Church of the Assumption - Bansko

08.01.2016
Church of the Assumption - Bansko

The Church of the Assumption in Bansko was built around the 16th-17th century on the foundations of a medieval Bulgarian church that was most likely destroyed during the Ottoman invasion. Evidence of this are the discovered walls about 6.5 ft (2 m) thick, as well as the reused stone blocks in the masonry of the current church. There is vertical writing noticeable on several of them (on the northern wall).

The church bears the name Church of the Assumption and was built even before Bansko had formed as a village. At the time, Bansko essentially consisted of 5 neighborhoods scattered high in the mountains, with just one of them sitting at the foothills - Buga Mahala. Now the church is located in Bansko's cemetery.

Old sources indicate that this was the 1st church built in the region and that it was entirely surrounded by pine plantations, which served as a sort of protection. A peculiar fact about this old church is that its construction was approached in a way not typical for church building at the time. The foundations were built first and then the altar was added. It is unclear why the builders did it this way but this process is clearly evident in the construction of the Church of the Assumption. Even today, when one goes inside, the specific building method is quite obvious, it is divided by barriers.

The uniqueness of the church is supplemented by the iconostasis with its openwork carving. Crafted with extreme attention to detail in order to achieve perfection, prof. Bojkov called it "Dyado Turpen". Its craftsman is unknown but it is believed it was the work of an artisan from the Debursko School - this type of openwork carving and the techniques applied to the iconostasis were prominent there. The exceptional icons were identified - they were the work of Toma Vishanov - Molera, founder of the Bansko Art School.

Unfortunately on September 7, 1958 the church caught on fire. Interestingly enough, the fire stopped on its own but the cross and a large section of the iconostasis were burned. The icons were also damaged and needed restoration. Only 2 of the icons survived without suffering any visible damage from the fire - the icons of St. Ivan Rilski and St. Mary.

With its lengthy history, the Church of the Assumption takes its place among one of the most important sights to see in Bansko.

There are claims that some of the iconostasis of the Church of the Assumption was taken out of the country by traveling merchants and that the iconostasis of another church in the region, St. Elijah, was put in its place - but this has never been proven.

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