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.
Outstanding Universal Value
There are several layers of wall paintings in the interior from the 11th, 13th, 15-17th and 19th centuries which testify to the high level of wall painting during the different periods. The paintings with the most outstanding artistic value are those from 13th century. Whilst they interpret the Byzantine canon, the images have a special spiritual expressiveness and vitality and are painted in harmonious proportions.
Criterion (ii): From an architectural point of view, Boyana Church is a pure example of a church with a Greek cross ground-plan with dome, richly decorated facades and decoration of ceramic elements. It is one of the most remarkable medieval monuments with especially fine wall paintings.
Criterion (iii): The Boyana Church is composed of three parts, each built at a different period - 10 century, 13th century and 19th century which constitute a homogenous whole.
The integrity of Boyana church is fully assured. In 1917 a park was created around the church, thereby securing its immediate surroundings through being separated from the impact of modern traffic. The property has also remained intact from historic invasions, and other destructive threats. Three separate zones are defined in the property boundaries and buffer zone, through which appropriate control measures are applied.
The concept, form and development of the three constructional phases of the property, from the 10th-11th; 13th; and 19th centuries, are clearly evident. Necessary conservation and restoration works have been completed. Where sufficient evidence existed, later façade renders have been removed to reveal the original appearance of walls.
To safeguard and present the internal 11th and 12th centuries fresco fragments, those from the 13th century, and the later 1882 additions in the antechamber, they were cleaned, refilled and conserved. This work was completed in 2008. The property is now air-conditioned, and under constant surveillance.
Protection and management requirements (2010)
The management is implemented by virtue of:
- Cultural Heritage Law (Official Gazette No 19 of 2009) and subdelegated legislation. This law regulates the research, studying, protection and promotion of the immovable cultural heritage in Bulgaria, and the development of Conservation and Management plans for its inscribed World Heritage List of immovable cultural properties.
- Instructions on the Protection and Preservation of the World Monument "Boyana Church" and its Protective Zone were adopted by Official Cover Letter No.RD-91-00-17, signed by the Chairman of the Culture Committee, and dated 10.08.1989. These Instructions are mandatory and set out the responsibilities of the interested parties, including the state, local institutions and owners.
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 first time in 969. Boyana was one of the 35 fortresses and settlements that formed the fortification systems of the city of Sredets (Sofia). Boyana Church was built within the fortress and is a magnificent example of medieval architecture and monumental art.
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, and the decoration has been changed. At present Boyana Church consists of buildings from the 11th, 13th and 19th centuries.
The oldest Boyana Church, the so-called East or First Church, was designed and used as a chapel. It had a typical Greek cross plan with a dome, and a concealed internal cross without free-standing support and without a narthex. It is built entirely of brick. 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 decorations are figural: archivolts with 'wolf's tooth' and concentric rows of bricks above the arches.
The plan of the interior is reminiscent of a Greek cross and is 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 mid-18th century, traces of the original paintings are noticeable only where the upper layer of murals has been destroyed.
In 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, probably for a family tomb. The upstairs floor of Kaloyan's Church has an almost identical architectural composition to the older building, in the shape of a Greek cross, and it was used as a family chapel. It was dedicated to the martyr healer St Panteleimon. Access to the chapel is by an 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 in the event of danger, the mobile staircase was removed, thus, the upstairs chapel could also be used as a defence tower.
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. The western, entrance facade is the most representative and has a pronounced monumental character. The new church, extended and renewed by the family of the Sebastocrator, was decorated with paintings and consecrated in 1259.
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 that became widespread in the Serbian, Russian and Mount Athos monasteries during the 14th to 16th centuries are closely related to this innovation.Source: UNESCO/CLT/WHC