The Boyana Church is situated in one of Sofia's suburb neighbourhoods
which lies at the foot of the Vitosha mountain. In the past, Boyana was a
small village. It was existent as early as the Middle Ages when a fortress and
a castle of the governor of Sofia district stood here.
The oldest structure of the Boyana Church was put up in the 10th century.
Later, the Sofia boyar, sebastokrator Kaloyan, ordered an
additional two-storey building be erected next to the earlier construction. The
two churches were skillfully merged. Their small size and harmoniously graded heights with
the cupola above the cross-shaped section, are a rare example of church
architecture. According to the donor's inscription, the church
wall-painting decoration was completed in 1259.
Above all, the Boyana Church is famous for its murals. It
not only is one of the most marvelous and amazingly preserved monuments of
East-European medieval art, but it also manifests the earliest tokens of Renaissance humanism.
The paintings are executed in tempera. As required by
the tradition of that time, their author did not put down his name on them
for us to know who he was. His work, however, demonstrates an excellent
schooling, professional knowledge and a brilliant individuality manifested
in spite of the strict canon. The greatest merit of the painter's work is
his deep interest in human experience, which becomes evident in the
portraits of the Biblical characters. The powerful and vibrant
psychological characteristics make one feel standing amidst the artist's
contemporaries; these images convey
the ideas of intransient and universal human experience.
Boyana Church harbours the earliest portraits painted
from life - those of sebastokrator Kaloyan and his wife Desislava, perhaps
the finest woman representation preserved from the Middle Ages to our
The artist's composition skill is remarkable. The
scene depicting the dispute between Christ as a young man and the sages is
a vivid example of this.
The everyday life details seen in several of the Biblical
characters betray the artist's desire to lend the marks of his
contemporary age to them. Deep admiration for human beauty is perceived in
many of the images. Among them is the figure of Archangel Gabriel in
the Annunciation scene which seems to revive an ancient ideal.
The Boyana Church has been studied by some of the best
experts in medieval art. It has been the subject of exceptional
In 1979 it was put on the List of World Heritage.