History & Culture Visit Bulgaria

Perushtitsa | The Red Church in Black & White

Did you know that one of the earliest surviving Christian churches in Europe is located near the small Bulgarian town of Perushtitsa?


The Red Church | Shot on Panasonic DMC LX-15

The so called Red Church (named after the red bricks it was built with) is dated around 5th century AD: among the first temples built after the official recognition of the religion by the Roman Empire.

What makes it truly unique is that it is the only church with a Northern-facing altar in the world.

Some of the preserved frescoes | Shot on DMC Lx-15

It was meant to be a Martyrium for storing the remains of Christian martyrs and its dome stood an impressive 30+ meteres above the ground, but the sacred status of the area dates back to the pagan worship sites previously established in the area. Most of the church was destroyed during the 4th Crusade by Ottoman military leaders.

Leaving small printed icons and coins for good health and in support of prayers | Shot on Panasonic DMC LX-15 (Dynamic Monochrome)

Why in Black & White?

There is an old debate in art regarding the juxtaposition of Colore vs Disegno: color and drawing/invention of pattern. Although the paragone (debate) reached its pinaccle during the Renaissance, its primary positions can be applied to any example of art. In very simplistic terms it oposes the esthetic effect of color over the well thought out shape of the image.

In the case of the Red Church it is relevant because the remains have preserved an original approach with a round shape which is typical of Armenian churches but not so well spread in Western Christian architecture. In order to focus on shape, rather than the famous color of the church, I took the liberty to render this Red legend in Monochrome. This switch helped me see the building in a more dramatic light: monumental and uncompromising, rather than just famous for its brick color.

I don’t know about you but I felt like listening to Depeche Mode during the entire visit | Shot on DMC LX015 (Dynamic Monochrome)

The entire site was renovated in 2013 | Shot on DMC LX-15 (Dynamic Monochrome)
Some of the scaffolding remains to hold the arches | Shot on DMX LX-15 (Dynamic Monochrome)

How to get there?

Images from this article also featured on Atlas Obscura

atlas obscura

Practical Tips

✓The site of the remains is quite small so unless you are interested in a really quick visit you can also learn more about Byzantine and Roman architecture, as well as the history of Christian temples in the nearby museum.

✓ Perushtitsa played an important role in the historical April Uprising in Bulgaria and to learn more about it you can visit the historical museum in town and the landmark memorial church St. Archangel Michail: where the last 127 defenders of the uprising, part of whom (among whom Kocho Chestimenski) heroically choose death instead of surrendering to the Ottomans.

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