National History Museum

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Zemen monastery

The church of Saint John the Theologian in Zemen monastery was built in the 11th century and is one of the oldest monuments of medieval Bulgarian architecture and art. Additional architectural and building restoration was carried out in the 19th century. The church is cross-domed, almost cubical, with three apses and without any pre-apse space. It is built entirely of limestone rock blocks.

Unknown icon painters decorated the church twice – once in the 11th century and later in the 14th century. Fragments from the first layer were uncovered in the right apse, representing the images of Saint Joachim and Saint Anne, as well as Saint Constantine and Saint Helena. Large fragments of frescoes, dating from the 14th century cover the inner space. Among them are the images of the local feudal ruler Despot Deyan and his wife Doya represented with their children Vitomir and Stoyu. Many of the biblical scenes reveal elements reminiscent of Eastern, Byzantine but also Renaissance art painting. The major ecclesiastical feasts are presented, as well as depictions of the Passions of Christ, the images of the Saint Forty Martyrs, etc. Some of the earliest images of Saint Ivan of Rila and Saint Joachim of Sarandalore are painted on the lowest register.

With its remarkable frescoes and architecture Saint John the Theologian church of Zemen monastery is a valuable national treasure. Its significance exceeds the boundaries of our country. 

Summer working hours (April – October):
9:30 – 18:00 
Ticket office closes at 17:30 

Winter working hours (November – March):
9:00 – 17:30 
Ticket office closes at  16.30 
 
For contact: 07741/ 2029, 0896 720 338

Individual visits:
  • Entrance fee for individual visitors – 5.00 lv.
  • For students – 1.00 lv.
Combined tickets valid for 1 month: 
  • NMH – Boyana church – Zemen monastery –14.00 lv.
 
Group visits: For groups of 10 and more people – 3.00 lv. per person
 
Guided tours:
  • Bulgarian language – 5.00 lv.
  • Foreign language – 10.00 lv.
  • Bulgarian language with translation – 6.00 lv.

Free entrance:
  • For all visitors - every last Monday of the month.
  • For people with special needs and their attendant.
  • For children up to 7 years old.
  • 18th of May - International Day of the Museums

Preferential fees:
  • 1st of November – Day of National Leaders, entrance is free for students, to other visitors - 1.00 lv.
Taking pictures or filming with camera:
  • Filming with camera (no more than 30 minutes) -  15.00 lv.
  • Taking pictures (up to 5 pictures) - 5.00 lv.