Project type: Field school & research expedition
Field school & expedition founded: 2008
About the project: The "Fresco-Hunting" Photo Research Expedition to Medieval Balkan Churches provides a unique opportunity for students and volunteers to take part in an expedition to document abandoned medieval churches/chapels and their frescoes in western Bulgaria, and to visit many other Christian Orthodox churches, monasteries, museums and archaeological sites in Sofia, western Bulgaria and eastern Serbia. The expedition and the field school are coordinated by the Balkan Heritage Foundation (BHF). Participants receive training in digital photography and other methods of documenting heritage monuments. The field school is designed for students and young specialists in heritage, archaeology and conservation as well as artists, but we also welcome anyone interested in medieval culture (especially Byzantine or Orthodox Christian art and architecture), digital photography, cultural heritage preservation, and travel.
Major field school topics & activities:
The sites: Participants will study, receive training, and work on the documentation of up to two medieval Christian Orthodox chapels or small churches in western Bulgaria. Participants will also have the opportunity to visit several other churches and medieval sites nearby in western Bulgaria and in eastern Serbia.
Project venue and accommodation: Participants and staff stay in a hotel in Bankya, a small spa town within the Sofia Metropolitan Area, Bulgaria. We will travel to the church sites on working days to conduct our fieldwork which are located 50 - 100 km (31 - 62 miles) from Bankya. Travel arrangements to and from the sites will be organized by the Balkan Heritage Field School (BHFS).
Directors: Ivan Vasilev (PhD candidate in Archaeology, New Bulgarian University), president of the Balkan Heritage Foundation; Dr. Vassil Tenekedjiev (PhD in Archaeology), Varna Regional Museum of History and adjunct professor of archaeology, New Bulgarian University.
Dates: 13 - 27 May, 2017
Application deadline: 15 April, 2017
Minimum length of stay: Two weeks
Minimum age: 18
Number of field school places available: 8
Project language: English
Experience Required: All candidates are expected to have some familiarity with the basic principles of photography and digital SLR cameras. For those who don’t, the BHFS can offer the opportunity to take part in an additional, tailored online course about digital photography basics by Sofia Photography School prior to the field school. The cost of this training is not included in the admission fee of the field school.
Special considerations: The project is not recommended for individuals with special illnesses that might be exacerbated during the intensive outdoor activities. Note: Citizens of the EU, EEA, USA, Canada, Japan, Australia and New Zealand do not need an entry visa for Bulgaria and Serbia. Citizens of countries not mentioned above should check in advance whether they will need entry visas for one or both countries. The cost of any visas is not included in the price of the field school!
|Click here to watch testimonials of our former students. |
Click here to read "Fresco Hunting in Bulgaria" by Georgia Gene Berryhill (Ph.D. in Art History), Fulbright senior specialist in Bulgaria (2010).
THE EXPEDITION: The "Fresco-Hunting" Photo Research Expedition to Medieval Balkan Churches provides a unique opportunity to students and volunteers to take part in an expedition for the documentation of abandoned medieval churches/chapels and their frescoes in Western Bulgaria, and to visit many other Christian Orthodox churches and monasteries, museums and archaeological sites in Sofia, western Bulgaria and eastern Serbia. The number of these monuments has sadly been permanently decreasing due to the lack of effort to preserve and protect them from weather damage and vandalism. During the last nine years, Bulgarian, Macedonian, US, Canadian and Japanese specialists and students from all over the world participating in the “Fresco-Hunting” Photo Expedition have expanded and upgraded the existing database of drawn and photographic records of eleven churches and chapels in western Bulgaria. We aim to publish a corpus of these medieval frescoes and to develop further projects to support and record the remaining endangered sites through conservation, restoration, development and/or improvement of each site's management, and fund-raising. Our work so far has been successful in raising public awareness, and some of the sites we documented have been partly conserved. Articles about two of them (Zimevitsa and Golesh) are now in print. Unfortunately, many more remain in desperate condition, awaiting either better times or continued deterioration.
ARCHAEOLOGICAL AND HISTORICAL CONTEXT: The decline of Bulgarian and Byzantine Empires (14th - 15th centuries), the rise and fall of the Serbian Kingdom (and Empire from 1346 to 1371), the Ottoman conquest of southeastern Europe and the height of Ottoman power (second half of the 14th century to the end of the 17th century) highlight the Late Medieval period in the Balkans. The churches and chapels which will be visited and studied during the field school were built during these turbulent times in one of the few Balkan areas where the traditions of all the major Balkan Late Medieval art schools and guilds (those of Constantinople, Tarnovo, Ohrid, Thessaloniki, Mount Athos, Epirus, and Crete) met. What we see today from the once-flourishing medieval Orthodox art in the area are the small chapels and churches that survived the Ottoman invasion in the 14th and 15th centuries and the following social and political upheavals. Many of these monuments are characterized by humble architecture and often hide exquisite frescoes behind their unattractive exterior. Most of them were abandoned long ago, and there is visible damage due to both vandalism (during the period of the Ottoman Empire by either hostile Muslims or superstitious Christians, and nowadays by looters and vandals) and/or decay due to weather and lack of maintenance following their abandonment.
THE FIELD SCHOOL: In 2017, the project envisions to enhance the database created during the previous seasons by documenting the architecture and frescoes (and their condition) of one or two medieval Christian Orthodox chapels or small churches in western Bulgaria and collecting new data on their history, artifacts and environment. The region in focus is geographically and culturally very close to present-day eastern Serbia, where a photography excursion to several medieval ecclesiastic monuments will also take place. The students will be able to identify parallels and make comparisons between the churches and their murals across the border in Serbia and those that they will be working to document in Bulgaria.
