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Church of the Holy Archangels Michael and Gabriel

8231, Nesebar, Bulgaria

The Church of the Holy Archangels Michael and Gabriel is a medieval Eastern Orthodox church largely intact in the Bulgarian town of Nesebar (ancient Mesembria) on the Black Sea coast in Burgas Province. It was constructed during the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries and is part of the Ancient Nesebar UNESCO World Heritage Site. A church with a single nave and three apses that was formerly capped with a dome and a bell tower. Its lavish exterior ornamentation was executed in the distinctive manner of Nesebar.

The Church of the Holy Archangels is situated in the northern portion of the ancient town of Nesebar, next to the city’s peninsula’s coastline. On the basis of its aesthetic resemblance to the Church of Christ Pantocrator, the church’s construction is often dated to the same time, between the early 13th and early 14th centuries.

As the church is located in Nesebar’s old town, it is included in the Ancient City of Nesebar UNESCO World Heritage Site and the 100 Tourist Sites of Bulgaria. It has been under governmental protection as a “national antiquity” since 1927, and it was designated among Bulgaria’s culturally significant national monuments in 1964. The church is partly preserved, since its roof is missing in large portion. Existing arches have been strengthened with steel stretchers.

The design of the Church of the Holy Archangels Michael and Gabriel is based on the Byzantine cross-in-square layout. The dimensions of the church are 15 by 7 metres (49 ft 23 ft)[8] or 13.90 by 5.30 metres (45.6 ft 17.4 ft), and its walls range in thickness from 0.85 m (2.8 ft) to 1.30 m (4.3 ft). It comprises a single nave capped by a dome and two arches along the dome’s length. Each apse of the church has a window. The central apse with three walls is the biggest, while the two side apses blend into its sides. The altar is divided into a prothesis and a diaconicon by two pillars aligned with the positions where the side apses converge into the main apse.

The church’s east wall boasts a huge narthex with two vaults to the side of its broad entrance. There are two more entrances, a second large entrance on the narthex and a northern entrance to the nave. Historically, the church included a rectangular bell tower above the narthex, which was also incorporated into the design of the Church of St. Paraskeva and Church of St. Theodore in Nesebar. The overall design of the Church of the Holy Archangels, especially the placement of the bell tower, has many similarities with the Church of the Holy Mother of God at Asen’s Fortress and the Chora Church of Constantinople. The bell tower could be reached through a stone staircase located in the western portion of the nave.

As is typical of medieval ecclesiastical architecture in Nesebar, the Church of the Holy Archangels Michael and Gabriel has extravagant exterior decorating in a city-specific style. The church was constructed using the opus mixtum method, which consists of alternating rows of brickwork and stones placed in a checkered pattern. Two rows of carved stones are often followed by three or four rows of bricks. The exterior walls contain seven blind arches on the north and south walls and three blind arches on the west wall. Upper portions of the north and south walls have semicircular pediments. Each consists of three windows. The facade of the church is adorned with brick elements and friezes of triple bands of multicolored ceramic rosettes and circles positioned inside the arches.

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