall-paintings were the work of single artist, whom they call the Boyana Master. We shall use this already legendary name to designate the first artist, the innovator, the one who has indeed created the world-famous frescoes.

Nearly everyone who has visited the Boyana Church and has experienced the impact of its paintings has tried to find the self-portrait of the Boyana master: perhaps he is the beardless youth, or the young man, or perhaps he is Euphremus - the suffering, passionate, alert, wise man? That is how legends are created. In every legend there is a grain of truth.

We suppose that the portraits painted by the medieval artists portrayed people that the artists actually knew: persons remembered, loved and painted so as to remain for ever. The most striking feature of the art in the Boyana Church is its joyful and restrained emotionality, the surmounting of the symbolic and abstract art canon of the period. The humanistic tendencies reflected in the scenes and portraits, their expressiveness are a great contribution to the new artistic search of the 13th Century in the Balkans and in the Tirnovo art school, of which the Boyana Church s the chief representative.



The Art Techniques

The above-mentioned scenes from the sufferings of St. Nikola, and the images of Christ the Benefactor and Christ Halkitis, which are replicas of miraculous icons painted in Constantinople, testify to the direct contacts of the Boyana painters with the Byzantine court ateliers. The execution of the frescoes shows an obvious preference for the style of miniatures and icons, which the painters simple transferred on the walls, instead of turning to the fresco style of 11th - 12th Century. This is a particularly important feature. The painters have borrowed from the miniatures a more alert feeling for colour, for nature, a preference for some Late-Hellenistic models and have preserved some of their characteristic plasticity. Icons have developed both their taste for smaller composition and a manner of modeling with pronounced feeling for detail and the pictorial.

The Boyana frescoes are an early example of the icon-painting style which later on was adopted in mural painting and as such they mark the beginning of specific features which strongly influenced the Tirnovo artistic school. The icon-style murals which became wide-spread in the Serbian, Russian and Mount Athos monasteries during the 14th - 16th centuries are closely related to this innovation which we find for the first time in Boyana. This fact has a special historic significance. It should be pointed out that the rich delicate pastel colours of the faces and flesh and their modeling, and also the specific way of painting the heavy cloth of the clothing were favoured by the Boyana master and are the most typical features of his style. he animates the static figures with barely noticeable gestures. He combines the large colour areas in the composition with remarkable mature skill and brings forward the figures, against the abstract, predominantly dark, background. The architectural details and landscapes do not occupy large areas in the composition and do not hamper the expression of the most important element - the figures, which the artist treats with psychological credibility and original plastic tangibility achieved through the use of a restrained and rich range of colours.

The second painter preserved the memory of more archaic models and more restricted movements. The faces and hands s feeling of volume but the play of colour is limited and replaced by a clear contour. The portraits of St. Panteleimon, St. Barbara and St. Nedelya display the most characteristics features of this manner. Some of the more primitive scenes form the sufferings of St. Nikola were also probably painted by him.

The actual technique used in the Boyana murals is still not completely clear. It was obviously influences by the technique of icon-painting. This means that most of the painting was executed with emulsion paints which reacted with the semi-dry foundation of the plaster. So far we have excepted (as a working hypothesis) that the painter started with the usual al fresco technique - on wet plaster - and then finished his work in al second manner - over dry plaster. This combined technique is also known as Byzantine technique and was typical of the wall-paintings in the Mediterranean region, including the Balkan Peninsula and Bulgaria.

When analyzing the technique of a particular painting or paintings of a certain period, it is most important to access what proportion of the painting was done al fresco and what, al secco. the results of this analysis should be compared with the techniques prevalent in the historical period concerned. In the case of the Boyana murals, it has been suggested that a smaller proportion of painting was executed on wet plaster (al fresco) that was done on dry plaster - a fact related to the direct transfer of icon- painting principles in the execution of murals.

Every scholars that has studied the Boyana Church stress the fact that the Bulgarian text found on the paintings are extremely important in determining the ethnic origin of the painters. According to A. Grabar, who was the first to notice this fact, "We have no direct evidence as to the nationality of the painters. However, the Bulgarian texts on the wall-paintings testify to their Bulgarian origin. In Boyana, as in the rest of the Tirnovo kingdom, there are no Greek texts". Later on he adds, "Some Slavonic transcriptions and translations of Byzantine words show that the work was done by Slav painters after Greek (e.g. Byzantine) originals".

