The site

Mandritsa is a village in the Eastern Rhodopes region, located in the Haskovo Province of Bulgaria. The village is located on the right bank of the River Byala Reka, nineteen kilometres south of the city of Ivaylovgrad and two kilometres west of the River Luda Reka, on the Bulgarian-Greek border.

Mandritsa boasts a rich history dating back to its founding in 1636. Legend holds that the village was established by three brothers, believed to be Albanian Eastern Orthodox dairy farmers, hence the name Mandritsa, derived from "mandra" meaning "diary".


Today, Mandritsa stands as a testament to its past, though largely depopulated with a mere seventy residents. The village remains notable for its preservation of vernacular architecture in the Bulgarian Revival style, showcasing grand three-story adobe and brick houses adorned with intricately carved ceilings, wrought iron balconies, and colonnades. While Mandritsa's architectural wonders endure, neither the village nor its individual structures hold formal heritage protection status.


Two churches grace Mandritsa's landscape, each bearing architectural significance. The Sveta Nedelya cemetery church, erected in 1708, stands as one of the Eastern Rhodopes' oldest churches, while the village church of St. Dimitar, constructed in 1835, features a three-nave pseudo-basilica design with clear eastern influences evident in its intricately carved wooden iconostasis. Though partially damaged, plans for the restoration of St. Dimitar are underway.


In 2004, Mandritsa served as the picturesque backdrop for the Bulgarian film "Mila from Mars", alongside neighboring villages Matochina and Siv Kladenets. That same year, Mandritsa earned a place on the tourist route "Cultural and historical mysteries of the Eastern Rhodopes," inviting visitors to explore its rich cultural tapestry and storied past.


The training course

The European Heritage Training Course will aim at an overall architectural survey and documentation of the traditional buildings in Mandritsa village. The purpose of this survey is to develop a deeper understanding of how cultural heritage encompasses not only the constructions themselves, but also how these buildings interact with one another and how they create the outline of the village, altogether with the terrain, its surrounding nature, and the historical context of South Bulgaria – which are the components to a cultural landscape.

The participants will be able to distinguish different traditional building techniques, as well as different building periods and how they interact altogether up to the present days. In addition, detailed documentation of buildings with high cultural or architectural value will be considered, allowing the participants to distinguish the characteristics of the buildings of Mandritsa and how they differ from those from the nearby villages.

That training course will enrich the analytical abilities of the participants, as well as their knowledge and heritage awareness. The local partners wish to allow for discussions to take place on the topic of how the participants see the future of non-protected heritage sites, questioning them about the future of places and buildings in similar positions and give them the opportunity to present their solutions for preserving places like Mandritsa.

The final product will be an album with written, drawn and photographed architectural documentation, research results and recommendations, that could guide the locals when conserving and restoring their vernacular buildings – from an overall silhouette of a building to its windows and doors. This will also be an opportunity to raise additional heritage awareness to locals who may not identify the historical and cultural values of the village.

Since Mandritsa is not a protected heritage site, the recommendations would prove particularly useful, especially in cases of possible new developments in the village as well as of planned future interventions at one or the other building. The report will also support the implementation of such measures successfully within the context of Mandritsa, considering all the cultural aspects of its tangible and intangible heritage.

The educational programme of the training course will be complemented by theoretical inputs, guided visits, and an excursion to sites in the region that will allow the participants to contextualise the village Mandritsa in the framework of its surroundings.


The training course will take place from September 1st to September 16th, 2024, and is organised by Association Meshtra – Traditional Knowledge and Crafts in cooperation with European Heritage Volunteers.

European Heritage Volunteers