The Chiprov school of goldsmiths in the 15th - 17th centuries

Chiprovtsi, nestled in the northern foothills of the Western Stara Planina, probably arose in the second half of the 15th century. The significant lead-silver deposits prompted the central Ottoman government to settle Christian miners and metallurgists and their families in the area. In the following century, Chiprovtsi and the surrounding villages of Kopilovtsi, Zhelezna, Klisura became one of the most important metalworking areas in the Balkan provinces of the Ottoman Empire. This gave a powerful impetus to the development of crafts, especially goldsmithing and trade in high-quality Cypriot silver. A whole goldsmith's district arose within the city - the famous one Silver pendulum. Several generations of masters work in the numerous studios, whose names are preserved on their works - Nikola and Pala, Kostadin, Peter and John, Franko Markanich, Luka, Nedelko, Nikola Nedelkovich, Yakov and Marko.

The works of the Chiprov goldsmiths are extremely diverse - both ecclesiastical and secular products. In the second half of the 16th century, the so-called chypre glasses – silver caskets, many of which are marked “from Kiprovtsi place" as a guarantee of quality. The production of expensive and richly decorated fittings for gospels, reliquaries and reliquaries, enthroned crosses, and church utensils was entrusted to Chipro craftsmen from almost all the large monasteries of the Balkans - from Moldova and Wallachia to Herzegovina and from the Frushogorsk monasteries near Belgrade to Mount Athos. The guarantors are prominent political and church figures from the middle of the 17th century, such as the Wallachian Voivode Alexander II, the Wallachian Metropolitan Theophilus, the Turnovo Metropolitan Gavriil, the Belgrade Metropolitan Hilarion, the Niš Bishop Timotei, etc.

From the point of view of the artistic repertoire, the Chiprov master goldsmiths work within the late medieval Byzantine-Balkan tradition. They skillfully interweave elements drawn from the West and the East - Turkish-Persian arabesque and ornaments in the style ofrumi', miniature Late Gothic architectural details, lavish Baroque motifs. Their works reveal jewelry techniques mastered to perfection: forged relief, filigree and granulation, engraving and chiseling, niello technique, openwork, mercury gilding and silvering, inlay, filigree and etched enamel with dark blue and green glass.

The decline of Chiprovtsi and its remarkable economic and cultural life is connected with the suppression of the great Chiprov uprising in 1688.

In Hall 4 of the National History Museum, some of the most representative monuments of the Chiprov goldsmith's school are exhibited - ornaments, dishes and church utensils. The one richly decorated with biblical scenes stands out among them Proscomidium discos (vessel for Holy Communion), made in 1644 by the masters Peter and Ioan of Chiprovtsi for the Bachkovo Monastery.

Scroll to Top