St. Dimitar church, Skortzite

In 2012, together with my colleagues from the architectural heritage preservation masterclass (led conjointly by the Bulgarian Institute for Architectural Heritage and French École de Chaillot), we made a field study at the Skortzite village, where we surveyed several buildings. My team worked on the village church.

Although by 2015 there was only one permanent resident left in Skortzite, the village flourished during the 19th century. The magnificent stone church bears witness to this period of glory.
It was built by Gencho Kanev, a master-builder hailing from Tryavna, assisted by his apprentice Gencho Novakov. The interior walls are entirely covered by wall paintings.

Originally, the church had no bell tower – prayer offices were initially signaled to the faithful using a semantron, and later using a bell suspended to a nearby tree in the church courtyard. During the 1930’s, Bulgaria underwent a period of extensive church-building and many bell towers were added to existing churches. Often, those new additions were built using reinforced concrete, a construction technique which was spreading fast at that time. In the case of our stone church, however, the graft of a reinforced concrete structure caused structural problems, as well as – in the opinion of part of our team – aesthetical discrepancy.

After a thorough survey of the church and a detailed analysis of its architectural, artistic and historical value, we studied the causes of the existing structural problems and prescribed emergency measures to stabilize the endangered sections. Then we proposed a project for the rehabilitation of the building in the context of the development of the village as a destination for rural tourism.

Our work was exposed at the French Cultural Institute in Sofia, then presented in Paris and Istanbul at exhibitions by the École de Chaillot.

Find out more about the project here