Further proof is to be found in the Slavonic name of St. Nedelya (her Greek name is not mentioned). The only exception, where we have a Greek text parallel to the Bulgarian one is the scene with Holy Ghost.

The portraits of the warrior-saints (typical for the Bulgarian aristocratic family chapel), the Bulgarian saints St. Petka and St. Ivan Rilski and the portraits of actual historical personalities (Sebastocrator Kaloyan and his wife Desislava, Tsar Constantine Assen Tikh and Tsarina Irina) are a further confirmation of the Bulgarian origin of the Boyana murals and their connection with the capital city of Tirnovo.

The Boyana paintings bear the marks of a turbulent, contradictory and innovatory period in 13th Century art. What were the artistic peculiarities of that period?

For various reasons - philosophical or to do with experiments in new forms - the medieval artists gradually rejected the monumental and abstract cannon models. These models became an aesthetic basis for the further evolution of art. By the end of the 12th Century these models satisfied Byzantine aesthetics. But the economical and political changes occurring at the border line between the 12th and 13th centuries (the fall of the Byzantine Empire during the fourth Crusade in 1204) affected the cultural life of the Mediterranean region. Art looked for a new image.

The new trends were related to the problem of a more substantial and vigorous incorporation of man with his material environment. For this reason a number of painters turned towards the old Late Hellenistic art, which offered a suitable form for the expression of the new ideas. They appreciated the realistic approach of Late Hellenistic artists in the painting of form and space. As a result the medieval artists created works with renewed form, dynamic, with a lively colour range, with a definite approach to spatial problems within the limits of the mediaeval notions of reality, depth of the landscape and architectural detail.

Other painters were interested in different problems that were also related to the humanistic trends in 13th Century art. They were involved in bringing religiouns symbolism down to the eternal truths of life: birth and death, suffering, motherhood, sacrifice, loyalty and friendship, eternity. they induced the life into the hitherto right imagery. They animated the statistic figures through a slight gesture or movement; they individualized the faces. The religious characters and the Biblical episodes were used as an opportunity to paint impressions and reflections concerning the world around them.

The Boyana master is one of the most brilliant representatives of this trend. His art is very complex, contradictory and original. His remarkable achievement lies not only in the way that he humanized canonic art but also in how he attained an artistic scene of proportion in the plastic and colour treatment of form.

By the end of the century these two trends united and formed the Palaeologus style. The artists of the 13th Century were humanists and treated much more than canonic art intended merely to illustrate certain didacties.

During that period the Second Bulgarian State was the strongest on the Balkan Peninsula. The Tirnovo cultural centre was created under the patronage of the Bulgarian tsars. Its influence spread throughout the cultural processes in the entire Balkan Peninsula . The literary and artistic activity were most pronounced. The Tirnovo art school evolved upon the basis of local traditions inherited from the First Bulgarian State as well as the experience of the Byzantine art adapted to Bulgarian tastes. The artists were well acquainted with the refined art of Constantinople after the Byzantine Empire fell under the Crusaders (1204) and took refuge in Tirnovo had an important impact upon cultural life in Bulgaria. The Byzantine artists found in the Bulgarian capital a favourable atmosphere for creative work. They shared their experience and adopted new features from the Bulgarian artistic traditions.

Several ateliers existed in Tirnovo at the time. They each used different methods and their innovatory search took various paths. the most characteristic feature of the Tirnovo school lay in the original implementation of both the Byzantine experience and local traditions, and in fine psychological portayal, an elaborate range of colours, and the characteristic softened modeling of gestures and movements. the Boyana master is an outstanding representative of this school. His work manifests all the above features.

The Boyana Church of 1259, with its murals and architecture, ranks among the great achievements of the Tirnovo school and indeed of its time.

The merits of this remarkable monument of Bulgarian medieval culture have given it a place of distinction in the world heritage. In 1979 the World Heritage Committee included the Boyana Church in the List of World Cultural and Natural Heritage.

Taken from The Bulgarian contribution to the world cultural heritage


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