Church #16 with warrior saints mural found in Bulgaria

Archaeologists excavating the medieval Bulgarian site of Cherven have unearthed masonry walls from a church with surviving 14th century murals. The church is the 16th discovered at the archaeological site of Cherven and was previously unknown.

“The full-fledged exposure of the church building led to the discovery of a preserved layer of murals on the temple’s walls,” the [Ruse Regional Museum of History] says.

“The preserved fresco fragments are parts of a painted drapery as well as a partly preserved scene with figures of warrior saints,” it adds. […]

The area of the surviving murals is about 12 square meters on the ruins of the walls of the church, which is dated, more specifically, to the first decades of the 14th century.

The late medieval church is described as one of the temples that are representative of the life of the medieval fortress of Cherven.

The medieval fortress of Cherven perched on a high cliff in northeastern Bulgaria was one of the most important military, religious and economic centers in the Second Bulgarian Empire (1185-1396). An urban settlement grew around the stronghold, first contained within defensive walls, then bursting their confines with a large outer that expanded to the nearby hills. It was made the seat of the Bulgarian Orthodox Bishopric of Cherven in the 1235.

Located at the junction of two major trade roads, by the second half of the 14th century, Cherven’s its military and religious importance grew to include commerce and trade, iron mining, metallurgy and the arts. Its prosperity and religious prominence are attested to by the 80 inscriptions dedicated to church donors that have been found there. Only 60 such inscriptions have been found in Veliko Tarnovo, the capital of the Second Bulgarian Empire where the royal family and the patriarch had their palaces.

Cherven was conquered by the Ottomans in 1388 and soon lost prominence. The old city was abandoned and the few residents that stuck around built the modern-day village of Cherven down the river gorge from the clifftop. The remains of the medieval city were first excavated in the early 20th century. Systematic excavations began in 1961 and are ongoing. Today the site of medieval Cherven is a national archaeological preserve inside the Rusenski Lom Natural Park.

Some of the frescoes have been removed to a restoration workshop so they can be conserved and stabilized on a new surface. The mounted frescoes would then be put on display at the museum. The frescoes and walls remaining in situ have been covered for their protection.