The Rock-Hewn Churches of Ivanovo are a UNESCO World Heritage site located in the beautiful valley of the Rusenski Lom River in Northeastern Bulgaria. The complex comprises rock-hewn churches, chapels, monasteries, and cells built between the 12th and 14th centuries during the Second Bulgarian State. The complex includes around 40 churches, though only six have preserved frescoes. These frescoes, created in the 13th and 14th centuries, are considered to be of exceptional artistic quality and are a significant achievement in the Christian art of Southeastern Europe.
One of the most famous churches in the complex is the rock monastery “Saint Archangel Michael”, which was founded in the 1220s by the monk Yoakim, who later became a Bulgarian patriarch. The complex was also known to be a center of spiritual and educational activity during the Second Bulgarian Empire. It was the center of the Hesychast movement in Orthodox Christianity.
The frescoes in the church of Saint Mary are particularly renowned and considered some of the most representative examples of Paleologus art on the Balkan Peninsula. They are also considered an archetype of the Last Supper, painted 150 years before Leonardo Da Vinci’s famous painting. The complex remained active during the early days of the Ottoman Dominion, but it declined over time. Today, the Rock-Hewn Churches of Ivanovo are a popular tourist destination and a testament to medieval Bulgaria’s rich history and artistic achievements.