National Museum of History Commissions Replica of Imperial Crown Worn by Medieval Bulgarian Tsars
Bulgaria’s National Museum of History in Sofia has commissioned the creation of a replica of the crown worn by the Tsars of the medieval Bulgarian Empire.
The Museum has released a photo of a model crown that will be used for the production of a full-fledged replica of the imperial Bulgarian crown from the High and Late Middle Ages which will be made with gold and precious stones.
The crown will be produced for free by Bulgarian jeweler Stoycho Vezenkov who will be donating his labor and craftsmanship.
The 1.5 kg of gold and the precious stones – emeralds, sapphires, and rubies – needed for recreating the original crown have been donated to the National Museum of History in Sofia by Bulgarian copper mining company Asarel Medet Jsc.
Thanks to the donations, the making of the replica of the crown worn by the medieval Bulgarian Tsars will not cost a dime to Bulgaria’s state budget, says Bozhidar Dimitrov, Director of the National Museum of History.
In addition to the Bulgarian Tsar’s crown, the Museum has also commissioned the production of a female crown worn by the Bulgarian Tsaritsa (Empress).
Dimitrov has come up with the idea of making a replica of the medieval Bulgarian crown after a visit in Hungary where he saw the Holy Crown of Hungary, also known as the Crown of St. Stephen, named after King Stephen I (r. 997/1001-1037 AD) as the first King of Hungary.
The Holy Crown of Hungary is kept in the Hungarian Parliament building as a symbol of Hungarian statehood.
Dimitrov says he thought it would be a good idea to commission the making of a replica of the medieval Bulgarian crown upon “finding out that the crown kept in the Hungarian Parliament is also a replica of the original”.
He points out that, unfortunately, the imperial crowns of the Bulgarian Tsars from both the First Bulgarian Empire (632/680-1018 AD) and the Second Bulgarian Empire (1185-1396 AD) have both been captured by invaders and lost.
“Bulgaria’s imperial crown [from the First Bulgarian Empire] was captured as a trophy by the Byzantines in 971 AD, and it was lost track of. The same probably happened to the crown worn by Tsar Samuil (r. 997-1014 AD) and his heirs. Nobody knows what exactly happened to it,” Dimitrov has told the Bulgarian National Television.
The crown of the Second Bulgarian Empire which was presented to Tsar Kaloyan (r. 1197-1207 AD) by Pope Innocent III (r. 1198-1216 AD) in 1204 AD had a similar fate.
“The crown of the Second Bulgarian Empire presented by the Pope to Tsar Kaloyan was captured by the Ottoman Turks in 1395 AD in Nikopol and disappeared,” explains the Museum Director, as cited by the private TV channel News7.
Yet, it is precisely the crown of the Second Bulgarian Empire, a gift from Pope Innocent III to Tsar Kaloyan, that the replica will be modeled after.
While Bulgaria has been part of the Eastern Orthodox Christianity ever since it adopted the Christian faith in 865 AD, in 1204, Tsar Kaloyan made a church union with the Papacy in Rome in exchange of the Pope’s recognition of his royal title.
Thus, for a couple of years, the medieval Bulgarian Empire was briefly under the diocese of the head of the Roman Catholic Church. The union, however, proved to be short lived with Kaloyan’s murder in 1207 AD.
The way the imperial crown of the Second Bulgarian Empire looked is known from several frescoes such as the 1259 AD murals of the Boyana Church in Sofia and the bone vault of the Bachkovo Monastery near Asenovgrad in Southern Bulgaria.
One of the murals in the Boyana Church known internationally as a monument of Early or Pre-Renaissance art shows the then Bulgarian Tsar Konstantin Asen Tih (r. 1257-1277 AD) and his wife, Tsaritsa (Empress) Irina, in their imperial attires, and wearing their official crowns.
“As a result of unfortunate historical events, we have lost track of Bulgaria’s medieval imperial crowns but they are symbols of our statehood, and these restorations will reminds us of that,” Dimitrov says.
“The Holy Crown of Hungary before which the Hungarians kneel down is not even kept in a museum, it is kept in the Hungarian Parliament. We should respect and love our crown the way the Hungarians respect and love theirs,” he concludes.
The replicas of the crowns of the Bulgarian imperial couple are expected to be ready by Christmas 2015, and will become part of the permanent collection of the National Museum of History in Sofia.
The Boyana Church “St. Nikola and St. Panteleimon” (St. Pantaleon) is a medieval / Early Renaissance Bulgarian church located in today’s Boyana, a suburb of the Bulgarian capital Sofia. It was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1979. It is a two-storey tomb church, with the lower storey designed as a crypt (tomb), and the upper storey – as a chappel for the family of the local feudal lord.
The earliest construction of the Boyana Church took place at the end of the 10th and the beginning of the 11th century AD when a small one-apse cross dome church was erected. It was expanded in the 13th century when it was turned into a two-storey family tomb church by the local feudal lord, Sebastokrator Kaloyan, ruler of Sredets (today’s Sofia, known as Serdica in the Antiquity period), and his wife, Sebastokratoritsa Desislava, as testified by a donor‘s inscription in the church from 1259 AD. (Sebastokrator (pronounced sevastokrator) was a senior court title in the late Byzantine Empire and in the Bulgarian Empire. It comes from “sebastos” (“venerable”, the Greek equivalent of the Latin “Augustus”) and “kratоr” (“ruler”). The wife of a sebastokrator was named sebastokratorissa in Greek and sevastokratitsa in Bulgarian.)
A second expansion dates back to the mid 19th century, during Bulgaria’s National Revival period, when residents of the then village of Boyana funded further construction. After Bulgaria’s National Liberation from the Ottoman Empire in 1878, local residents wanted to tear down the Boyana Church in order to build a bigger one in its place but was saved by Bulgaria’s Tsaritsa-Consort Eleonore (1860-1917), the second wife of Bulgarian Tsar Ferdinand (r. 1887-1918).
The unique murals of the Boyana Church also date back to different periods. The oldest layer is from the 11th-12th century, while the 240 most valuable mural depictions from the second layer date back to 1259 AD. There are also murals from the 14th century, the 16th-17th century, and 1882. The world famous murals from 1259 AD, which have been described by many scholars as Early Renaissnace or precursors of Renaissance Art, are the work of the unknown Boyana Master and his disciples who are believed to have been representatives of the Tarnovo Art School in the Second Bulgarian Empire (1185-1396 AD).
They have sometimes been described as belonging to the tradition of the so called Byzantine Palaiologos (Palaeologus or Palaeologue) Renaissence. In addition to the many biblical scenes, the murals at the Boyana Church feature depictions of Sebastokrator Kaloyan and Sebastokratoritsa Desislava as donors, as well as of Bulgarian Tsar Konstantin Asen Tih (r. 1257-1277 AD) and his wife, Tsaritrsa Irina. Two other small churches preserved in today’s Sofia are also attributed to the donorship of Sebastokrator Kaloyan. The frescoes of the Boyana Church were restored several times between 1912 and 2006. The Boyana Church was first opened for visitors as a museum in 1977.