In 863 the Bulgarian King Boris l proclaimed Christianity the state religion of Bulgaria. This is the birthday of the Bulgarian icon, which is part of the religious Christian visual art. Just a few ceramic icons have survived from the 9th-10thc, founded in excavations in the old capital Preslav town. A large number of icons from the Second Bulgarian Kingdom (12th-14thc) have survived. The Bulgarian aristocracy commissioned new churches and monasteries and rebuild the devastated ones. When the Bulgarian lands fell under Ottoman rule the Bulgarians and Christian religion were subjected to discrimination, the Bulgarian aristocracy, sponsors of Christian art, was exterminated. Villagers and townspeople set aside from their scanty means to renovate icons in the small churches that were half way into the ground as it was what the Moslem law allowed them to build. The big churches from the past were razed to the ground or converted into mosques and the icons were burned. When the Revival period of Bulgaria started thousands of new churches were built in the Bulgarian lands. Dozens of Bulgarian artists like Zahari Zograf, Stanislav Dospevski, Nikolai Pavlovich, Dicho Zograf, Toma Vishanov with innate talent or who had received schooling in West European and Russian universities painted the icons. On eve of the new millennium the Bulgarian icon painting tradition gains Bulgaria and the Bulgarian people a deserved place in Europe’s cultural history and is the Bulgarian contribution to Christian civilization.
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