Church of St. Nikola, Melnik
The small town of Melnik is most famous for its wine but it is also known as the town of St. Nikola. The reason for this is the strong cult to the saint in the past. According to some, six of all the churches in the town were dedicated to him. Among them is the metropolitan bishop’s church which, according to some researchers, was built in the 6th century or, according to others, between the 11th and 12th century. It is located in the surroundings of the present-day town of Melnik. Only the southern wall and some interior elements are left from the old building. Among the remains one can see pieces of the murals which have an extremely big artistic value. Some of the panels were taken off for restoration and then exhibited in different museums – the National Archaeological Museum, the Crypt of St. Alexander Nevsky Temple-Monument and others.
The Church of St. Nikola was the longest functioning Christian temple on the Balkans – up until the 20th century. In the beginning of its existence it was a bishop’s church, then – a metropolitan bishop’s church and finally it was developing into a monastery. Recently another curious element from the material heritage and the history of the temple has been discovered – the oldest bells with inscriptions in Bulgaria have been found in its belfry. They have been dated at around the 13th century. Among the unique artifacts of the church is a lead ampoule containing St. Nikola’s chrism. It is kept in the National History Museum. Because of the strong dedication to the saint, Melnik used to be one of the six cities “chosen by God” – Constantinople, Thessaloniki, Tarnovgrad, Lovech and Prilep.