Bulgaria History – Second Kingdom of Bulgaria (1185-1396)

By | January 9, 2022

After the repression of several uprisings, the uprising of 1185 led to the separation of the northeastern regions of Bulgaria from the Byzantine Empire. And already a few years later, the second reign of Bulgaria controlled a large part of the territories previously occupied by the Bulgarians. Political relations and the distribution of the forces involved in the Balkan peninsula changed radically after the fourth crusade (1204), when Constantinople and the he Byzantine empire were occupied by the Latins. Byzantium thus ceased to be the major power on the political scene of south-eastern Europe and, even after the restoration of the empire (1261), this role passed first to the reign of Bulgaria and subsequently to that of Serbia. Throughout south-eastern Europe there is a phenomenon of feudal splitting, without a firm central power capable of holding divergent forces together and countering threats from outside. It was thus possible for the Tartars to devastate in the second half of the century. 13 ° the Balkan peninsula without encountering any kind of resistance, except that of the peasants of the entire country. Only a short time later, during the century. 14 °, the Ottoman Turks slowly brought under their control the entire peninsula, progressively worn down by the wars between rival feudal lords until the definitive fall, in 1396, of the kingdom of Bulgaria, divided into three different domains. religious and political remained uneven and full of contradictions. The Bulgarian rulers directed their efforts to consolidate the autonomy of the national Church, juggling between Rome and Constantinople and making an alliance with the papacy of Rome; the latter, however, lasted a few decades, until 1235, when the autonomy of the patriarchate of Tărnovo was recognized. Nonetheless, the Bulgarian National Church only managed to overcome religious disputes for a short time. The Bogomil reform movement gathered an ever-increasing consensus, to the point that the official Orthodox Church felt their influence on the population as a serious threat to its very existence. Supported by the state, the Church initiated the persecution of the Bogomils, managing to expel them from the country. From that moment on, however, numerous other communities and religious sects arose which led to a further division of national unity. At the same time, the Hesychasm – the most significant mystical doctrine of medieval Orthodox Christianity – gained more and more weight, taking root strongly in the monastic sphere. Even the Hesychasts, like the Bogomils, first had their spiritual center within the political boundaries of the Bulgaria, in the hermitages on the Strandža mountains, and then, around the middle of the century. 14th, in the monastery of Kilifarevo, near Tărnovo, which also became one of the most important religious centers in Bulgaria. Despite the notable role played in the spiritual and cultural fields, both Bogomilism – which professed itself against images – and Hesychasm did not have much influence on artistic production.

According to searchforpublicschools, the humanistic movement, which also developed during the century, was decisive from this point of view. 13th, and the reaction of the clergy who opposed him. This movement, which emerged above all in the second third of the thirteenth century, involved not only the cultural environments linked to the court of the tsars and the feudal aristocracy, but also those expressed by the new bourgeois class, which were linked to the tradition of the period of greatest flowering of culture Slavic-Bulgarian or the classical one of Byzantine origin. Despite all the political and religious contrasts and obstacles, the capital of the tsars, Tărnovo, became the economic and cultural center of the second Bulgarian kingdom. In the first half of the century. 13 °, during the Latin domination of Constantinople, it played a leading role in all of south-eastern Europe, as the greatest center of Orthodox Christianity. In the numerous and rich monasteries of recent foundation – located at within the city or its immediate vicinity – a fervent creative activity was concentrated. Richly illuminated manuscripts were made within their scriptoria. Numerous workshops worked in Tărnovo whose production was not intended exclusively for the court. The shift of the cultural center of gravity towards the north-eastern regions had a negative impact on the art of southwestern Bulgaria. Although Macedonia was again part of the kingdom of Bulgaria already at the end of the century. 12 ° (followed in 1230 by Albania, Thessaly, Epirus and Mount Athos), in all this area the artistic influences of the capital were felt to a limited extent and the southwestern regions remained a distant province on the edge of the kingdom. Right in this area separatist aspirations emerged more and more sensitively and despotates more or less independent of the Bulgarian central power were born. While southern Macedonia, placed under the government of the Byzantine emperor Andronicus II (1282-1328), was increasingly open to the Constantinopolitan culture, incorporating the influences of paleological classicism, the extreme western regions remained tenaciously anchored to tradition. The archaic current that established itself in this area in the centuries. 13th and 14th centuries, aimed at preserving the local artistic traditions dating back to the pre-iconoclastic period, is therefore characterized as a reaction to the classicist tendencies of the art of Constantinople and at the same time as an attempt to resist the Byzantineization of national culture. In this way a ‘ ‘Paleochristian’ enclave destined to make its influence felt even later.

