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Strengthening, Conservation and Restoration of the Church of St Demetrius in Boboshevo (2003-2007)

30.12.2007

 The project is funded by the “A.G. Leventis” Foundation and WMF – Robert Wilson Challenge

Chief designer – architect Hristina Staneva; artistic restorer – Lyuba Krasovska, structural engineer – eng. Bozhidar Denchev
Contractor – Restavratsiya 02 Ltd

 

The church of St Demetrius is the best preserved church, representative for the churches from the late Middle Ages typical for South-Western Bulgaria – one nave, one apse with a semi – cylindrical dome and with frescoes covering entirely the interior and its western facade. Two layers of frescoes were identified; those from the second period (1488) represent original and extremely valuable representatives of painting and decorative art. The structure of the iconostasis, whose icons are kept in the gallery of “Alexander Nevski” Cathedral, has been preserved. The church is an architectural and artistic monument of culture with national significance.

The state of the church caused apparently concern at the beginning of last century, because in 1932 an attempt to strengthen it was made; the Medieval church was almost completely coated in new masonry while a narthex was added to the western facade. These unskillful attempts did not stop but even further triggered the process of decay. Therefore in the 80es of last century some emergency measures were implemented and a temporary protecting cover was put in place still leaving the overall issue of the sustainable protection of the monument unsolved.

Prior to the implementation of the project the structural state of the building was very bad. The original vault with a big longitudinal crack has an impaired geometry and carrying capacity; the big cracks in the carrying walls have interrupted the structural link between them. Impaired by the later masonry works is also the outlook of the building; certain information about the original medieval architectural outlook of the church is preserved only at the eastern facade.

Despite the bad state of the building, the frescoes were relatively well preserved, including those on the western facade, which prior to the putting in place of the narthex, for centuries was influenced by the elements. The more serious impairment to the decorative layer is due to deformations of the building, to certain later plastering and to superficial pollution. The worse affected are the areas of the big cracks between the walls and the vault as well as at the apex of the vault.

In 1998 the Bulgarian National Committee of ICOMOS prepared and presented to the A.G. Leventis Foundation a preliminary programme for the salvation of the  church of  St  Demetrius in Boboshevo together with the application for the programme implementation. After consultations between the Foundation and the WMF, the two organizations decided to jointly fund the project “Strengthening and architectural restoration of the church of St Demetrius in Boboshevo”. In 2001 the implementation of the project was assigned to the Bulgarian National Committee of ICOMOS. 

The main objective of the project is to alleviate the critical state of the church and to eliminate in a sustainable way the threat to it, to put forward its authentic architectural outlook and to secure the obligatory conditions for the overall restoration of the frescoes and for the optimal display of the monument.

Together with the preparation of the projects for the strengthening and the restoration, the necessary preliminary works were carried out: photogrammetric survey of the church and the frescoes, geodesic recording of the plot and photographic recording of the whole site (engineer Georgi Hadjiev and team); strengthening and protection of the murals on the vault; assembly on the inner supporting scaffold of protective shields in view of supporting the different sectors of the deformed and cracked vault; protecting the frescoes on the walls of naos and narthex.

Working projects for the parts: Architecture (arch. Hristina Staneva), Structural system (eng. Bozhidar Denchev), Construction and conservation technology (Prof. Valentin Todorov), Water and sewerage system, Electricity supply and Air conditioning were prepared.

The architectural restoration of the church was focused on the idea of optimally display the original outlook of the monument, taking into account the state of the monument and the new elements to guarantee the structural strengthening of the building. Were removed the later concrete counter-forces and the brick masonry around the medieval layer; recovery of masonry gaps, conservation of the visible wooden carrying elements along the southern and northern facades (vertical and horizontal); the two oak rings on the dome were recovered with inlaid metal rings as part of the new structural and strengthening system; wooden windows and doors and decorative metal grids. On the three outer walls of the narthex on the existing stone wall a second masonry was put in place with both walls caught in a reinforced concrete belt in the upper part. The ceiling of the narthex got a new configuration allowing better display of the medieval frescoes on the western facade of the medieval church.

The technological strengthening, having as objective the strengthening of the vault masonry, includes inlay of metal hangers, reinforced polymer layered plastering on surface of vault with a view of a better link between the different elements, filling of the cracks with a special solution.

The structural strengthening sets the task of securing the stability and seismic security of the church in line with the existing regulation, with the optimal preservation of the authentic outlook of the church and especially of its frescoes. Metal rods were inlaid within the strengthened vault by way of which, it hangs on the new metal roof construction above. It steps on four metal columns set on the northern and southern facades carrying the load to the new concrete foundations all around the church. Above the metal roof construction a wooden one is laid covered with hydro-isolation and traditional tiles.

The complex operations related to the strengthening and preservation of this small, semi-destroyed church were carried out in view of preserving its unique frescoes, so that they may be preserved and displayed in their natural setting, so that they can preserve their authentic cultural and historic value and charm.

With the putting in place of the engineering systems (water and sewerage systems – eng. Ivan Bilbilov, Electrical system – eng. Lyubomir Vasilev, Heating, ventilation, air conditioning – eng. Tsvyatko Kadiyski) humidity was radically discarded and the electrical system put in place (inner and outer lighting, lightning conductor). The project for air conditioning was not implemented due to lack of funds.

After the completion of the main part of the works foreseen within the project, a new proposal for a second funding was prepared and submitted in 2002 aiming at the full restoration and display of the monument. The donors responded understanding that the conservation of the frescoes, the main cultural and historic wealth should not be postponed and that the restoration of the frescoes is a condition sine qua non for the complete display of the whole monument, preserved due to their assistance.

Thus in 2003, the Bulgarian National Committee of ICOMOS was assigned the implementation of the project “Restoration of the frescoes, display of the interior and exterior of the church St Demetrius  in Boboshevo and rehabilitation of its setting”.

During the same year the projects for conservation and restoration were prepared and the first stage of the works was completed, having included the restoration of the frescoes in the naos: strengthening of the painted layer, filling of decayed areas and putting in place of plastering, extraction of salts, cleaning of frescoes and retouches.

Certain new data was established in the process of restoration – the frescoes of the older layer were solely identified on the southern facade; traces of fire were found, having impaired both layers,  were established the height, disposition and size of the iconostasis and the later treatment of it.

The colour treatment of the plastering  in the narthex, on the facades and of the visible elements of the metal structure was carried out within the scope of the project for display of the interior and exterior; two later frescoes planes on the facades of the church were removed; certain basic elements of the setting were treated.

The restoration of the frescoes of the western facade of the church, which are displayed in the narthex and the project for the setting was carried out also.

The project is finalized with the publication of research and restoration of the church.

 


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