2024 Fresco Hunting of Medieval Balkan Churches, Bulgaria

This listing expired on May 25, 2024. Please contact for any updated information.

Location: Sofia Bulgaria

Season: May 25, 2024 to May 8, 2024

Session Dates: Single Session

Deadline Type: Rolling


Discount for AIA members: None

Program Type:
Field School

RPA Certified:

Center for Field Sciences & Balkan Heritage Foundation

Project Director:
Dr. Vassil Tenekedjiev, Varna Regional Museum of History & Mr. Ivan Vasilev, President of the Balkan Heritage Foundation

Project Description:

Between the 14th and 17th centuries CE, Bulgaria experienced troubling, violent times. The Byzantine Empire, the Second Bulgarian Empire and the Serbian Empire collapsed in the 15th c. and the Ottoman Empire conquered Southeastern Europe. The many wars, and the accompanying social and political upheavals, had a direct impact on the expression of Christian Orthodox practice and iconography. During this Late Medieval period, Christian Orthodox structures were built to attract the least attention, with humble architecture on the outside, but with exquisite frescos inside.

In the past 100 years, many of these structures were abandoned and fell into misuse. Some have been looted – first during the Ottoman Empire by either Muslim Turks or superstitious local Christians, and then by modern looters and vandals. Other structures are collapsing due to the impact of weather and lack of maintenance. These important cultural heritage monuments are disappearing. This program is part of a long term project to document these structures and preserve their heritage for future generations – in photographic and digital format at a minimum and raise public awareness of state recognition and legal preservation when possible.

The Fresco-Hunting Photo Research Expedition systematically documents abandoned medieval churches and chapels – and their frescos – in western Bulgaria. Students will take part in this process and will gain context and understanding of Christian Orthodox iconography through visitation to several churches, monasteries, museums, and archaeological sites in western Bulgaria and Serbia. Our goal is to expand and update the existing database from 15 churches and chapels. Thus far, the Fresco-Hunting Photo Research Expedition has been successful in raising public awareness and three sites have now been formally designated as official state monuments and protected under the law – Balsha, Kalotina, and Zimevitsa. In 2017, the Balkan Heritage Foundation issued the first e-book dedicated to one of the churches – the 17 century church St. Thedore Tyro in Zimevitsa. We are now working, and students in this program will take part in collecting data for the publication of two more e-books for the churches of Balsha and Golesh.

Period(s) of Occupation: Medieval Period

Tuition cost is $3,275, including room & board and 2 semester credit units

Project Size: 1-24 participants

Minimum Length of Stay for Volunteers: Full session

Minimum Age: 18 years old

Experience Required: There are no prerequisites for participation in this field school. Note that this program requires long walks and long periods of documentation where students stand on their feet. You must be physically fit to move around in the heat and humidity throughout the day. Students will be taught how to use a variety of photography procedures and equipment -- work is slow and may be tedious. It requires patience and focus.

Room and Board Arrangements:
We will stay at the Hotel Zheravna in Bankya in Sofia metropolitan area. Rooms are with two to three beds, bathrooms with showers, WC, TV, and free Wi-Fi. Three meals per day are covered by the program. Meals usually take place in the hotel restaurant, except the brown-bag lunches, when we are visiting sites across western Bulgaria and Serbia. This program can accommodate vegetarian diets.

Academic Credit:
2 Semester Credit units from Culver-Stockton College, our School of Record

Contact Information:

Dorian Chee

Los Angeles CA

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