National Museum of History, Boyana Church Branch – Sofia
Boyana Church of St. Nicholas and St. Pantaleimon is situated at the foot of Vitosha Mountain, in Boyana Housing Estate in Sofia. It is one of the few medieval monuments of Christian art that have survived until the present day.
The church is one of the 100 Tourist Sites of Bulgaria and was included in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 1979.
It was built in three stages: first stage – 11th century, second stage – mid-13th century, and third stage – mid-19th century.
The eastern part of the church is a small single-apse, cross-in-square building with built-in supports that form a cross. The first layer of wall-paintings that covered the entire eastern part of the temple dates as far back as the 12th century. The second two-storey part of the church that belongs to the two-floor tomb-church type was built in the 13th century thanks to a donation made by Sebastocrator Kaloyan and his wife Desislava, who ruled the Sofia (Sredets) Region during that period. According to the ktitor inscription, the church was redecorated in 1259. Zografs (painters) Vasilie and Dimiter, whose names were revealed during restoration works, put a new layer of wall-paintings over the first one in the old part of the church and also decorated the two levels of the new part of the church.
Boyana Church owes its global fame mainly to the wall-paintings of 1259 which demonstrate the exceptional achievements of the Bulgarian medieval culture. Each of more than 240 figures depicted in the church has a unique individuality and high artistic value. The portraits of ktitors Sebastocrator Kaloyan and his wife Desislava, and Constantine Tikh Asen (who ruled in the period 1257 – 1277) and Tsaritsa Irene are some of the oldest pictures of historical figures that have been preserved to this day. 18 scenes in the narthex including elements from the everyday lives of the painters’ contemporaries depict the life of St. Nicholas – one of the temple’s patron saints. The oldest surviving portrait of St. Ivan of Rila, the Bulgarian national saint who lived in the 10th century and who established Rila Monastery, can be found among the pictures of other saints in the church. The portrait of St. Ephrem the Syrian, whose all-seeing eyes follow the visitors everywhere, can also be seen among the pictures of monks and hermits.
Postcards, books, CDs, DVDs, souvenirs and information materials about Boyana Church and other tourist attractions are sold at the souvenir shop of the church. Taking photographs inside the church is forbidden.
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