The Mecca for Revival period architecture fans
Old Plovdiv preserves the greatest number of authentic buildings dating back to 18th-19th centuriesAdelina Lozanova
Plovdiv, the second largest city in Bulgaria and European Capital of Culture 2019, boasts unique ancient treasures which makes the city one of Bulgaria's most popular tourist destinations. Along with the antique sights, Plovdiv offers an opportunity to follow the development of the Bulgarian culture throughout the period of the National Revival. The Old Plovdiv, located on one of the seven hills of the city, has preserved the greatest number of authentic buildings dating back to this period.
At the end of the 18th - beginning of the 19th centuries, the big merchant families of Plovdiv had accumulated admirable wealth thanks to lucrative deals with other regions of the vast Ottoman Empire, and Europe as well. Part of this money was invested in the architectural masterpieces which enabled the Bulgarian craftsmen - architects, carpenters and painters - to realise their talents.
So, along with the traditional Bulgarian model of a mountain house with an open porch and asymmetrical design, the new style emerged - a new urban house, the so-called “symmetrical Plovdiv house”. Its characteristic feature is the spacious central chamber around which the other rooms are arranged. Apart from their symmetrical design, Plovdiv houses boast rich wall decorations, wood-carved ceilings, doors and cabinets. Some of the houses are exceptionally modern for the period - they have rain water reservoirs for bathing and washing, individual wells and even bathrooms and laundry rooms.
Among the most lavish examples are the Danov House, Furnadjiev House, Balabanov House, the houses of Argir Kujumdjioglu, Dimitar Georgiadi and others. The Danov House is built atop a high rock in the middle of a scenic yard and is named after Hristo Danov, father of organised book publishing in Bulgaria. It is profusely decorated with murals featuring floral ornaments and portraits of ancient Greek philosophers. Today, it houses the exposition dedicated to book publishing in Plovdiv during the National Revival period.
The carved wood solar rings and small semi-spherical niches ornamented with paintings (called alafranga, from “in French style” - editor's note) decorate the high ceilings of the Kujumdjioglu House where today there is an exposition of the Ethnographic Museum. Built in 1847, the house consists of the main part meant for living and a skillion roof addition on its southern side. In the yard, there are a marble fountain and a well while the entrance is decorated with a protruded portico with richly ornamented facade. As for the house of Dimitar Georgiadi, today it is converted into a permanent exhibition of original wood carving works and mural paintings of the National Revival period.
The wealth and prosperity of Plovdiv's citizens gave rise to an uplift in churches construction. Before the Liberation, twelve Orthodox churches were built in the city, with eight of them preserved relatively intact until nowadays. Most of them are three-nave basilicas and were constructed by masters of the Bratsigovo School. The carved iconostases are the work of woodcarvers of the famed Debar School and the icon painting was done by the most prominent masters of this guild from the Samokov School - Zahari and Dimitar Zograf and Stanislav Dospevski.