Ротонда "Св. Георги" - София


    Five layers of wall-paintings have been preserved in the “St. Georgi” Church: the first of them is the earliest (the most ancient one) is related to the 6th century when probably the Rotunda was inaugurated as a Christian temple and painted; the second layer – to the end of the 9th or the beginning of the 10th century, i.e. to the period of the First Bulgarian Kingdom; the third one - to the end of the 11th or the beginning of the 12th century, when Bulgaria was under the  Byzantine yoke; the fourth layer – to the end of 14th century – the last century of the Second Bulgarian Kingdom; the fifth layer - to the end of 16th century when the “St. George” Church was transformed into a mosque.
    The remains of the antique layer are very slight – a little fragment in the north-west niche. Some remains of the fifth Turkish layer, ornaments with brick red color are preserved on the west wall over the window. These two layers – the first and the fifth ones – are only of documentary importance. The other three layers medieval art of painting are locate as follows: the third layer is located the highest, in the vault, next to the eight windows’ line, in the drum; the first layer is beneath it and under it is the second one. Beneath the lower part is without frescoes – for that reason it is supposed to have been lined with marble.
    The first medieval layer of frescoes (10th c.) consists of two friezes – an upper and lower one. In the north part of the upper frieze fragments of six flying angels’ figures have been preserved, as well as the head of one angel. In the lower frieze, the space among the eight windows, sixteen prophets were painted. Only fragments of the figures of three prophets and the nimbus of the fourth prophet have been preserved out of them.
    The second medieval layer of frescoes (11th – 12th c.) is of mixed composition. Some remains of the first frieze from the 10th c. are included in it (the figures of three prophets on the north wall and the nimbus of the fourth prophet). The other 12 prophets are related to the time of the second painting of the rotunda (11th – 12th c.). How had that happened? In the 12th century the walls of the rotunda were plastered again and covered by frescoes. Even earlier than the 14th century under the oval of the vault the fresco plaster next to the damaged places had evidently been damaged and later it began ripping off and revealing the original images of the three prophets. On the rest of the surface under the windows, the areas over the niches and in the upper part of the niches, some gospel scenes and the figures of the four evangelists are located.
    The third medieval layer (14th c.) is located in the highest part of the rotunda – in its vault. Painted after the vault restoration, it consists of two parts: the central image of All-powerful Christ, surrounded by four flying angels and the figures of the four evangelists, and the frieze of twenty-two prophets, located beneath them.
    The highest is the evaluation of the first layer of medieval frescoes, painted during the time of the First Bulgarian Kingdom. The exclusively high level of these frescoes is brightly displayed by the remains of the frieze with the evangelists, and particularly one of them. Here great artistic virtues are demonstrated in combination with a thorough expressiveness and grandeur, typical for the early period of the East Christian (Byzantine) pictorial art.
    The second layer of frescoes (11th – 12th c.), related to the time of the Byzantine rule in Bulgaria, also exhibits some characteristics of the grandeur of the East Christian  pictorial art – in a much later form and of Byzantine origin. The static character predominates in it – the figures are with severe ascetic faces, showed in freezed static poses. 
    The third layer of frescoes (the end of the 14th c.) is made in the grandeur tradition of the old art of painting and by famous master-hands. Certainly, the scale of the images in height of this layer considerably – almost one metre - is reduced, compared with the images in the first and the second layers of frescoes, that reach approximately three meters. But, as compensation, the frescoes of the third layer are broken up by strong movements, luscious with the echo of the tragic for the Bulgarian people events of that time.
    The inscriptions of the first and the second layer are in Greek, and of the third layer – in Old Bulgarian language.

    Dear brothers and sisters, visitors of this ancient temple, let’s pray St. George intercede with our gentle God – Jesus Christ, this temple to survive till His second glorious Advent in order human souls can be saved in it. Amen.