Thursday, 30 March 2017
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The Second Bulgarian Empire Print E-mail
The previous might of Bulgaria was restored during the reign of their youngest brother, Kaloyan (1197-1207), and during the reign of King Ivan Assen II (1218 -1241) the Second Bulgarian Kingdom reached its greatest upsurge: the territory of the country spread to the Black Sea, the Aegean Sea and the Adriatic Sea, the economy and culture florished.

This period was called “The Second Golden Age”. It coincided with important developments in the region – in 1204 during the 4-th crusade the Bizantine Empire were conquered and the Latin Empire emerged. The territorial aspirations of the Emperor Balduin I led to an open confrontation with Bulgaria. In April 1205 near Odrin the knights were defeated by the army of king Kaloyan and the emperor was captured and eventually executed. After the invasion of Constantinople by the crusaders, Bulgaria’s capital Turnovo became the center of the Eastern Orthodox Christian culture and attracted eminent artists, clerics and other spiritual leaders.

During the reign of Ivan Alexander (1331 - 1371) Bulgaria reached a new peak, which lasted until the end of the Second Bulgarian Kingdom (1186-1396). The schools of literature and the arts in Turnovo developed the traditions in Bulgarian culture, which is evidenced by the frescoes in the famous Boyana Church near Sofia, the churches in Turnovo, in the Zemen Monastery, the churches hewn into the rocks near Ivanovo, the miniatures in the Gospel that belonged to King Ivan Alexander, kept at the British Museum in London, and Manassiy's Chronicle. In 1235, the Head of the Bulgarian Church was given the title of Patriarch. The Bulgarian art and culture from that period were akin to the pre-Renaissance in Western Europe.

A special attention in this regard should be payed to the Boyana church - an antique of exceptional historical and artistic significance. It is located at the foot of the Vitosha Mountain near Sofia. The oldest part of the church dates back to the early 11th century. The most interesting part of the monument is the murals done in 1259. The frescoes are realisric and rich in tone, the artist skillfully combines the requirements of iconografical canones with real life. 89 scenes are depicted, containing 240 individualised human images - a real art gallery of 13th century. The portrait of the founder of the church patron Kaloyan and his wife Desislava and of Prince Konstantin and his wife Irina are the supreme peak of the skill of the artist. The frescoes of the Boyana church have been compared to the best Renaissance models, though actually preceding them with a century and a half. Due to its magnificence the Boyana church was included in the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1979.

The strife among the Boyars (Nobility) resulted in the division of Bulgaria into two kingdoms: the kingdoms of Vidin and Turnovo. This weakened the country and it was conquered by the Ottoman Empire in 1396.