In the period 10th -14th  June 2018, members of the team visited Varna. The purpose of the visit was to identify the Orthodox temples on the territory of the municipality, to hold meetings and talks with representatives of the local government, the Bulgarian Orthodox Church and representatives of cultural institutions, in this case those were assistants in the Archaeological Museum in the city. The visits were planned in advance with the assistance of the Municipality of Varna, in the face of the mayor, Mr. Ivan Portnih, Deputy Mayor Mr. Peycho Peychev. Due to Mr. Peychev’s efforts and authority, all the planned meetings were implemented, which the project team are cordially thankful for.
The choice of Varna Municipality as a pilot municipality fully corresponds to the pre-set objectives of the project and the field studies confirmed the expected results. The three main strands of study here are fully covered – there are old churches that are the subject to care and protection, new temples are being built, and which is specific to this region – the Orthodox temples are subject to increased tourist interest.
A meeting was held in Varna with Deputy Mayor Mr. Peycho Peychev, who had already helped to complete the project's basic questionnaire in March. During the conversation, the specific objects of the study, their present state and future development were identified. During the meetings with the representatives of the local community, which will be useful for the implementation of the project, not only was it declared, but it was also fully co-ordinated to carry out the planned field trips. It was also shared that the management of the Municipality of Varna is very close to the representatives of the BOC, in particular Varna and Veliko Tarnovo Metropolitan Bishops. By joint efforts, the two important institutions invest funds and implement projects for the preservation and promotion of the Orthodox temples on the territory as well as for the construction of new ones. At present, the most important and largest project site is the newly built temple St. Procopius of Varna.
The meeting of the team with representatives of the BOC in Varna was carried out with the exceptional cooperation of Mr. Peycho Peychev.
Father Dimitar, a builder and a protosinger of the Varna and Veliko Tarnovo metropolitan bishops, was kind enough to spare from his time and talk to the team. Father Dimitar was very pleased that the Varna and Veliko Tarnovo metropolitan bishops worked very well with the municipality in the preservation and promotion of the Orthodox temples on its territory. He expressed his positive attitude to the concern of the state and the municipality for the preservation of the Orthodox cultural heritage: church of St. Procopius, which is being built at the moment, is supported with the funds of the government and the municipality. It is a large temple with adjoining buildings, with conference rooms. I mean, both the municipality and the government are very much in favor of us. Boyko Borisov gave 300,000 leva, 150,000 leva was given by the municipality. Apart from that, it gave up to 170,000 leva to repair the roof of the cathedral. The problem is that in order to start the repair, we need permission from the MC, but we do not have the relevant documentation. Last year they donated 110,000 leva for this purpose and work on the matter – the design by an architect is done, almost everything is done. Some finishing works have remained, so we can apply to the Religious Directorate for restoration. It was restored ten years ago, but now, after these leaks, it needs restoration of the frescoes. Here in Varna there is salt moisture and there are white spots on the frescoes.  The altar we restored with the help of the municipality, the Directorate of Confessions and our funds, which we collect as donations. Great donations go to St. Procopius, there is the focus of the business. During the time of old Kiril, God forgave him, they helped him a lot, he had many friends in business, and they helped him with whatever they could. The cathedral is a bit forgotten, although it is the face of Varna and it hurts me because I am chairman of the Board of Trustees. They promise, but the promise is not like giving. When old Kiril invited them to a birthday cocktail or Easter, everyone said Yes – municipal councilors, businessmen, but then they go away, and that's only good wishes. But we are waiting for our documentation to be completed and a campaign to preserve our frescoes, because if we waste it, it will be a big loss."
A meeting was held with assistants from the historical museum in Varna. It was attended by Mr. Valeri Kinov – curator of Aladzha Monastery, Chief Assist. Dr. Vassil Tenekedzhiev – icon painter and Mr. Igor Lazarenko – director of the museum and organizer of the meeting. During the conversation, there were shared problems of the protection of the cultural heritage that exist in Varna and what actions are being taken to solve these problems.
