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Church of St. Paraskeva

Ulitsa Mesembria 2A, 8231 Nesebar, Bulgaria

The Church of Saint Paraskevi is a medieval Eastern Orthodox church that is largely survived in Nesebar (historical Mesembria), a town on the Black Sea coast of Burgas Province in eastern Bulgaria. It is a part of the Ancient Nesebar UNESCO World Heritage Site and was most likely constructed in the thirteenth or fourteenth century. The Saint Paraskevi Church has a single nave, a pentagonal apse, and lavish external ornamentation. Its dome and the belfry above the narthex have long since vanished, and it is unclear to which of the three Paraskevi saints it was consecrated.

The Church of Saint Paraskevi is a single-nave church that was constructed using the Byzantine cross-in-square form. It measures 8.45 by 4.85 meters (27.7 ft 15.9 ft), 14.70 by 6.60 meters (48.2 ft 21.7 ft), or 15 by 6 meters (49 ft 20 ft). It has a single broad pentagonal apse in its eastern portion and a narthex in its western section. The church was constructed using a pseudo-opus mixtum method, which also included the use of wooden beams, and was made of bricks and polished stones. Two arches created a barrel vault in the nave.

The church lacks a distinct sanctuary in front of the altar, but the prothesis and diaconicon are located in semicircular niches on each side of the apse. Additionally, the church’s design has a number of square niches that are reminiscent of similar architectural details seen in Veliko Tarnovo churches from the middle ages. The south wall is where the church’s entrance is located. The church once featured a dome, and its current double-pitched roof was constructed more recently.

The bell tower and calotte that previously crowned the church’s narthex have since been removed. A vaulted stone stairway on the church’s west side led to the tower. The Church of Saint Paraskevi and other Nesebar churches, including the Church of the Holy Archangels Michael and Gabriel and the Church of Saint Theodore, all share a belfry. However, unlike the Church of the Holy Archangels, the Church of Saint Paraskevi’s stairway was outdoors, similar to the Church of Christ Pantocrator.

The Church of Saint Paraskevi was beautifully ornamented on the exterior, much like other Nesebar churches from the same era. Two rows of lavishly adorned blind arches are included into the design of the outside walls. The north and south walls are decorated with two rows of eight thin arches each, as well as an extra three on the west wall and two on each side of the apse. Although both arcades were ornamented with archivolts made of three rows of colored ceramic rosettes, the lower arcade was bigger than the top one. The lunettes were constructed from stones and bricks in a variety of designs, such as suns, fish bones, and zigzag and checkerboard patterns.

There is disagreement on the Church of Saint Paraskevi’s age. Although some academics place its initial construction in the tenth century, it was most likely erected in the thirteenth or fourteenth century. This estimate is based on the structure’s resemblance to churches from that time period in Veliko Tarnovo, the capital of medieval Bulgaria.

The church is included in the Ancient City of Nesebar UNESCO World Heritage Site and the 100 Tourist Sites of Bulgaria, together with other architectural landmarks in the ancient town of Nesebar. In 1964, it was recognized as one of Bulgaria’s important cultural monuments. Even though it no longer functions as a church, it is still in use and is home to an art gallery.

Which of the Paraskevi saints the church was devoted to is yet unknown. Even though Paraskevi of Epibatos was more well-liked in Bulgaria and acknowledged by Ivan Alexander as his personal patron, the early Christian martyrs Paraskevi of Rome and Paraskevi of Iconium were more recognized throughout the Byzantine Empire and notably its capital, Constantinople. The first two possibilities, in the opinion of scholar Bistra Nikolova, are more plausible.

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