To carve sun out of wood

Daskalov House in Tryavna was the place of the first 'art competition' in Bulgaria

Photo: The Daskalov House is one of the most remarkable monuments of Bulgarian architecture of the Revival period.

The Daskalov House in the town of Tryavna is one of the most remarkable Bulgarian architecture monuments of the National Revival period. The house was built at the beginning of the 19th century, circa 1804-1808, by the prominent local merchant Hadji Hristo Daskalov for his two sons. It is famous for its ceilings decorations - wood-carved sun rays which to this day shine over the two guestrooms of the house.

The legend runs that to make his house one of a kind, Hadji Hristo promised a generous award to a woodcarver, a master who would craft the most beautiful wood-carved ceilings. On St George's Day in 1808, Master Dimitar Oshanetsa and his apprentice Ivan Bochukovetsa made a friendly wager and decided that in the following six months they would carve the wooden ceilings. The first one betted on the soft May sun, the other chose the scorching sun of July. This wager became the subject matter of a play by Racho Stoyanov entitled The Masters.

On St Dimitar's Day, the citizens of Tryavna gathered to judge who the expert in this craft was. When they entered the room decorated with the woodcarvings of the apprentice they were overwhelmed. On the ceiling they saw a sun which shined so brightly that they could not but admit that it was crafted by the Master. Yet, when they stepped into the room decorated by his teacher they couldn't take their eyes off his exquisite work, which was perfect. After they shook off their amazement, they decided that “the mastership of Ivan Bochukovetsa is undisputed, but the real craftsman is Master Dimitar”. This marked the end of the first art competition in the Bulgarian history.

Today, Daskalov House is a culture monument of national importance. It is a typical example of civil architecture of the early Revival period: a two-storied building with a spacious open terrace, vast yard and high stone-slabs foundation. The house's exterior design combines utility and originality with rich traditional interior decoration.

In 1963, a one of a kind Museum of Woodcarving Art was opened in the house. It presents the oldest Revival period woodcarving school, which was from the town of Tryavna. The exposition shows all stages of its evolution - from the earliest 'shepherd' carvings, most often shallow-carved geometrical shapes which adorned primarily household items, to woodcarvings used in furniture, home iconostases, walls and ceilings in the houses of the Revival period, to the deep and richly ornamented woodcarvings that the craftsmen of the Tryavna school used in the decoration of church iconostases and bishops' thrones.

The exposition features a collection of works by the distinctively original master of woodcarving Gencho Marangozov which includes carved wood pieces and wood sculptures of the Bulgarian khans as well as bas-reliefs of prominent Revival figures, made for an order by Avram Chalyovski, who was a rich Sofia manufacturer. There is also an interesting replica of an original woodcarving workshop where visitors can see the preparation process and the toolkits used.

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