Early Byzantine Monastery on the Western Black Sea Coast near the City of Odessos (Varna, Bulgaria)

  by Dr. Vassil Tenekedjiev

Balkan Heritage Foundation Branch Manager - Varna

Assistant professor at the Department of Archaeology,

Varna Regional Museum of History.


on Saturday, March 27, 2021
8 pm Sofia, Bulgaria (EЕT)

 2 pm New York (EDT)


You can now watch the lecture online in the gallery bellow.


The monastery on Djanavara Hill was one of the biggest and the most impressive Early Christian sites not only in the Varna region but also in the northeastern Balkans. It was situated 7 km from the ancient city of Odessos and not far from the renowned Via Pontica - a road along the western Black Sea Coast between the Danube Delta and Constantinople.


The monastery church was excavated in the early 20th century. It had an unusual ground plan which parallels those outside the Balkans, in Asia Minor and the Near East. The church's monumental architecture, colourful mosaics and beautiful marble decorations were impressive, but the most breathtaking find was hidden under the altar. In the underground crypt, relics (bones) of a saint were found contained within an elaborate golden reliquary decorated with semi-precious stones. The reliquary was placed in a small silver sarcophagus-shaped box, and further enclosed in another one made of fine white marble.


After a very long break of several decades, the excavation of the site was resumed in the late 1990s and continues to the present day. As a result of these efforts a large compound around the church – a monastery – has been unearthed. It functioned from the second half of the 5th to the early 7th century and stood among the most impressive Early Byzantine religious facilities in the Black Sea coastal region of the Balkans.


Djanavara Monastery site is the venue of one of the Balkan Heritage Foundation field schools – a joint project with the local leading archaeological institution: the Varna Regional Museum of History.