The early Christian buildings (domed basilica of Hagia Sophia in Sofia, fortifications of Hissar) show affinity with the architecture of Syria and Asia Minor. During the first period of the independent Bulgarian state, local Late Roman and Byzantine elements mingle with Sassanid Iranian influences brought by the conquistadors, particularly evident in the earliest period, which goes from the 12th century. VIII to IX (remains of the great palace of Pliska, the first Bulgarian capital; large rock relief of the knight of Madara killing a lion, from the 9th century, similar to the rock sculptures of Naqsh-i-Rustam and Taq-i-Bostan in Persia; silver vases of the treasure known as Attila’s, from the second half of the century. IX, found in Nagy-Szent Miklós in Hungary but of Bulgarian origin, now in the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna). With the Christianization (863) and the fusion of the two Slavic and Bulgarian ethnic components by Boris I and his son Simeone (893-927), the Slavic element emerges (Madara treasure at the Sofia Archaeological Museum; sculptures by Stara Zagora, of Nova Zagora and the palace built by Tsar Simeone in the new capital Preslav), while the Byzantine influence is accentuated, recognizable in the finds of some great basilicas in Preslav, Aboba, Prespa etc. The internal decoration of these basilicas, in glazed terracotta tiles with designs forming a sort of large mosaic, of which remains have been preserved in Preslav, Patleina, Touzlalaka, shows the Byzantine influence in the figures and Abbasid Islamic in the geometric and vegetal decorative elements; the technique itself is typically oriental. But with the conquest by Byzantium and then during the Second Bulgarian Empire (1186-1393), Bulgaria becomes a region of Byzantine art. Small churches with a vaulted nave with or without dome, or cruciform with dome of the classic Byzantine type are erected; typically Bulgarian are the two-storey churches (Bačkovo; Bojana near Sofia; Stanimaka, sec. XIII).
According to globalsciencellc, the most important testimonies, however, belong to painting, which in this period has an enormous development. The frescoes of the Bačkovo Monastery (founded in 1083 by Gregorio Pakourianos, one of the generals of the Byzantine occupation) represent one of the few remaining examples of Byzantine monumental painting from the transition period between the Macedonian and Comnenian dynasties. During the second Bulgarian Empire, the painters of Tirnovo repeated the Constantinopolitan models in local forms (church of the Trapesitza or of the 40 Martyrs; frescoes by Berende, 13th century, and by Zemene, 1360), while the very high frescoes by Bojana (1259) they are perhaps the work of an artist from Constantinople who emigrated following the IV Crusade. At the time of the Byzantine revival of the Paleologians (14th century) the rock paintings of Ivanovo sul Lom, the frescoes of San Giorgio in Sofia, the tower of the Rila monastery and the church of Santissimi Pietro e Paolo in Tirnovo date back. The Turkish domination leads the region to cultural isolation and artistic stasis, leaving however some significant evidence of Ottoman architecture (in Sofia, in Shumen, in Samokov and, above all, in Plovdiv). Post-Byzantine art, closely linked to the models of Mount Áthos, wearily perpetuates until the century. XVIII in monasteries and in small mountain churches, decorated with icons, iconostasis of carved wood and frescoes (Bobochévo, 1488; Drajalevtzi, 1497; Poganovo, 1500; Krémikovitzi, 1593; Arnabassi, XVIII century etc.). In the field of urban planning, numerous Turkish-type cities were founded during the course of the century. XVII and XVIII (Vratra, XVII century; Etropole, 1712; Berkoviza and Rasgrad, 1764; Slatiza, 1777; Drjanovo, 1778 etc.). At the end of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries there was a national rebirth with the formation of numerous local schools and the conscious revival of the Christian tradition. Modern Bulgarian painting begins with the iconographer Zachari Zograf (1810-1853). However, only after the liberation from Turkish domination did a rapid and profound Westernization occur in all artistic forms, as Bulgarian culture frees itself of the mistrust of Islamic origin towards figurative representation.
However, the intellectual closure of the socialist regime and its predilection for an academic figuration inspired by the rhetorical canons of realism, did not allow Bulgarian art to reach a thematic or stylistic elaboration similar to that of contemporary European art. Not surprisingly, the leading Bulgarian artist of the twentieth century is Christo (b.1935), originally from Gavrovo but who for decades moved to the United States, known for his personal elaboration of the suggestions of land art. During the past regime the main cities of Bulgaria took on a completely modern aspect, according to a hybrid architectural style in which the Soviet-style state gigantism nevertheless tries to respect some national characteristics. Popular art, very flourishing in past centuries, is still alive in the production of carpets, embroideries and filigrees, whose production, after a few decades of socialist standardization, is rediscovering the values of quality craftsmanship, albeit intended for tourism.