The image of St. John of Rila in the Boyana Church Cover Image
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Образът на св. Йоан Рилски в Боянската църква
The image of St. John of Rila in the Boyana Church

Author(s): Biserka Penkova
Subject(s): Language studies
Published by: Институт за литература - BAN

Summary/Abstract: THE IMAGE OF ST. JOHN OF RILA IN THE BOYANA CHURCH BISERKA PENKOVA (SOFIA) (Summary) The latest restorations of the Boyana church near Sofia revealed that the image of a monk in the nartex defined as St. John of Rila in the inscription (written by a different hand than the rest of the inscriptions in the church) has not been altered. This is the oldest preserved image of St. John of Rila, dating from 1259. The formation of his iconography is a part of the development of the saint’s cult in the capital of Tărnovo after 1195 when his relics were translated there from Sredec. The article raises the question if some depictions of St. John of Rila were created in Sredec (where his relics were kept for more than a century and where a local cult was formed). According to the author the few images of St. John of Rila dating before the fifteenth century could be divided in two groups, defined as “Sredec type” and “Tărnovo type”. The painting in the Boyana church belongs to the former. Its iconographic analysis leads to the conclusion that the most appropriate model for it was the image of St. John Klimax. The depiction of St. John of Rila in Boyana testifies that in the middle of the thirteenth century a Bulgarian tradition for representing the saint as a high-ranking monk who had taken vows of the Great Schema already existed. Yet, in the Boyana church St. John of Rila is depicted along with the most respected figures of the Eastern monasticism (across him is St. Pachomios, the founder of the cenobitic monasticism) and next to the portraits of the Bulgarian rulers. The place of St. John of Rila in the iconographic program of the Boyana church suggests that those who had painted his image considered St. John a spiritual advisor of great authority rather than a hermit living in utmost solitude. This representation corresponds to the outstanding place of the saint in the spiritual life of the Second Bulgarian State during the second half of the thirteenth century.

  • Issue Year: 2008
  • Issue No: 39-40
  • Page Range: 163-183
  • Page Count: 21
  • Language: Bulgarian