Stunning Frescoes of Boyana

The mountains where the monastery is located.


The Boyana church, on the outskirts of Sofia, Bulgaria, is a medieval church from the late 10th to early 11th century. The frescoes are stunning however photography is not allowed inside. They are an exceptional achievement that overcomes the stylisation of icons with individuality and vitality. When I looked at these I thought of Giotto and the Scrovengi chapel in Padua and marveled that these predate Giotto by 70 years. There are incredible nuanced shades of color and a perspective not seen in icons and frescoes.

When I started to identify themes my driver turned to me and said: “I went to school during Soviet times when we were deprived of religious education in school and have to make up for that with self study. The Soviets,” he said, “were masterful in that they deprived you of your legacy by trying  to erase it.” The art professor, Pierre Graber from Paris stated that these are the most precious contributions of Bulgaria to the world.

Saint John Rilski Monastery

Painted doorway

The entrance to the monastery.

Saint John Rilski was the first hermit monk in the desert; that is he lived in a cave in the forest. The library is the richest in Bulgaria.


The original church burnt so a new one was built in the 19th century.

Gazing Heavenward. You are not allowed to take pictures inside the church. The exterior photos give you some idea of the beauty of the interior that has an awesome 19th century golden icon screen.

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The 14th century tower.

The tomb of Neofit Rilshi who is the 19th century monk who is the father of pedagogy in that he established a school at the monastery where he wrote grammar and lexicons and textbooks.


This is an active monastery among the 60 active monasteries in Bulgaria. The museum guide said there are baptisms everyday.