VASSIL KITOV RESTORES CHURCHES IN ODRIN
Architect Vassil Kitov, b. in 1944, graduated the University of Architecture and Construction. From 1970 to 1993 he worked in the National Institute of Cultural Monuments and in 1995 he headed the Tolos-Project company. In 1981 he specialized in the Centre for Conservation and Restoration in Rome. He was in charge of the architectural and construction restoration of the Boyana Chruch, the St. Sofia basilica, the Synagogue in Sofia, and almost 70 other sites of Bulgaria's cultural and historic heritage. He won a number of prizes, among them Doron, Israel (1997), St. Pimen Zografsky (1998), the Rotary Club Award (2002), etc. He is general designer of the restoration of the Odrin-based churches St. George and Sts. Constantine and Helena.Architect Kitov is one of that rare species of people who make their professional choice in their early childhood and invariably follow the chosen path. It happened so that in his native Samokov fate met him with the great tandem of restorers - the architects Zlatna Kirova and Nikola Moushanov, which were working on Bairakla Mosque. Later on came the privilege to work on two of the building from the Bulgarian Middle Ages - the Boyana Church and the St. Sofia basilica. The prestige he gained through his work made him the chief person in charge of the restoration of the Bulgarian churches in Odrin, included in the agreement between Bulgaria and Turkey for conservation of the cultural and historic heritage. It also projects restoration of the churches St. Dimiter and St. Stephan in Istanbul, conservation and restoration of mosques in Bulgaria - Mouradie in Plovdiv, Maktul Ibrahim Pasha in Razgrad, Fatih-Kanuni in Kyustendil, and Demir Baba in Razgrad. St. George Church in Odrin will open doors on May 9 with a solemn ceremony. The restoration has been initiated by the Department of Ecclesiastical Matters and the initial amount of EUR75,000 has been raised by private companies and donations, with the support of Bulgaria's Foreign Ministry. Money for restoration of the iconostasis and icons have been remitted too, but work on them has not started yet. In the beginning of 2004 a team from the National Gallery of Art was appointed to implement that task. However, it is not still known where the work will be done - in Odrin or in Sofia, architect Kitov specified. Asked by the BANKER weekly about the artistic value of these icons, architect Kitov replied: they are from the end of 19th century and cannot be referred to any of the icon-painting schools we know. But they are especially valuable for another reason - all of them were donated by Bulgarian families which were at that time the prevailing part of Odrin's population (nowadays only two Bulgarian families live there) and they bear the dates of the donations. This is a valuable historical track that should be preserved in order to serve one day as grounds for more profound studies. The other church in Odrin - Sts. Constantine and Helena - is in a very poor condition, but we managed to save it from collapsing, architect Kitov explained. There was no roof, trees and bushes grew within. When I visited the church for the first time in 2001 the altar and the pulpit were still there, but now they are not. The icons are kept in the other Bulgarian church. Reconstruction will probably take a long time, but at least it has already started and the danger that the church might turn into ruins has been avoided Mr. Kitov said. Turkey's administration is well-disposed, probably due to the fact that our neighbour country has a clearly outset and meticulous policy regarding the protection and conservation of cultural monuments. This is evident in Kapadokiya, which is in the list of the international cultural heritage and in the Bulgarian town of Nessebar. But I fear that Nessebar will be soon taken out of that list as it has been completely deprived of its individuality by the new construction and turns into a dull, humdrum settlement. The National Institute for Cultural Monuments had ordered that by end-March 17 buildings in the old part of Nessebar should be reconstructed, but this was not done. I was recently in Rhodos, Greece where I realized that our neighbours put meaning in the cultural tourism concept. In Bulgaria its just a slogan, a good wish, an item or a chapter in Bulgaria's pre-accession negotiations with the European Union. Nothin More!, the architect elaborated.