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Rock-hewn Churches of Ivanovo Bulgaria
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Rock-hewn Churches of Ivanovo
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Rock-hewn Churches of Ivanovo

Churches of Ivanovo group of monolithic churches, chapels and monasteries

The Rock-hewn Churches of Ivanovo are a group of monolithic churches, chapels and monasteries hewn out of solid rock and completely different from other monastery complexes in Bulgaria

Address: 7088 Ivanovo, Bulgaria
Hours:
Opens 9am
Phone: +359 82 825 002

Rock-Hewn Churches of Ivanovo
In the valley of the Roussenski Lom River, in north east Bulgaria, a complex of rock-hewn churches, chapels, monasteries and cells developed in the vicinity of the village of Ivanovo. This is where the first hermits had dug out their cells and churches during the 12th century. The 14th-century murals testify to the exceptional skill of the artists belonging to the Tarnovo School of painting.

The frescos of the Ivanovo churches reveal an exceptional artistry and a remarkable artistic sensitivity for 14th century painting and Bulgarian medieval art; they are an important achievement in the Christian art of South-Eastern Europe. Posterior to the Khora monastery mosaics (Karia Djami) of 1303 - 10, these frescoes, by their very expressiveness surpass any other historical monuments discovered, characteristic of the Palaeologues style. Neo-classical in spirit and in elements of their subjects, the frescoes represent a departure from the canons of Byzantine iconography. They show close ties with expressive Hellenistic art and a clear preference for the nude, the landscape, an architectural background in a composition, drama, an emotional atmosphere - qualities which combine to make an exceptional masterpiece of the Tarnovo school of painting and monumental art.

The five historical monuments in this group (chapels, churches, etc.), dating from the 13th and 14th centuries, serve as examples that pave the way for the distinctive character development, and mastery in the art of the Second Bulgarian State /1187-1396/. The richness, the variety of the cells, chapels, churches, monastery complexes, the original architectural solutions - all set in a magnificent natural environment - confirm the value of this extraordinary historical grouping.

Many churches, chapels, monasteries and cells were cut into the natural rock along the Rusenski Lom river, during the 13-14th centuries. The Church frescoes reveal an exceptional artistry and a remarkable artistic sensitivity for 14th century painting and Bulgarian medieval art; they are an important achievement in the Christian art of South-Eastern Europe. Neo-classical in spirit and in elements of their subjects, the frescoes represent a departure from the canons of Byzantine iconography. They show close ties with expressive Hellenistic art and a clear preference for the nude, the landscape, an architectural background in a composition, drama, an emotional atmosphere - qualities which combine to make an exceptional masterpiece.

The extensive complexes of monasteries were built between the time of the Second Bulgarian State /1187-1396/ and the conquest of Bulgaria by the Ottoman Empire. The five historical monuments in this group, dating from the 13th and 14th centuries, the richness, the variety of the cells, chapels, churches, monastery complexes, the original architectural solutions - all of that set in a magnificent natural environment - confirm the value of this extraordinary historical grouping.

The property encompasses within its boundaries all the components necessary to convey its outstanding universal value but the rock massif, where the churches are situated, has serious stability problems. Over the years a continuous programme of research, and scientific, technical and design projects, have focussed on strengthening and stabilising the rock formation. A programme was carried out for the Investigation, identification, stabilization and waterproofing of the rock massif for The Church of the Holy Virgin. All of the statistical analyses are based on processing meteorological and instrument data, and studies.

Created in the natural cavities of a karst massif, the authenticity of shape, material and substance of the Rock-hewn Churches of Ivanovo has been preserved. Urgent conservation work has been completed on the valuable 13th and 14th century murals, whilst cleaning, stabilization and presentation of The Church of the Holy Virgin murals has also been carried out. This involved minimal retouching work, and the maximum retention of the original.

In consequence of a rock collapse in the early 20th century, the 13th century ceiling murals from the buried church of St. Archangels, have been rescued and moved to a new substrate. The first stage of work on the 14th century murals of the collapsed St. Todor Church has also been completed.

Through National Legislation the property has been protected, as a Reserve since 1965. Management is implemented through the Cultural Heritage Law 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.

In order to strengthen and stabilize the rock formation, there is a need to pursue the implementation of the conservation measures. Hidden in the reliable and firm embrace of the rocks, the faith and the light of the spirit have survived for more than six centuries, and after a long period of hardship, the whole beauty of medieval craftsmanship in Bulgaria is rediscovered for Europe.

Ivanovo rock-hewn churches site, North-Eastern Bulgaria

The Rock-Hewn Churches of Ivanovo are of outstanding universal value because of their frescoes, that are characterised by an exceptional artistry and a remarkable artistic sensitivity for 14th century painting and Bulgarian medieval art; they are an important achievement in the Christian art of South-Eastern Europe. Such is written on the website of UNESCO. The Churches of Ivanovo were included in the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1979.

The rock-hewn Churches of Ivanovo are a complex of rock-hewn churches, chapels, monasteries and cells situated in the beautiful valley of the Rusenski Lom River, in North-Eastern Bulgaria. Hermits cut the first cells and churches into the natural rock along the riverbed during the 12th century. The entire complex was built between the time of the Second Bulgarian State (1185-1396) and the conquest of Bulgaria by the Ottoman Empire (late 14th century). At that time, the number of churches was about 40, while the total number of sites reached around 300, most of which are not preserved today.

The monastery complex owes much of its fame to frescoes that were created in the 13th- and 14th-century and which have been preserved in six of the temples as a part of the complex.

St. Mary Church
The rock monastery St. Archangel Michael is situated at the same site. It was founded in the 1220s by the monk Yoakim, who later became a Bulgarian patriarch. The Bulgarian tsars Yoan Asen ІІ (1218-1241), Yoan Alexander (1331-1371) and other representatives of the royal court were among the monastery donators and their donor portraits are preserved to the present day. During the Second Bulgarian Empire the monastery established itself as a great spiritual and educational centre. Wall inscriptions in the cells provide information about important historical events. In the 14th century the monastery become a centre of hesychasm (a mystic trend in Orthodox Christianity).

The frescoes in the church St. Mary are world famous. They are among the most representative models of Paleologus Art on the Balkan Peninsula. Their exceptional artistic quality is why they have been included in the Unesco list of global cultural inheritance. Here tourists can see the archetype image of The Last Supper, painted 150 years before the one by Leonardo Da Vinci.

Detail of the fresco in St Mary Church The Ivanovo Rock Complex remained active during the early ages of the Ottoman Dominion, but from then on it went into gradual decline.

Location and opening hours:

North-East Bulgaria, 22 km from Ruse, in close proximity to the town of Ivanovo