Bulgaria History – Byzantine Rule (1018-1185)

State of south-eastern Europe, located between the lower course of the Danube and the Greek peninsula, on the shores of the Black Sea. The medieval Bulgaria included the northern and central regions of the Balkans, corresponding to the territory previously occupied by the provinces. Illyrians of the Roman Empire: Lower and Upper Moesia, Mediterranean Dacia and Ripense, Thrace and part of Prevalitania, Dardania, First and Second Macedonia, Epirus, Thessaly, Rodope and Hemimonto. Occupied by the Thracians already around the century. 12th BC, the region, thanks to the lively trade exchanges with the Greek colonies of the Black Sea and the Aegean, was significantly affected by the Hellenic cultural influences. Passed, after various events, in the territories of the Roman Empire, it saw the foundation of numerous new cities, while those already existing were enlarged and promoted to municipia. The Thracian population, weakened and decimated by military campaigns, epidemics, slave trade and army recruitment, was subjected to strong Hellenization and Latinization. Nonetheless, it managed to maintain its own identity until the early Middle Ages, still representing the main ethnic component of the region until the late century. 6th, at the time of the great Slavic migrations.While the great cities of the central and southern area of ​​the Balkan peninsula survived the destruction of the Migration Age (4th-7th centuries), the centers located in the northern regions were well otherwise affected. However, thanks also to the continuous restoration interventions, they also survived, until the Middle Ages – alongside most of the defensive and fortified structures – numerous monumental buildings of the imperial age (e.g. the baths of Odessós, od. Varna, and the rotunda of Serdica, od. Sofia), albeit often changing the their original function. Most of these cities – as well as the entire Balkan region – were politically subjected to the Eastern Roman Empire, while from the point of view of religious administration they depended on Rome, through the exarchate of eastern Illyricum. In this way they managed to maintain a certain autonomy, within the border region, between the Roman and Constantinopolitan spheres of influence, remaining for example. outside the iconoclastic struggle. 4th-7th, hypostyled basilicas of Hellenistic type with roof cover predominate (Hissar, Buchovo, Varna, Kjustendil, Jatrus, Novae, Jambol, Pleven), but there are also basilicas with vaulted roofs (Pirdop, Varna, Belovo), as well as plan constructions central (Peruštica). Often the buildings were accompanied by floor mosaics (Sofia, Stara Zagora, Hissar, Varna) and by frescoes of the classical tradition (Sofia, Zar Krum, Peruštica). As far as the architectural decoration is concerned, in addition to the bare materials from ancient buildings (Tărnovo, Gorni Marjan, Varna, Hissar), artifacts produced by local workshops (Ljutibord, Ossenovo, Obzor) or imported from Constantinople (Hissar) were also used.

Byzantine rule (1018-1185)

According to agooddir, the fall of Bulgaria’s first reign and its annexation to the Byzantine Empire caused an interruption in the rapid cultural development of the country. Although the peace treaty ensured the maintenance of acquired rights – the continuation of the dynasty of Bulgarian tsars and feudal lords, as well as the independence of the national Church, albeit reduced to a simple diocese – these same rights were suspended only a few decades later., sparking uprisings that devastated the entire country. Numerous invasions contributed decisively to the picture: already around the middle of the century. 11 ° the Normans attacked the southwestern regions of the Balkans, while the northwestern and northeastern regions were plundered by the Magyars and the Cumari. To this were added the first crusades, which crossed the entire Balkan region bringing looting and fires. Finally, serious epidemics decimated the Bulgarian population, already severely tested by disastrous wars, ruins and mass exodus, following the announcement of the autonomy of the Bulgarian Church – which proposed itself as the continuation of the diocese of the former exarchate of eastern Illyricum, independent from Constantinople – and upon the unilateral appointment of its patriarch by the Bulgarian Tsar Simeon in 919, the Church of Bulgaria was declared schismatic. Furthermore, the patriarchate of Constantinople did not recognize the peace treaty of 1018 and the schism was revoked only after the death of the last Bulgarian patriarch John, whose office from 1018 returned to being that of simple archbishop. The Bulgarian Church was thus annexed to the patriarchate of Constantinople and the whole activity carried out by the Bulgarian, autonomous between 919 and 1018, was declared null and void retroactively. This not only concerned the canonizations and consecrations, including those of the churches, but also involved the entire religious art of Bulgaria, which was therefore destined to disappear, in the same way as the liturgical books written in the Bulgarian language. Hundreds of churches were completely or at least partially demolished and in the surviving ones any pictorial decoration was canceled or repainted. Only a very small number of images have survived under the repaintings of the century. 11 °, while some examples of illuminated manuscripts were saved because they were kept in monasteries outside the Bulgarian territory or because they were transported to Russia, only to be copied, at the time of the Christianization of the principality of Kiev. Only in a few monasteries the tradition of the Bulgarian miniature was not interrupted, whose testimonies, however very scarce, belong only to the secc. 12th and 13th (Psalter Radomir and Menaion Dragan in the monastery of Zografo on Mount Athos; Dobrejso Gospels in Sofia, Narodna Bibl. Kiril i Metodi, 17). The goldsmith tradition lasted exclusively in the shops of Ochrida: in the numerous covers of icons and gospels preserved, belonging to the secc. 11 ° -14 °, the motifs and ornamental themes of the Bulgarian repertoire are less and less numerous, while those of the Byzantine style appear on the rise (Ochrid, gallery of icons in the Theotókos Períbleptos; Sofia, Nat. Arheologitcheski muz.; Belgrade, Narodni Muz. ). Together with the crown jewels and treasures that belonged to Bulgarian churches and rulers, the decorative sculptures of many religious buildings were also transported as spoils of war to Byzantium. On the other hand, in the case of some new foundations (including the Bačkovo ossuary church), works from the Proconnesian workshops were imported.

Turkish domination

The occupation of Bulgaria by the Ottoman Turks, completed between 1391 and 1405, brought about radical changes from an ethnic-demographic, political, cultural and spiritual point of view. In the 15th and 16th centuries some hundreds of Islamic religious buildings and numerous others of a civil nature were built, linked to the presence of the new rulers. All the great Christian churches that survived were transformed into mosques and only in a second phase (starting from the end of the 15th century) was the restoration of the churches of some monasteries (Dragalevci, Kremikovci, Ilienci). founded from scratch and carried on until the century. 17th on the Bulgarian territory is the new katholikón of Bačkovo, built partly on top of the foundations of an existing building.

Bulgaria History - Byzantine Rule (1018-1185)