Bulgarian ruling elites had long been trying to secure parity with the realm of the Greeks for their dominions. The encomiasts of Tsar Ivan Alexander proclaimed him 'a new Constantine' and his capital 'a new Tsargrad'. The analogies, like the learned encomia themselves, were a means of exalting Ivan's city as a temple of wisdom, setting it apart from alternative 'God-protected' capitals of rival Bulgarian dynasts, who likewise aspired to imperial status for themselves and their seats of power. Ivan made donations to and fostered cults at long-established monasteries such as Rila and Bachkovo. But high levels of literary culture and religious knowledge still required, in the eyes of Ivan and his entourage, ready access to the Church Fathers in Greek. Bulgarian clergymen showed respect for the copious writings of contemporary Byzantine divines, not least their prayers and the new forms of liturgical offices being composed. The monasteries of Athos contained copies of these texts and, unlike Constantinople's houses, they were more or less continuously accessible, unaffected by the fluctuating relations between basileus and tsar. The house of Zographou on Athos was closely associated with the Bulgarians from the thirteenth century onwards. It became an important centre for copying texts and reflective spirituality, even if it did not match Chilandar. Several other monasteries accommodated teachers, copyists and Slavonic translators, notably the Great Lavra. There, a scholar named Ioann and his pupils 'translated into our Bulgarian tongue' and made copies of a formidable corpus of writings, from the Gospels and the Psalter to a monastic Typikon, John Klimax's Ladder of Paradise, and exegeses of liturgical hymns. Many of these Slavonic texts were sent to Bulgaria, but some ended up in St Catherine's monastery on Sinai, an indication of the keen mutual interest of Orthodox centres in this period.82
Another Bulgarian bookman of the Great Lavra, Evtimii, returned apparently of his own accord and founded the Trinity monastery near Veliko T'rnovo in 1371. Ivan Alexander had just died and it was wholly due to Evtimii's ability, piety, and force of personality that his new house became a centre for translating from Greek into Slavonic. According to Evtimii's pupil and encomiast, Gregory Tsamblak, his pupils came 'not only from the Bulgarian peoples . . . but from all the northern peoples as far as the Ocean and from the west as far as Illyricum ... He became their teacher in piety and they became instructors in their homelands.'83 In their translation work, Evtimii and his circle showed
82 G. Popov 'Novootkrito svedenie za prevodacheska deinost na b'lgarski knizhovnitsi ot Sveta Gora prez p'rvata polovina na XIVv.', B'lgarski Ezik 28 (1978), 402-10.
83 Gregory Tsamblak, Pokhvalno slovo za Evtimii, ed. P. Rusev et al. (Sofia: B'lgarskata akademiia na naukite, 1971), 196-7.
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