“Fresco-Hunting” Photo Research Expedition to Medieval Balkan Churches, Bulgaria 2022 (Balkan Heritage Field School)

COVID-19 NOTICE: Please be sure to reach out to the project contact to find out the status of their upcoming season. Many projects have altered fieldwork plans and the information below may not reflect that.

Location: Sofia & Tran, BG

Season: May 21, 2022 to June 4, 2022

Session Dates: 21 May - 4 June, 2022

Application Deadline: April 21, 2022

Deadline Type: Rolling


Discount for AIA members: 5% discount off the regular admission fee

Program Type:
Field School

RPA Certified:

Balkan Heritage Foundation (BHF); New Bulgarian University and Sofia Photography School (Bulgaria)

Project Director:
Ivan Vasilev, president of the Balkan Heritage Foundation and archaeologist; Dr. Vassil Tenekedjiev, archaeologist, Varna Regional Museum of History; Dr. Angel Angelov, archaeologist, National Ethnographic Institute and Museum, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences; Miroslav Marinov, professional photographer, Sofia Photography School

Project Description:

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. 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 fourteen years, specialists from Bulgaria, North Macedonia, the 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 fifteen 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. Theodore Tyro in Zimevitsa. The work on a publication of two more churches (Balsha and Golesh) is now in progress. Unfortunately, many more churches remain in desperate condition, awaiting either better times or continued deterioration.

The Field School

In 2022, the project envisions to supplement the database created during the previous seasons by documenting the architecture and frescos (and their condition) of three to six medieval Christian Orthodox chapels or small churches in western Bulgarian borderlands and to collect new data on their history, artifacts and environment.

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 (13th to 17th century): Late Byzantine, Post-Byzantine, Early Ottoman.

The project is a unique opportunity to take part in an expedition for documentation of abandoned medieval churches/chapels and their frescoes in Western Bulgaria, to enhance his/her photography skills, to gain knowledge about Orthodox Christianity and Byzantine and Medieval Balkan civilization as well as methods for documentation of architectural monuments and frescos; to visit many historic sites and museums in Bulgaria; and to attend an introductory lecture on Photogrammetry and Reflectance Transformation Imaging. Academic credits are available for students through NBU, Bulgaria.

Project Size: 1-24 participants

Minimum Length of Stay for Volunteers: Full session (Two weeks)

Minimum Age: 18

Experience Required: All candidates are expected to have some familiarity with the basic principles of photography and digital SLR cameras. For those who don’t, BHFS can offer the opportunity to take part in a special, brief but comprehensive online course about Digital Photography Basics by Sofia Photography School prior to their arrival in Bulgaria. (The cost of this training is not included in the admission fee of the field school.) A valid COVID-19 certificate is required.

Room and Board Arrangements:
Accommodation*: Except the first night the participants will stay at the Hotel Zheravna, Bankya in Sofia Metropolitan area in rooms with two to three beds (bathrooms with shower and WC, TV, wi-fi). All participants will be given a free pick-up from Best Western Premier Sofia Airport Hotel to Bankya upon negative COVID-19 PCR test results. *Subject to change. May be substituted with similar level accommodation. Meals: Three meals per day are covered by the reimbursement payment. 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 cost of 400 EUR.

Academic Credit:
New Bulgarian University grants 6 ECTS credits to students for attending this field school. Transcripts of Records (ToR) are available upon request for an additional tuition fee. Participants who are not interested in academic credits don't need to pay the NBU tuition fee.

Contact Information:

Balkan Heritage Foundation

7 Tulovo St., Floor 5, Apt.7




Phone: +359898681366

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