The architecture clearly testifies to the growing feudal splitting that in the early years of the century 13th leaves its mark on the organization of the cities, fortifications and castles of Bulgaria. In place of the urban layout of ancient ancestry typical of the first Bulgarian kingdom – characterized by the presence of a fully planned road network, a single city center, an articulated system of canalizations and fortified structures similar to those of military camps – developed a typology typical of the medieval city, arranged in a circular pattern around the citadel without a precise plan, divided into neighborhoods and dominated by the presence of many churches and monasteries. The large number of places of worship, often no larger than a chapel, is also a typical element of the Eastern European landscape in medieval times. The most common types are those of churches with a single nave covered by a vault or with a cruciform plan, with a dome on pendentives insistent on four arches supported by pillars, replaced in some examples by columns. In the Bulgarian construction tradition, contrary to what happens in the Byzantine world, the churches show a marked tendency to characterize the exteriors. The decorative repertoire of the exposed masonry is enriched with the use of encrustations in glazed ceramic and decorations carved on the facades, reaching the highest result in the 13th century. 13th and 14th in the churches of Tărnovo and Nessebar. The symmetrical structure of the facades is marked by the rhythmic scan obtained with the use of niches, pilasters and arched motifs, in order to achieve an overall harmony opposite to the programmatic verticalism of the Byzantine buildings. As for the churches inside the monastic complexes, starting from the century. 13 ° the triconch type prevails with narthex widened in transversal arms ending in semicircular basins for the singers, a typology that takes up the atonite models.. 10th, reconnecting the link with ancient spirituality, interrupted with the collapse of the national state and the Byzantine domination.

The monumental decoration appears marked by the recovery of classical formal and aesthetic ideals, as evidenced by the wall paintings of the rock church of S. Giovanni Battista in Ivanovo, dating from around 1230-1235 and above all what can be considered the maximum goal of this recovery, the wall decoration of the Boyana church (1259). Here the anonymous painter – while drawing inspiration in the iconographic choices from the pre-iconoclastic tradition of Western Bulgaria, characterized by rigid and fixed schemes – nevertheless managed to elaborate a rich and articulated expressive repertoire. In his painting there is a renewed attention to the natural model, a tendency with a distinctly humanistic root that can be traced back to the reformist movement within the Orthodox Church of Bulgaria, which lived its moment of greatest importance in the second half of the century. 13 °, to be then definitively repressed by the reaction of the clergy. The artistic development stopped completely due to the unfavorable conditions that occurred between the second half of the century. 13th and the principle of the subsequent inside and outside the country, to resume only in the twenties of the 14th century. In this phase, the exponents of the archaizing current of southwestern Bulgaria remained indifferent both to the classicist humanism of the school of Tărnovo and to that of paleological art. Their works express the quintessence of immobility and conservatism of medieval Christian-Orthodox art, as evidenced by the second phase of the paintings of the church of St. John in Zemen. the icons and the miniature of the century. 14 ° reflect the contrasted cultural horizon of this particular historical moment and the quality of the works of art is often very discontinuous. Alongside testimonies of an archaizing character, which border on artisanal production (Boboševo, Karlukovo, Kalotino), there are works of great refinement, which came out of the court workshops and already expressing Mannerist addresses (third layer of the frescoes in the rotunda of St. George in Sofia; Chreljo tower in the Rila monastery, dating from around 1335). These characters are also found in the miniatures of the Tărnovo school, which had its last flowering around the middle of the 14th century. Numerous manuscripts of particular value were created in the court scriptoria of the capital, three of which are preserved: the Chronicle of the World by Constantine Manasseh, from 1344-1345 (Rome, BAV, Sl. II); the Gospels of Tsar John Alexander, dated 1356 (London, BL, Add. Ms 39627); the Tomič Psalter, dated around 1360 (Moscow, Gosudarstvennyj Istoritscheskij Muz., M. 2752). The needs of clients linked to the court or to the aristocracy contribute to transforming the liturgical book into a valuable artistic object, whose representative value is well underlined by the presence of numerous images of the patrons themselves. While in the western Bulgaria the archaizing approach increasingly oriented the miniature – with its typical intertwining and tetramorphic ornaments – towards the local tradition, the school of Tărnovo made use of late antique and classical-Byzantine models.

Second Kingdom of Bulgaria