Christian Art on the Bulgarian Lands

4th-19th Centuries

By National Gallery of Bulgaria

The collection of Christian art on the Bulgarian lands (4th–19th c.) numbers some 2,000 works—icons, frescoes, and church plate.

The permanent exposition of the Museum of Christian Art, housed in the Crypt of the St Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, presents thematically compact groups of works from Bulgaria’s historical capital cities, metropolitan and monastery centres.

Chronologically, the earliest exhibit is a fresco fragment of an image of a saint from the early Christian basilica in the village of Khan Krum, Shumen region (4th–5th c.), one of the few preserved examples of figurative painting of that period.

The art of this period is known as the Palaiologan Renaissance. As opposed to the preceding centuries, a greater number of icons are preserved from the 13th and especially the 14th centuries.

The period between the 16th and 18th centuries marked a new flowering of Orthodox art throughout the Balkans.

The renovation and rebuilding of many monasteries and churches began, for which icons and frescoes were painted in large numbers. Two trends emerged in iconography.

The first was imposed by the Cretan School of Painting, which introduced elements of Italian art into Orthodox iconography.

The icon painters of this trend were highly scholarly and erudite; their icons were characterised by extremely elevated aesthetic qualities, complicated themes and symbolism.

The second trend developed primarily in smaller settlements and monasteries. The artworks were executed in a more primitive and naïve style, but they surprise with their unexpected expression and originality regarding style and subject matter.

The varied artistic trends in ecclesiastical art in the Balkans between the 16th and 18th centuries are fully presented in the exhibition of works of iconography and ecclesiastical applied art.

The exhibition ends chronologically with the art of the Bulgarian National Revival.

Additionally, the collection preserves Russian icons (17th–19th c.) and works of Ethiopian ecclesiastical art.

Ierusalymitika by n/aNational Gallery of Bulgaria

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