Buhovo Monastery of St. Mary Magdalene

The Buhovo Monastery of Saint Mary Magdalene is part of the Holy Mount of Sofia, close to the town of Buhovo, near Sofia. It functioned as a monastery for a very short time but it is very popular with the locals, which gather there to celebrate religious feasts with kurbans (sacrificial meals – mutton or white beans soup). And to picnic in the warm months.

It has been known for a long time that the today’s small church is built on top of a large Early Christian basilica. When people started building the church in the end of the 19th century they came across its foundations and as a manifestation of continuity they placed the new church in the basilica’s altar space. Later the basilica has been partially studied. Between 2013 and 2015 Sofia Municipality funded new archaeological research to fully study the Early Christian basilica. Its plan was finally confirmed, and along this, a necropolis from the Late Middle Ages was found as well as interesting artefacts from the near past.

Our aim was to conserve and present the Early Christian basilica and in the same time show the relation between the different historic layers, as well as let the community keep celebrating their feasts.

Our approach is based on honesty and simplicity. We restored the original terrain and showed the layout of the ruins with stone pavement in the grass. By the apse of the church, where we wanted to emphasise on the continuity, we kept the ruins above ground. At the entrance of the basilica and at it southern wall we sink the terrain to reveal the original structures. Thus, we honestly show the nature of the archaeological ruins – something that we find underground. We also showed the original way of entering the basilica by a steel grate platform with stairs above the original entrance. And to let people feel the space of the naos, we interpreted the pillars by using gabions filled with material from the site.

By the church there was a shed in disrepair that people used for seating during the kurbans. We reconstructed it using similar materials – gabions with the original stones from the shed’s fence, timber structure and corrugated sheets for the roofing.

  • Authors:
    Donika Georgieva, Miroslav Velkov
  • Collaborators:
    Petar Petrov (architect), Krasimira Frangova (conservation), Atanas Georgiev (structural engineer), Svetlana Anisimova (landscape architect), Miroslav Yamakov (electrical engineer), Maya Ilieva, Kalina Shilova (surveyors), Snezhana Goryanova (archaeologist), Yavor Sotirov (aerial images)
  • Year: 2015-2016
  • Client: Sofia Municipality
  • Status: completed