When was the Church at the Orlitsa Monastery Built and Decorated? Cover Image
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Кога е изградена и изписана църквата при метоха Орлица
When was the Church at the Orlitsa Monastery Built and Decorated?

Author(s): Alexander Kuymdzhiev, Emmanuel Moutafov
Subject(s): Cultural history
Published by: Институт за изследване на изкуствата, Българска академия на науките

Summary/Abstract: The Church of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul at the Orlitsa monastery, belonging to the Rila Monastery was restored and decorated in the 15th century. Three main sources give information about these events - two donor’s inscriptions of the church, dated 1478 and 1491, as well as the Rila Povest of Vladislav the Gramarian. The inscription of 1478, which in its present day appearance speaks of the construction of the church in the same year, is however in contradiction with the Mediaeval author, according to whose information the church was built before the return of the relics of St. John of Rila to the Rila Monastery, respectively before 1469. This paper deals with the inconsistency of the sources, which in turn has led to a variety of versions in literature. The view has been expressed that even when it fell within events from the 15th century, the two donors inscriptions in the church were written in their appearance in the 19th century. More- over this sounds quite logical as it is well known, that the church was restored by the monastic community, redecorated by Nikola Ikonopisets the master painter from Samokov, and partially in 1862-1863. However while the inscription from 1491 was sufficiently preserved, allowing to present it comparatively fully in its first publication in the 19th century, as well as in its present day version, according to Neophyte of Rila, the inscription from 1478 was no longer entirely preserved in his day. Today however, we find a complete text of the inscription in Church Slavonic from a quotation in literature from 1901. We understand the this inscription ‘emerged’ somewhere from the first half of the 20th century, most probably as the outcome of the constant striving to give it an authentic character, which accompanied many of the older monuments in the last century. In this case these steps have led to a serious misunderstanding, as in fact the inscription from 1478 not only was completely intact in the 19th century and hence not only had been ‘restored’ quite loosely, but also it had another part, in Greek, fortunately preserved to this day in Neophyte of Rila’s copy. From this copy we learn that the inscription does not speak at all of the construction of the church, rather of its decoration in that year. Yet determining what exactly this decoration stood for is difficult, because of the variations in the translation of the copy, hence several hypothesis concerning the construction and decoration of the church. The most probable is that the church must have been built at the time when Abbot David was abbot of the monastery (1463-1469). After that in 1478 the vault of the church was decorated and still later, in 1491 the entire church was decorated anew by Abbot Theokistos, with a donation from Bishop Jacob II, also donor of the murals of the church of St. Demeter at Boboshevo (1488). Owing to the present condition of the vault of the church, it is not clear today whether this full decoration with...

  • Issue Year: 2007
  • Issue No: 1
  • Page Range: 25-31
  • Page Count: 7