The Field School is comprised of:
Excursions and guided tours of Sofia, Rila Monastery (UNESCO World Heritage Site), Bulgaria, the Momchilov Grad Fortress in Pirot, as well as the 14th-century monasteries of Poganovo and Temsko in Serbia (Please refer to the Field School Agenda.)
All participants will receive:
Arrival and check-in by 7.30 pm
A pick-up can be arranged from the Sofia airport, train or bus stations upon request.
Presentation of the Balkan Heritage Field School, the project and the participants. Ice-breaking activities and orientation. LECTURES, WORKSHOPS and Sofia Downtown Tour.
Lectures and workshops in the area of South East European medieval history, Christian Orthodox iconography, introduction to photography for heritage documentation and project methodology.
Fieldwork at the sites (approx. 7-8 hours per day).
Guided visit to the Rila Monastery (UNESCO World Heritage Site)
This is the largest and oldest surviving Orthodox monastery in Bulgaria, and was established in 10th century by St. Ivan Rilski (St. John of Rila).
Fieldwork at the sites (approx.7-8 hours per day)
Photo excursion to eastern Serbia.
Workshops for processing digital images and the development of digital archives, as well as hagiography at the hotel. Presentation of preliminary project results
Optional courses in illustration of architectural features and frescos (using graphic software).
Departure. Check-out by 12.30 pm
A drop-off can be arranged to the Sofia airport, train or bus stations upon request.
Raykovska, M., G. Bevan and I. Vasilev. The Integration of Different Computational Photographic Modalities in High-Accuracy 3D Building Models: The Case of the Church of St. Petka, Bulgaria – In: Virtual Archaeology (Methods and Benefits) Proceedings of the Second International Conference held at the State Hermitage Museum 1-3 June, 2015, Saint Petersburg, The State Hermitage Publishers, 2015; pp. 139-157
Iconography and Wall Paintings
Camera Exposure and Metering
Understanding the Histogram
Understanding How a Camera Works
Camera Lenses: Focal Length and Aperture
Understanding How Depth of Field Works
Choosing and Using a Tripod
Color Temperature and White Balance
Light in Photography
Nearest Air Terminal: Sofia (SOF) - don't forget to check the low cost flight options!
How to get there? If participants arrive at either the Sofia airport or bus/train stations, a taxi transfer to the project venue in Bankya may be arranged by request for an additional fee of 15 EUR. (Please, specify this in your application form.) Otherwise, there are easy and inexpensive ways for participants to reach Bankya via Sofia public transport (bus, subway, and train). Details will be included in the information sheet disseminated to all participants approximately a month before the project begins.
Visa requirements: Citizens of EU, EEA, USA, Canada, Japan, Republic of Korea, Australia and New Zealand do not need a visa to visit Bulgaria and Serbia. Citizens of all other countries may need a visa. The Balkan Heritage Foundation can send an official invitation letter that should be used at the relevant embassy to secure a visa to the program. For further details please visit our visa information page.
Accommodation: Participants will stay in comfortable rooms with two to three beds (bathrooms with shower and WC, TV) in a hotel located in the downtown of Bankya, which also provides free Wi-Fi. Laundry service is available once a week.
Meals: Three meals per day are covered by the admission fee. Meals usually take place in the hotel restaurant, except the brown-bag lunches (when on site and during the excursions). Requests for vegetarian food are accepted. Participants will have to pay extra for additional days in the hotel, for single room accommodation, as well as for any meals and beverages, services or products outside the project package. The cost of accommodation for any extra days in shared (2 beds) room is 20 EUR per person, single-occupancy rooms cost 30 EUR per day. Single rooms are available upon request for the duration of the field school for an additional fee of 350 EUR.
Free time: Bankya and Sofia offer many opportunities for good entertainment, spa, sports, sightseeing and shopping. For more information see: http://www.sofia-guide.com. Hiking, horse riding, and spas are possible leisure activities easily accessible in Bankya. Guided visits of Sofia, including the downtown, National Museum of History, Boyana Church (UNESCO World Heritage Site) and Rila Monastery (UNESCO World Heritage Site) in Bulgaria, as well as the Poganovo and Temsko monasteries and Pirot Castle in Serbia, are organized for all field school participants and included in the admission fee.
Weather: A moderate continental climate influenced by the surrounding mountains dominates in Sofia and the area of the expedition. Springtime is traditionally refreshingly and rainy (12-25 C, 56-77 F), but the weather in May can be unpredictable -- it may be cool or be surprisingly hot (up to 30-35 C; 86 – 95 F).
What to bring?
The Admission fee includes: educational and fieldwork activities, full-board accommodation (hotel + 3 meals per day), tools, materials, project e-handbook, issue of Certificate of Attendance, excursions/sightseeing tours/entrance fees and administrative costs.
The price in USD is for orientation. Please check current exchange rates!.
The Early bird admission fee is 1286 EUR (approx.1440 USD).
The regular admission fee is 1429 EUR (approx.1602 USD).
Admission Fee Transfer Options:
- Bank transfer
- On-line transfers via the Balkan Heritage virtual POS Terminal. VISA, MASTERCARD & MAESTRO cards are accepted.
For further information contact Admissions Office at [email protected]!
* 5% DISCOUNT OFF the regular admission fee available in case of:
* 10% DISCOUNT OFF the regular admission fee available in case of:
* 12% DISCOUNT OFF the regular admission fee available in case of:
* 15% DISCOUNT OFF the regular admission fee is available in case of:
Note, 7% of every admission fee for this project directly supports the Balkan Heritage Protection Fund's activities!
New Bulgarian University grants 6 ECTS credits to students for attending this field school. Transcripts of Records (ToR) are available upon request for an additional tuition fee starting from 282 EUR for six ECTS credits. For details please read carefully the Regulations for obtaining Transcripts of Records.