The many unusual churches of Nessebar

Sveti Spas (Church of Saint Spass), Nessebar, Bulgaria

Sveti Spas (Church of Saint Spass)

During the Middle Ages, the city of Menembria on Bulgaria’s Black Sea coast had more than 40 churches. Quite impressive for a such a tiny place. (Some claim it’s the town with the highest number of churches per capita anywhere. I’m not so sure, though; I’ve seen numerous small towns in the American Midwest with an impressive number of churches).

Today, the city is better known as Nessebar. Or Nesebar, Nesebur, or, probably most correctly, Несебър. UNESCO has deemed the Ancient City of Nessebar worthy of special protection, so I’ll go with UNESCO’s spelling.

Many of the churches are now in partial ruins, like Hagia Sophia below. Although, to be fair, Sophia doesn’t look bad for a 1500-year-old.

Hagia Sophia (Church of Saint Sophia), Nessebar, Bulgaria

Hagia Sophia (Church of Saint Sophia)

Others are very well preserved, and look like exclusive stone villas, one lovelier than the next.

Church of the Holy Archangels Michael and Gabriel, Nessebar, Bulgaria Church of St. John the Baptist, Nessebar, Bulgaria

The prettiest church in Nessebar

is Church of Christ Pantocrator. It’s richly decorated, including an interesting band of swastikas at the corners (it’s a bit difficult to spot them here; they’re below the small, white pyramids on the right side of the photo). Nothing to do with Nazism this; the swastika predates that brutal ideology by several millennia. Here, I’m told, it was the symbol of an ancient sun cult.

Church of Christ Pantocrator, Nessebar, Bulgaria

Church of Christ Pantocrator

Pantocrator is a true work of art. Appropriate then, that it now houses a gallery, exhibiting the works of Bulgarian artists. As I walk past on my way to Nessebar’s old harbour, the sun sets, casting the last rays of the day on the red, green, and white tiles of Pantocrator. Beautiful!

 
unesco logo

The Ancient City of Nessebar is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Here are more UNESCO World Heritage sites around the world.

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44 Responses to “The many unusual churches of Nessebar”

  1. Steve 4 September 2012 0421 #

    Love visiting super old churches! I have a friend from Bulgaria–I’ll have to have her take us around Nessebar.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch
      Anne-Sophie Redisch 10 September 2012 2112 #

      Oh, do! Many interesting and beautiful spots along the Black Sea coast. Sozopol is another favourite of mine.

  2. Vivi 5 September 2012 1913 #

    I’ve been there 15 years ago, the Hagia Sophia church has been in a better condition at that time. I really feel sorry about that gorgeous architectural wonder, this kind of oriental architecture makes me always wondering about the engineering of the renaissance.
    Vivi recently posted..Fogbeültetés külföldön

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch
      Anne-Sophie Redisch 10 September 2012 2113 #

      Agree, interesting and thougth-provoking architecture.

  3. Abby 6 September 2012 0933 #

    Oh my gosh those photos are stunning!!

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch
      Anne-Sophie Redisch 10 September 2012 2113 #

      Thanks, Abby.

  4. jenny@atasteoftravel 6 September 2012 0956 #

    Stunning photos Sophie. Thank heavens UNESCO has protected these beautiful churches. Thank you for introducing me to Nessebar.
    jenny@atasteoftravel recently posted..Rue Montorgueil Food Market!

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch
      Anne-Sophie Redisch 10 September 2012 2114 #

      Thanks. Yes, I don’t think the town is all that well-known outside of Europe.

  5. Jackie Smith 6 September 2012 1715 #

    I love this post! Those photos are stunning and I found the information so interesting!
    Jackie Smith recently posted..TPThursday: A Journey to Joseph, Oregon

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch
      Anne-Sophie Redisch 10 September 2012 2115 #

      Thanks, Jackie.

  6. Leigh 6 September 2012 1828 #

    What fantastic detail in these churches and the lighting you captured on them is equally wonderful.
    Leigh recently posted..A Gorgeous Alberta Hike: Lineham Ridge in Waterton Lakes NP

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch
      Anne-Sophie Redisch 10 September 2012 2116 #

      Yes, they really have the most extraordinary details. Best to have a little time and get up close.

  7. jade 6 September 2012 1903 #

    what a great visit- I love the colors of these photos. they almost look like they were taken many many years ago.
    jade recently posted..How to Prepare for a Food & Wine Event, 10 Tips I learned from The Taste

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch
      Anne-Sophie Redisch 10 September 2012 2117 #

      They were taken seven years ago – but yes, they do seem older than that.

  8. Wends of Journeys and Travels 7 September 2012 0358 #

    I just love this one. The churches of Bulgaria is impressive and the Church of Christ Pantocrator is inviting and inspirational.

    Wished I can go to Bulgaria and see them too :)
    Wends of Journeys and Travels recently posted..Calasiao Parish Church of Saints Peter and Paul

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch
      Anne-Sophie Redisch 10 September 2012 2118 #

      Hope you will someday :)

  9. Becca@R We There Yet Mom? 7 September 2012 0410 #

    That is a beautiful church – thanks for sharing it with us!
    Becca@R We There Yet Mom? recently posted..Friday Daydreamin’: Remembrance

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch
      Anne-Sophie Redisch 10 September 2012 2118 #

      Thanks, Becca.

