Sunken Church

Location ID: 2674

These haunting images show the partially-submerged ruins of a church where a town was swallowed by an artificial lake 50 years ago. The St. Ivan Rilski Church is the only remaining evidence of the community of Zapalnya (one of several settlements which no longer exist due to homes being washed away by Communist-era dams.), Bulgaria, where residents lived until they were forced to leave their homes to make way for a dam built by the Communist regime.

Named after the patron saint of Bulgaria, the crumbling stone structure now cuts a ghostly figure in a few feet of water at the Zhrebchevo reservoir (the 3rd largest reservoir in Bulgaria), near the town of Tvardica – about 3 hours away from Sofia.

With rolling hills in the distance, aerial photos show vegetation growing on top of the church’s walls, which once supported a roof that collapsed long ago. A segment of the cemetery adjacent to the church is visible at times, depending on water levels.

The church, built in 1895, was the heart of life in the valley, and Zapalnya was known for rose oil production at the time of the Ottoman Empire. Now wiped off the face of the planet, the town existed before the 13th century under a different name.

A truly unique film location that can be both romantically sentimental, and chillingly ghostly at the same time.