Early Christian Church & Monastery in Dzhanavara – Varna, Bulgaria

Early Christian Church and Monastery Complex located in the area called Dzhanavara in the Bulgarian Black Sea city of Varna dates back to the 5th century AD. It is located 5 km away from the fortress walls of the Ancient Thracian, Greek, and Roman city of Odessos (Odessus), today’s Varna. It existed for about 2 centuries having been destroyed in a barbarian invasion of the Avars and Slavs in the early 7th century AD. The architecture and mosaics of the Early Christian church are untypical for the Balkan Peninsula but bear some resembles to monuments in the easternmost provinces of the Roman Empire leading Bulgarian archaeologists to hypothesize that the Early Christian monastery was founded and inhabited by monks who came from the Middle East.

The church itself was 31 meters long and 28 meters wide, and the walls of its naos were 2.5 meters thick. It was built of layers of stone blocks. Under the church there was a man’s brick tomb where three reliquariesa marble, silver, and gold one – containing the relics of an unknown Christian saint were found. This discovery was made in 1915-1919 when the Early Christian church near Odessos (Varna) was excavated by the Czech-Bulgarian brothers Karel and Hermann Skorpil, the founders of modern-day Bulgarian archaeology. The site was further excavated by Bulgarian archaeologist Alexander Minchev and Vasil Tenekedzhiev from the Varna Museum of Archaeology (Varna Regional Museum of History) in 1997-1999 when they uncovered household structures proving that the church did not stand by itself but was part of a monastery complex. As of the spring of 2015, the unique Early Christian church and monastery are part of Bulgaria‘s State Forestry Fund, and have not been granted a protected status; their ruins have been used by locals for camping and drinking parties. Local archaeologists in Bulgaria’s Varna hope to be able to complete the excavations and turn the site into a Museum of Early Christianity. The site contains about 100 square meters of preserved Early Christian floor mosaics which have been reburied by contemporary archaeologists in order to protect them.

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