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Church architecture – a vocation for Bulgarian architect Tsvetanka Razsolkova

For the Bulgarian architect Tsvetanka Razsolkova everything started in 1997 when she had the urge to start designing churches. Her inspiration came from the Rhodope Mountains, where she was invited by architect Nikolov and the Future for Bulgaria Foundation to make the interior of the Saint Nedelya newly-built church in Nedelino. The joy of the people who have not had an Orthodox Church for the past 400 years left unforgettable memories in her heart and inspired her to continue her work.

The first church design that she made was in 2002, when she began working with the Sofia Bishopric, at the invitation of His Excellency Bishop Nikolai, the current Bishop of Plovdiv. She is grateful to him for introducing her to the philosophy of the Orthodox faith. At his request, she made a project for the expansion of the Holy Trinity Church in the monastery of The Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, located near the village of Dolni Lozen, close to Sofia.

In parallel, she began designing other temples, monastery churches and complexes, making renovations and restorations. She is currently working on her 30th church deisgn. Tsvetanka Razsolkova is a licensed architect at the Ministry of Culture. She implements her projects with her sister, architect Zoya Rozolkova, as well as the young architect Vesela Kostova. Based on a project of Architect Razsolkova, the church of the Archdeacon Stephen in the Sofia neighborhood of Gotse Delchev was built.

This is an Orthodox spiritual centre”, Architect Razsolkova explains. “The project spreading over an area of 2,700 square meters is impressive, with many details - a church, several chapels, a Sunday school, a centre for the development of social activity. Unfortunately, only the bell tower is ready. I hope to soon resume construction of this site, as we have been working on it with great love”.

Among the first projects of Architect Razsolkova from 2003 is the Orthodox church of the Equal to the Apostles Constantine and Helen in the town of Elin Pelin, which was recently consecrated.

Its construction was delayed due to financial problems. When the construction of the roof started to lag behind, Dobri Dobrev, known as Elder Dobri, the man who gave up everything in order to donate for the restoration and maintenance of Bulgarian Christian churches donated BGN 18,000.

“The scriptures of the Holy Fathers say that when you decide to work for the Lord, you must prepare your heart for trials”, architect Razsolkova says. “Each church in itself requires laborious and specific work. In the beginning, I design by hand so that it can come out of the heart. This is done by fasting, by prayer to the saint concerned, to the Lord. The one who designs the temples should not only be a believer. It is necessary to understand the philosophy of religion, to observe the canonical requirements in order for this so-called inspiration of God to come naturally. The architect must be part of the parish, because this is a house of God, and we must be very diligent and careful not only in the design but also in our personal attitude to faith”.

There are certain canons when performing the church sacraments, which the architect must know in order for the temple to be convenient for holding the church liturgy which holds plenty of symbolism. The study of the old specimens is also obligatory, because Orthodoxy is very strict in its requirements for form and content, explains architect Razsolkova. She herself, when embarking on the design of a temple, reads books on religious philosophy, having preferences for St. John Damascene, whose works give knowledge of the dogmas of faith.

Designing a temple is not a glory for the architect”, says architect Razsolkova.“The more temples I design, the more I understand that you must be humble, that this is the mercy of God, and you need to go deeper into the matter. The Orthodox Church should invoke a mood for prayer from afar. This is sacred architecture. It comes as a sacrament from the Lord. When I finish one temple, I stand beside and look at it and it seems to me that someone else has created it - and that is the Great Architect our Lord. So it is in the Scripture, if the Lord does not build the house, the builders will work in vain, and this applies with full force to us as we build the Lord's House”.

Photos: private library

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