Bulgarian Empresses in the Medieval Slavic Monuments

Summary: 

     The article aims at presenting all sources in Cyrillic containing information on mediaeval Bulgarian empresses. Valuable Cyrillic sources are the lists of Bulgarian empresses in mediaeval beadrolls; some marginal notes; several epigraphic monuments – inscriptions on stone and walls, inscriptions around miniatures, inscriptions on stamps, coins, pots and other objects. Information about the tsaritsas is also available in monuments of the Old Bulgarian Church literature.
     Unfortunately, listing the types of sources is almost equal to the number of sources themselves, i.e. of each type there is one or at most two examples. Special attention is paid to the beadroll in Tsar Boril’s Synodicon, which mentions ten of all the 24 known Bulgarian empresses, giving scarce information about their family life and their religious life. The latter is enriched with some data from hagiographic writings, inscriptions, marginal notes, donor portraits, which are also analyzed. The Cyrillic sources contain even poorer evidence on the participation of the empresses in politics, but, sparse as they are, they are presented and analyzed in the article. The author also occupies herself with the specific issues raised by the Tarnovo epitaph, written on behalf of a royal woman, and by the epithet “holy-born” or “born-by-light” used to describe the Vidin empress Anna in the marginal note from the Bdinski zbornik of 1359/60. Serbian Cyrillic sources containing evidence on Bulgarian empresses, though few, are also an important part of the research.
     The sad conclusion of the review of the Cyrillic monuments, used to uncover facts about medieval Bulgarian empresses, is that they are not only scarce, but also fragmented and sometimes contradictory. Not only is the voice of the empresses themselves missing, but there is also a lack of men's view of the lives and deeds of the tsaritsas, whose history is only revealed by indirect information preserved in the Cyrillic monuments.

Sashka Georgieva (Sofia, Bulgaria)
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