ARTICLES 
Dobarsko, near Razlog: Christ on a Rocket in Village Church
Article by Vladimir Simeonov, Standard Daily, 29th October 2005

The walls of the church are covered with 460 images, painted over four centuries

In the village of Dobarsko, near Razlog (southeastern Bulgaria) they have a specific ritual to receive guests. A single tourist even may arrive and at once three of the 12 of the local amateur folk singers change into traditional costumes and head for the unique church St. St. Theodor Tyron and Theador Stratilatus built in distant 1614. Because one thing is certain, if strangers arrive to the village, they will by all means want to see the unique church and know about its history.
We are let into the small but extraordinary church by the village mayor Nikola Naydenov. The patron saints of the church evidence once the region was inhabited by learned men who were not ignorant about Christian history. The church was named after not the common saints but two Roman saints-warriors who died for the Christian faith.
"Our church is the only one named after two saints," the mayor says. It is a three-nave basilica built by master builders from the famous Debarski School. There is not even a minute spot left unpainted on the walls of the three naves. All is in frescos. Neither of the frescos has ever been restored but only cleaned by experts. "The exact number of images in the church is 460 which is unbelievable in regard to the small space they are laid on," the mayor believes.
"If you look up you can see an image of Christ in a rocket and on the other side you can see him landing using some specific devices, he is as if getting out of a cockpit," says Naydenov pointing to the particular fresco.

On the floor there is a slab with a two-headed eagle, symbol of the Russian Orthodox Church, a present from Russian monks. The eagle holds a baton and a scepter, standing for the secular and religious power, which when united only can lead the people ahead. "Experts deciphered the year 1122 on the plate. The building material of the church is also typical for 11th and 12th centuries. So, the church very well could be dated to the 12th century," Naydenov adds.
The legend says, Csar Ivan Shishman wedded in this church. The first written document about it, a diploma by Ivan Shishman from 1378, is now kept in the Rila Monastery. Towards the end of the tour the mayor shows the church bell - a gift from the Vatopedi Monastery of the Mouth of Athos in the 1888. The inscription on the bell is still visible and reads: "We present this bell to the municipality of Nedobarsko (the old name of Dobarsko) as a token of our warm relations."
It has been clear to Naydenov for long that it is the church that will save the village from extinction. It attracts thousands of tourists. The Ministry of Culture has promised cooperation towards obtaining UNESCO protection for the church.

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