  10. InsideJourneys 7 September 2012 0501 #

    Beautiful! My kinds of place, Nessebar. Old churches and a heritage site – lovely combination. Just added this to my list. Thanks, Sophie!
    InsideJourneys recently posted..Christopher Columbus Monument, Jamaica

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch
      Anne-Sophie Redisch 10 September 2012 2119 #

      It’s indeed a surprising little town.

  11. Mary @ The World Is A Book 7 September 2012 0624 #

    Beautiful churches! I love how well-preserved they are. I don’t think I’ve seen many pictures of Bulgaria so this is all wonderful and interesting information. The Church of Christ Pantocrator church has such unique decorations and architecture.
    Mary @ The World Is A Book recently posted..Between Continents: Iceland’s Reykjanes Peninsula

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch
      Anne-Sophie Redisch 10 September 2012 2120 #

      You’re right. Bulgaria doesn’t get a whole lot of attention. Shame really.

  12. Devon 7 September 2012 1019 #

    Its an fabulous kind of church I love it…Thanks a lot for sharing..

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch
      Anne-Sophie Redisch 10 September 2012 2120 #

      Thanks for stopping by, Devon.

  13. ItalianNotes 7 September 2012 1500 #

    I’ve only passed through Bulgaria a couple of times, but sights like these churches make me want to linger.
    ItalianNotes recently posted..Tracking Bernini through Rome

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch
      Anne-Sophie Redisch 10 September 2012 2121 #

      Nessebar is worth a a linger…

  14. Cathy Sweeney 7 September 2012 2348 #

    The swastika as a symbol of an ancient sun cult.– yet another interesting fact I’ve learned from following your blog. The churches are really lovely and the Church of Christ Pantocrator.is so unusual and beautiful.
    Cathy Sweeney recently posted..Ghost on the Coast

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch
      Anne-Sophie Redisch 10 September 2012 2123 #

      The first time I encountered a swastika (outside of WWII history) was in Bali many years ago. Sad how Hitler removed it from its ancient context and ruined it…

  15. Jade Johnston - OurOyster.com 8 September 2012 0440 #

    I love old church ruins… i need to check this out
    Jade Johnston – OurOyster.com recently posted..Vote For Us For Best Budget Travel Blog

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch
      Anne-Sophie Redisch 10 September 2012 2124 #

      Next time in Europe…

  16. Andriana 8 September 2012 0806 #

    Hello dear, I’m pleased you like so much one of the most beautiful coast cities in Bulgaria! I’d like to point out that it’s not Menembria but Messembria. Greetings from Bulgaria, you have a lovely blog!

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch
      Anne-Sophie Redisch 10 September 2012 2109 #

      Thanks, Andriana. I’ve heard – and read – both Menembria and Messembria as names used during ancient times. It’s great to get a local’s comment. You live in a beautiful and intriguing country :)

  17. Vera Marie Badertscher 8 September 2012 1745 #

    You’re right about Sophia, she doesn’t look a day over 1200!
    Vera Marie Badertscher recently posted..Sailing In The Aegean

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch
      Anne-Sophie Redisch 10 September 2012 2124 #

      :)

  18. Nancie 9 September 2012 0202 #

    These old churches have so much personality. You have captured them beautifully.
    Nancie recently posted..Travel Photo Thursday — September 5th, 2012 — Capture the Seasons

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch
      Anne-Sophie Redisch 10 September 2012 2124 #

      They really do…

  19. Natasha von Geldern 9 September 2012 1200 #

    What beautiful stone work! And a fascinating part of the world!
    Natasha von Geldern recently posted..Destination Switzerland: The old city of Bern

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch
      Anne-Sophie Redisch 10 September 2012 2125 #

      So many wonderful surprises all over Eastern Europe really…

  20. Sabrina 9 September 2012 1947 #

    Haha! I’m with you, I doubt this town has the towns in the bible belt beat :) We have a church every few blocks. But… no doubt that Nessebar has the prettier ones!
    Sabrina recently posted..Mud Volleyball – Raising Money and Playing in the Mud

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch
      Anne-Sophie Redisch 10 September 2012 2126 #

      That’s what I remember from small-town Oklahoma, too :)

  21. Krista 10 September 2012 0420 #

    What a beautiful place to explore. :-) It is my dream to go to Bulgaria and would love to visit this town one day. :-)
    Krista recently posted..Beautiful European Places to Visit in Autumn

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch
      Anne-Sophie Redisch 10 September 2012 2128 #

      Hope you do, Krista. It’s fairly easy to visit, there are flights from lots of European towns to Bulgaria’s Black Sea coast. Often inexpensive.

  22. Turtle 16 September 2012 1243 #

    Beautiful shots! It looks like a great place to discover…
    Turtle recently posted..The mysterious Lycians

  23. Mary @Green Global Travel 10 November 2012 0308 #

    Great photos!
    Mary @Green Global Travel recently posted..ECO NEWS: NY Aquarium Needs Help After Sandy’s Devastation

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