18 May 2021

Bulgarian Royal Blood in the Heart of Constantinople!?

The team managing the Heritage BG project BG05M2OP001-1.001-0001 Creation and Development of Centres of Excellence
Invites you
to a public lecture on
Bulgarian Royal Blood in the Heart of Constantinople!?
to be delivered by
R & D coordinator of the project
Prof. Emmanuel Moutafov
Director of the Institute of Art Studies, BAS



The lecture is occasioned by the Day of the Holy Isapostolic Brothers Cyril and Methodius and will be given on 20 May 2021, 4:00 pm, Auditorium 1, University of Sofia.

Illustration_11Prof. Emmanuel Moutafov will present curious facts from his latest monograph The Theotokos, the Container of the Uncontainable: Human Dimensions to the Palaeologan Art in Constantinople, Sofia, 2020, published under the Heritage BG project BG05M2OP001-1.001-0001 Creation and Development of Centres of Excellence.
Is Bulgaria’s history of the days of the Palaeologi and the Asans linked to the Chora Monastery in Constantinople (Istanbul)?
To what extent have the elites always been mixed while the nations were at war with each other?
The new collector’s edition comprising 100 copies only published by the Publishing Department of the Institute of Art Studies, BAS, in the summer of 2020, answers these questions. Prof. Emmanuel Moutafov’s monograph, Theotokos, the Container of the Uncontainable: Human Dimensions to the Palaeologan Art in Constantinople, summarises all publications so far on the Chora. Most of the colour photographs and the four sketches of monograms were made by the author exclusively for the book. For the first time ever, a connection is made in this monograph with the epitaph for Eirene Asanina (the wife of King Ivan Asan III), composed by Manuel Philes that, in all probability, described the iconographic programme of the Chora funeral chapel. Prof. Emmanuel Moutafov argues that it is more possible that the descendants of Eirene Asanina, i.e. members of the Palaeologi and the Asans, have been interred in the arcosolia of the chapel, while Theodore Metochites chose the Diaconicon as his burial place, thus offering connection with Bulgaria’s history. To prove this, the author includes in his study texts from manuscripts, coetaneous with the monument, unravelling more mysteries related to the church donors.
In his book, Prof. Emmanuel Moutafov provides a comprehensive overview of the inscriptions at the church, with decipherments and translations, an analysis of the construction stages, treating the historical, artistic, spiritual and human contexts, in which the monument functioned, especially in the Palaeologan period. An attempt is made to reconstruct the figures of the artists, who have worked at the Chora, conditionally named by the author „Florus and Laurus“, to prove that, in all likelihood, they were brothers. The author believes that their atelier was established in Constantinople, rather than in Thessalonica, as E. Tsigaridas assumes. The atelier of about ten members, who changed over the years and besides building, were also engaged in designing and making mosaics, stone statuary and painting, decorated the Church of the Holy Apostles in Thessalonica after the Chora and not the other way around, and came back to the Chora for repairs and additions until the mid-fourteenth century.
The Chora monastery is among the most well-known and thoroughly studied Byzantine monuments in contemporary literature. Its architecture, mosaics and murals are a textbook example of the Constantinopolitan Palaeologan art of European quality and history, worthy of the treasure trove of the world cultural heritage. The church was the first defiled by the Ottomans on 29 May 1453 by breaking to pieces the wonderworking icon of the Theotokos, the sacred palladium of the city. Later, the building was converted into a mosque (Kariye Camii) and in 1958 it opened to the public as a museum.
The study appeared in the context of the developments at Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, as a call for a more responsible treatment of the extant Christian and, to a great extent, world monuments in the Republic of Turkey. The Chora, the subject of this study, also shared such a fate last year; still, the Bulgarian book on it failed to be launched because of the anti-pandemic measures. Some of the mosaics at Kariye Camii have already been covered up with plasterboard, so that not to distract Muslims from their prayer.