St. Theodore Tiron and Theodore Stratelates - Dobarsko
The church of St. Theodore Tiron and Theodore Stratelates, located in the village of Dobarsko, Razlog municipality, was built as a triple nave basilica from stone and mortar in 1614 by proactive and wealthy Dobarsko residents. Judging by the plaque built into the floor in front of the altar, we can deduce that the church was built in 1122. If you were to look at the outer wall, you'd find a very discreetly placed Christian cross and swastika.
Half buried in the earth, lacking a bell tower and dome, with tiny windows, the church looked more like a small inaccessible fortress. Dobarsko residents compensated for this with its awe-inspiring interior decoration and grandeur.
The striking frescoes and authentic architecture of the church place it among the ranks of the finest examples of Bulgarian art. The many frescoes cover every inch of the walls and ceiling. The images of the patrons St. Theodore Tiron and Theodore Stratelates, Byzantine soldiers who were slain for their belief in Christianity, are painted above the door.
Despite being small in size, there are over 450 images in the church. These include about 30 painted images of female saints - a feat unmatched by any other church.
At the entrance of the defensive section built later on, the visitor's attention is immediately grabbed by the fresco St. Theodore Tiron and Theodore Stratelates Crush the Dragon, which dates all the way back to 1672, when the church was painted with Biblical imagery. At the narthex it's evident that the church was buried fairly deep in the ground.
There are 2 entwined snakes present at the altar entrance at the base of the cross. The dualistic symbol is unique (dualism in religious studies has a very long tradition, it's part of many Christian heresies and is generally difficult to keep it consistent with monotheism.
Under the church building gushes a small stream, which according to local legends has healing properties. Legends tell how the blinded soldiers of Emperor Samuel managed to reach the church and some of them remained there, to found a singing school. The school still exists to this day. It is also believed that Samuel's warriors were the founders of the village, who remained at the healing stream after the battle.
Today, the church of St. Theodore Tiron and Theodore Stratelates is among UNESCO's protected world heritage sites and the pride of the Razlog municipality.
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