The Sistine of the Balkans

The Church of the Nativity in Veliko Tarnovo in Bulgaria, was built in the 15th century and repainted in the 17th century. It is also called the Sistine Chapel of the Balkans due to its many frescoes.

The icon screen.

The Pantocrator.

The Pantocrator.

All the doors would be low in order to make sure the Muslims would not ride their horses in the church as they did in Constantinople.

The church has a two hall configuration.

In 1538, the sultan approved the construction of a church only on the condition that is be low and not look like a church to demonstrate the superiority of Islam.

The church is dedicated to the Nativity so notice how the Pantocrator looks like a child: Emmanuel.

The Dormition, on the west wall.

The Virgin Mother in the apse dominates the nave.

The Annunciation.

When you approach the church, it does not appear to be a church at all. It has a low roof and looks like a barn. This is a 17th century church that blends into the agricultural landscape and for a reason.


This is the church of the Assumption that was established in 1600 however the current church was built in 1830, hence it does not look like a church on the outside.

While the exterior does not look like a church, the interior does!

The church houses the three-handed miraculous icon of the Holy Mother however pictures are not allowed.

What a blessing that I witnessed the baptism of Victoria! And after the sacrament she came forward to venerate the icons. This was so moving.

Followed by a celebration to which I was invited.