Icons

The soft radiance of the Bulgarian icon is a manifestation of the fate, stability and spiritual evolution of the Bulgarians after their conversion to Christianity during the 9th century. Unknown master painters filled the dead iconographic scheme with life, exquisiteness and bursts of color. The canonical ascetic faces were replaced by youthful looking saints, humble hermits, venerable prophets and lifelike portraits of the Blessed Virgin. Their deep-set eyes radiate wisdom and love of mankind. The virtuoso line and the vivid, exuberant color imposed a new ideal of beauty, previously unknown in the Christian world.

The tradition of the Bulgarian icon was enriched throughout its millennial history before attaining its zenith during the National Revival period (17th-19th century). The time was ripe for the manifestation of the great artistic taste and talent of the Bulgarian. Whole families of gifted artists brought fame to the three icon-painting schools of Troyan, Samokov and Bansko. Their art works adorned not only the newly built churches, they also entered the Bulgarian home. This explains why icons are so dear to the Bulgarian heart.

The most valuable examples of our icon-painting heritage today are displayed in the Crypt of the Alexander Nevsky Memorial Cathedral and the National Museum of Church History and Archeology in Sofia, the Museum of History of Art in Varna and the Museum of Wood-carving and Painting in Tryavna. A considerable part is kept in the altars of churches and monasteries throughout the country.