In an effort to avoid festival traffic on our drive home from Sofia (after taking my dad to the airport) we took a less direct route back to Pamporovo. Phil suddenly caught a glimpse of something old-looking in the trees—which always excites him. It looked to be an old, nearly-collapsed brick building way off across the field and behind some trees. We looked for a place to pull over and were surprised to find a sign pointing down a paved walkway along a river taking us to the Little Red Church. As we neared the end of the walkway, we found a large parking lot (strange as you couldn’t drive in) and a building labeled Visitor Center.
It looked like it might be closed and we hesitated on the path for a moment, which seemed to trigger the front door being thrown open and an incredibly enthusiastic woman springing out the door and hurrying up the path towards us, talking almost as fast as she was walking. When we indicated that we could only speak English, she literally clapped her hands together and jumped up and down—“Oh!! My favorite tourists!!”
And so… we “discovered” The Little Red Church dating from approximately the 5th century AD. It is considered a special little building, as it was entirely constructed of brick, which apparently was rare in buildings between the 5th and 12th century. In fact, it is one of only three preserved brick churches from that period in Bulgaria.
It felt like a special place too, standing alone in the grassy fields and no visitors there at all. What remains of the 14 metre brick dome is carefully reinforced by steel supports, but what really surprised us, was the remains of the beautiful frescoes totally left open to the elements. Apparently these frescoes, dating from the 5th and 6th century, were only just discovered during the church’s restoration in 2013. While the walls were painted, the floors were said to have been mosaic although I did not see any evidence of their survival. It must have been truly remarkable in its day!
I took many photos both of the brickwork and of the frescoes, hoping that in some way we might be able to incorporate something of both when constructing our place! At the same time I kept thinking that this would be a wonderful little side trip to bring guests to when our center opens. In fact, it is quite possible to make a stop there on the way from the airport to our property…hmmm…