Meeting-conversation with assistants of the Archaeological Museum of Varna on the issues of preservation of the cultural heritage in the region.
Unlike the representatives of the local authorities and the BOC, the museum's assistants expressed reservations about the cooperation between secular and ecclesiastical authorities as regards the preservation and management of Orthodox churches. They unveiled various unsettled relationships about the churches themselves and the icons in them, stating the reasons for this: "There are many hot issues. Take, for example, the exposition with the icons, one of the largest in the country. There are mischiefs because, for a while, two of the churches now operating in the city were museums under communism. Then they were returned to the church, which is good. However, we cannot understand which icons are to be in the church, and which ones in the museum. These are the churches "St. Atanasii "and" St. Archangel Michael". Accordingly, some icons that are registered with us are in the churches, and some of those who are registered in the metropolis are with us. One yearly records confirm this situation. They are not looking for co-operation, and we are not looking for co-operation. So the situation is a little subtle, in no case is it a war, just a cold relationship. The subtle point here is that Varna has two types of churches - the monuments of culture and others - archaeological monuments such as Aladzha Monastery, the monastery in the Teke Karaach area, like the one in the Dzinavara area. They are archaeological monuments and the church has no clergy with them except for Christian monuments. They do not use them, they do not explore them in any way. At the same time, there are functioning churches, such as St. Atanasii, Little Virgin, St. Archangel Michael, which are emblematic monuments. They are functioning churches, despite the fact that they are very old. There we do not have any word, because they are entirely in the hands of the Metropolis. It manages, restores, serves and so on. So these are two quite different groups of Orthodox temples. We are technically subordinated to the Ministry of Culture and practically subordinate to the Municipality of Varna. The Metropolis is subordinate to the Holy Synod.
There have been aspirations of the church to the Aladzha Monastery over the years, but in documentary terms, there is now no ambiguity. There are objects that are archaeological sites and monuments of culture. Aladzha Monastery is one of them. We are dealing with them. And there are churches that are active and are of the Metropolis. "
It was logical to pay particular attention to the museum complex Aladja Monastery.
 With the courtesy of Mr. Valeri Kinov, the curator, we were acquainted with the history and current state. It has been shared that the complex needs resources and restoration attention because many of the sites on its territory need to be strengthened and restored. The main thing that Mr. Kinov emphasized was that the whole team of the complex is ready to be useful at any time at the museum. He also explained how Aladzha Monastery was popularized and socialized as a museum complex. It is open to visitors throughout the season who learn about its history and the sites on its territory. With the efforts of the museum workers, the monastery has become accessible and safe – stairs, sheds, fortified walls are built. And all this without disturbing the authenticity of the sight.
At the initiative of Mr. Kinov, tourists have been attracted for some time also through multimedia. On success and difficulty he shared: “I’m a screenwriter of the show in my book of legends. With the director, who is from Sofia – Nikolay Yotov, whose company is called the production company CSN - something like that, we decided to show the cultural and historical development,  the periods of the development of the city of Varna in the clergy. Starting from the Karma Sea and passing through the appearance of the first people a hundred thousand years ago, the opening of fire and pottery production. We've presented every single period on a video. Without a screen, the rock serves as a screen and it is very interesting. There, on the left side, there is another screen.  The time of the necropolis is the next, the creation of the city 2600 years ago by the ancient Greeks, the Roman period with the remains that remained, the founding of the Bulgarian state, the time of Prince Boris and the history of the monastery itself, its main place - as a red line goes through this episode – the angel’s spell with the smile of the Giaconda. And the fall of the monastery, I used one of my colleagues in the battle – some reenactments that are made around Shumen every year, shot the Turks how they fought with swords. Here we shot the monastery's fall, the burning, the hiding of treasure and the death of the monks. The appearance of the legends and the final – the keeper of the monastery and the lively angel of the frescoes. The boy we were using was the film maker’s nephew, a striking resemblance to him and the angel. Striking. Unbelievable. For two years we've done some up to 200-250 shows. Many people watched them, but that’s it. I continue in anguish, talking about enthusiasm, because I have to provide the necessary number for the price list, the show needs at least 400 leva. The price is 10 leva for adults, for group visits – 4 leva for children. I have to provide at least 40-50 people to be able to pay off because I initially paid a company because we do not have a computer, video, and training specialists. A firm, Varna, "Prism", if you've heard it. They come to run the show. We initially paid them 400 leva. This year I cannot make more than 300-400 leva per spectacle, so my idea was to extend the working time of the site. After all, this money comes from the sightseeing, I use extra money when I have it.”
