Location: Sofia & Tran, Bulgaria
THE EXPEDITION: The "Fresco-Hunting" Photo Research Expedition to Medieval Balkan Churches provides a unique opportunity for students and volunteers to take part in an expedition for the documentation of abandoned medieval churches/chapels and their frescos in western Bulgaria, and to visit many other Christian Orthodox churches and monasteries, museums and archaeological sites in Sofia, western Bulgaria and eastern Serbia. The number of these monuments has sadly been permanently decreasing due to the lack of effort to preserve and protect them from weather damage and vandalism. During the last ten years, specialists from Bulgaria, Republic of Macedonia, USA, Canada and Japan as well as students from all over the world participating in the “Fresco-Hunting” Photo Expedition have expanded and upgraded the existing database of drawn and photographic records of twelve churches and chapels in western Bulgaria. We aim to publish a complete corpus of these medieval frescos and to develop further projects to support and record the remaining endangered sites through conservation, restoration, development and/or improvement of each site's management, and fund-raising. Our work so far has been successful in raising public awareness, and some of the sites we documented have been protected (Balsha, Kalotina, Zimevitsa). In 2017, the Balkan Heritage Foundation issued the first e-book dedicated to one of the churches documented by the Expedition, the 17th century church St. Thedore Tyro in Zimevitsa. The work on a publication of two more churches (Balsha and Golesh) is now in progress. Unfortunately, many more remain in desperate condition, awaiting either better times or continued deterioration.
THE FIELD SCHOOL In 2018, the project envisions to supplement the database created during the previous seasons by documenting the architecture and frescos (and their condition) of four to six medieval Christian Orthodox chapels or small churches in western Bulgarian borderlands near Tran and collect new data on their history, artifacts and environment. The region in focus is geographically and culturally very close to present-day eastern Serbia, where a photography excursion to several medieval ecclesiastic monuments will also take place. The students will be able to identify parallels and make comparisons between the churches and their murals across the border in Serbia and those that they will be working to document in Bulgaria.
There is only one two-week project session available for participants. It is suitable for students, young specialists, artists and people with interests in medieval, esp. Byzantine or Christian Orthodox architecture and arts as well as digital photography, documentation of heritage monuments and travel. The program includes a special presentation on advanced photographic techniques for 3D documentation: Photogrammetry and Reflectance Transformation Imaging (RTI).
Period(s) of Occupation: Late Medieval Period (fourteenth to seventeenth century): Late Byzantine, Post-Byzantine, Early Ottoman.
Minimum Length of Stay for Volunteers: Full session (Two weeks)
Room and Board Arrangements
Accommodation: For first four days of the field school, participants will stay in rooms with shared bathrooms at the historic Red B and B Guesthouse, Sofia. Then the project team and students will move to the small town of Tran in western Bulgarian borderland area. They will stay there for the remander of the field school in comfortable rooms with two to three beds (bathrooms with shower and WC, TV, wi-fi) in the Erma Spa Hotel, which also provides free access to the SPA center. All participants will be given a free ride back to Sofia Downtown and airport on 26 May. The departure is scheduled for 9:00 am. The trip will take approx. 90 to 120 min.
Meals: Three meals per day are covered by the admission fee. Meals usually take place in the hotel restaurant, except the brown-bag lunches (when on site and during the excursions). Requests for vegetarian food are accepted. Participants will have to pay extra for additional days in the project hotels, for single room accommodation, as well as for any meals and beverages, services or products outside the project package. Single rooms are available upon request for the duration of the field school for an additional fee of 350 EUR.
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