Very fruitful and effective was the meeting with the mayor of Varna Mr. Ivan Portnih.
Despite his commitment as mayor of this big city, he was kind enough to spare the time and talk to us about the actions of the municipality for the preservation of cultural heritage and the problems they face. On the efforts of the municipal management for the development of the city of Varna Mr. Portnih modestly stated:
“We are trying, of course, there is no magic wand, but we are trying. We have put a lot of effort in recent years. There was a fairly long period when Varna was so slow in its development so it did not take adequate advantage of the opportunities it had to attract funds for urban regeneration and not only for infrastructure, roads, schools, sports facilities, playgrounds, etc. But we've made quite a bit of it for the last three years, and we're trying to boost it even more. "
On the question of their cooperation with the Metropolitan Bishop, Mr. Portnih confirmed the opinion of both Peychev and Father Dimitar: “We and the Metropolis are trying to work really actively. We also help them actively with regard to St. Procopius, the government is helping, too. We, as a municipality, also devote serious resources every year to the completion of the temple. Father Dimitar also helps me with the maintenance of other temples.”
Yes, the roof of the cathedral had to be fixed, because the situation was already critical, it was threatening for the icons inside ... In Asparuhovo we recently renovated the temple, inside the icon paintings; a temple in the village of Zdravets was opened in the area a couple of weeks days ago, a Romanian icon painter painted it. Wonderfully, the locals are very happy. 10-12 days ago there was a feast.
Mr. Portnih did not fail to point out the problems with the Aladja Monastery and the restoration of other ancient monasteries and basilicas: What we have and do and in fact we have started at a very serious pace and will explain why we have ceased but unconditionally the Kniaz monastery of Karach Teke, socialization efforts must be made for advertising, of course the necessary restoration and consolidation activities will require a lot of money for this, but it is a unique place and access to it is unfortunately difficult. Construction of a very serious infrastructure is required. From here it is no more than 3-4 km in a straight line but it is in a place where land is restored and there is no regulation and the road is quite narrow to access. But there is a will there is a way for everything.”
On the question of the interest of the tourists in the historical and cultural heritage of Varna Municipality, the mayor replied:
“The problem the last 5 years has been that we have 100,000 tourists around the coast, mainly in the northern part, but these thousands of tourists do not visit the city. One reason is that tour operators avoid inclusion on the routes because there is no infrastructure to serve tourists (where to stop for city trips and so on). I was not a mayor yet when I initiated a pedestrian ring to give the city guests easy access to museums, galleries, cultural sites, and the city as a whole. We do what is needed.”
The main landmark of Varna is its cathedral “St. Holy Mother’s Ascension.”
The temple is located in the center of the city and represents not only a remarkable temple but also a subject of constant tourist and pilgrim interest. Its unique frescoes have yet to be restored and the roof is undergoing renovation. The funds are provided by the government, the Municipality of Varna and the BOC.
Great concern and responsibility for the BOC, the Municipality of Varna and the Varna community is the completion of the construction of the temple St. Procopius of Varna.
An important part of the field research on the territory of the Municipality of Varna was the visits of the individual Orthodox temples, which were the subject of a survey of the team. In addition to the cathedral temple in the city center, the newly built temple St. Procopius of Varna, the monastery St. Konstantin and Elena in the resort of the same name, the church in the village of Priseltsi.
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