The Bulgarian Monasteries
Rilski monastery , St. Ivan Rilski, is one of the most impressive monuments of Bulgarian architecture and art. It is the oldest inhabited cloister in our country. It was also the biggest literary center in Bulgaria during the Ottoman occupation. The monastery was founded in the 10th century by the Bulgarian hermit Ivan Rilski. At its present location, the monastery was erected in 14th century as at the beginning only one defence tower was built. The succeeding most important part of the building of the monastery was the period 1816-1870 when, with funds collected from the whole nation and the hard work of many master-builders, wood-cutters, icon-painters, sculptors and artists, the biggest Bulgarian monastery was built. It has been declared as an international monument by UNESCO. The monastery is located in Rila Mountain, 120 km south-west from Sofia, and 4 km from the town of Rila.
Bachkovo monastery ranks second only to Rila monastery both with regard to size, and architectural significance. It is situated 30 km. from Plovdiv in Bachkovo village. According to the historians it was founded during Byzantine slavery in 1083. Its founders are two Georgian brothers - Grigorii and Apasii Bakuriani. In his fiefs, Grigorii built a monastery, devoted to the woman-mother and called it Petrichki. The monastery had a rapid history. It was attacked and robbed more than once. Its bloom was during the 13th century, more precisely during the reign of Tzar Ivan Alexander (the second church-donor of the monastery). An important period for the monastery was the 14th century. Regarding the architecture, the monastery presents as joined rectangular buildings that form an enormous inner yard, in which are located the churches: St. Trinity, St. Archangels and St. Nikola. The older church , St. Archangels, is a basilica, uni-domed building with overarches.
Troyan monastery, The Assu, is of unspecified origin. It is supposed that it was founded in the 15th century. At the beginning these areas were inhabited by hermits. It is presumed that during the 18th century, a little building was secretly erected. In 1812 it was widened and acquired the shape of a wall - a big fortified wall, which enclosed the cloister. In 1830 the confraternity got a deed from the Constantinople patriarch with which the Troyan monastery was announced as directly subjected to the patriarch and free from monastery taxes. Troyan monastery was recently restored. It is a male monastery, open for visits and is a very precious monument of the Bulgarian Renaissance art. The monastery is located 10 km. east of the town of Troyan, in the village of Oreshaka, which is famous with its annual show of traditional Bulgarian artistic crafts.
Dryanovo monastery is located about 4 kilometers to the south-west of Dryanovo. Round it the Dryanovo River meanders picturesquely. The natural landmark Bacho Kiro cave is nearby. The monastery was established in the beginning of the 12th century in Tsarkovishte countryside. In its present-day localation the monastery has existed since 1845. It consists of two churches – the smaller one, St. Archangel Michael, dates from the same year. The other one, The Assu Holy Virgin, was built years later. Vasil Levski and father Matei Preobrajenski stayed at the monastery. The history of Dryanovo monastery is connected with the Bulgarian Liberty struggle of the Ottoman yoke. It was that during the April uprising the band of the priest Hariton waged a nine day battle against the much morenumerous Ottoman army. A very interesting landmark is the monument-ossuary which rises in the back yard of the monastery. It was built in 1895 in memory of the perished insurgents.
Rojenski monastery, 'The Birth of the Virgin Mary', is situated south of the village of Rojen, some kilometers away from the picturesque town of Melnik. The monastery complex includes the main church, living buildings, shady verandah and fortified walls, combined in a beautiful architectural ensemble. The church is decorated with frescoes, candlesticks, crosses, and beautiful fretworks on the iconostasis. Some of the icons are exceptionally precious monuments of our fine arts. Of great interest are the scenes painted on the outer facade, and its white belfry. According to historians, the monastery was founded during the time of Alexi Slav - a Bulgarian boyar who ruled the Rhodopean territory during the 12-13th century. Today the monastery is restored, and open for visits. Yane Sandanski - one of the biggest Bulgarian revolutionaries - spent his last days in this monastery. Today his grave is under the church of St. Kiril and Metodii, not far from the Rojenski monastery.
The Shipka Monastery is located 12 km from Kazanlak, close to Shipka village, which is situated at the foot of Stara Planina Mountain. It was built in memory of the Russian soldiers and the Bulgarian militia who died in the Russian-Turkish Liberty war. The structural design is made by a Russian architect and shows the characteristics of the Russians cathedrals in the seventeenth century. The monument has picturesque decorations, multicolored, with arches, friezes, and golden domes, which capture the sight of tourists from all around. Most impressive is the belfry which has seventeen bells. There is a big vault made of three arches which form the main entrance of the monument. The inner side of the monument is also very interesting. There is a big wooden iconostasis covered with gold, icons, donated by a Russian monastery, marble plates carved with the names of the dead soldiers, and in the crypt there are several sarcophagi containing the remains of the Russian soldiers.
The monastery is situated 17 km. south from Veliko Tarnovo and was founded in 1348. During that time it was among the biggest literary and cultural centers in Middle Age Bulgaria. It became famous not only in the country, but also abroad with the numerous translations of passionals, chronicals, collections, and written books. Its students numbered 460. The minster is built by the self-taught Bulgarian master-builder Kolio Ficheto. It is spacious, a basilica with one dome. The cloister includes not only the main church, but also the monks' buildings. Very interesting are the two chapels, which are devoted to Ivan Rilski and Teodosii Tarnovski who is considered to be the founder of the monastery. The frescoes are made in 1718. Kalifarevski monastery is a very precious monument of the Bulgarian architecture and art.
Preobrajenski monastery is a very precious architectural and artistic monument in Bulgaria. According to historical data, the monastery was built during the sixties of the 14th century - the time of the Second Bulgarian Kingdom. The monastery had been burnt down and plundered by the Turks, but thanks to patriotic Bulgarians it was re-built in 1825. In 1832 with the help of a firman published by the sultan, the church was restored and rebuilt. The building of the church was finished by the famous Bulgarian master-builder Kolio Ficheto in 1834. It is a cross-like, uni-dome Renaissance building with a closed narthex. The inner decoration - frescoes and icons, were made in 1849-51 by the great Bulgarian artist Zahari Zograf, and are of a great artistic value. Besides the pictures of St. Kiril and Metodii, the master has made his own self-portrait.
The St Trinity Aladja monastery was built in the 13-14th century. At that time an anchoretic movement, known as hesychast, was spreading. What is special about this monastery is that its rooms are in artificial caves that are hollowed out on two floors in the precipitous rocks of Stara Planina Mountain. According to the scientific research, on the first floor were the minster and the monks' rooms and on the second – the chapel. Right next to it dead monks were buried. Next to the stone monastery are found other rooms, covered up by weathered rocks, and passages, a bronze incenser and parts of wall paintings. Aladja monastery is located 15 km from the town of Varna. It is cultural-historical monument, which is visited by many foreign tourists.
Klisura Saint Cloister
Klisura Saint Cloister is located at the gorgeous mountain hollow of the rivers Vreshtitza, Rovna Livada and Bakite. In the north is the Chiprovski Balkan Mountain, in the south - Varshetz mineral baths, to the west - the beautiful Todor's towers. The complex is visited by many tourists, and has enough rooms and a restaurant. Near by are situated the picturesque villages Spanchevtzi, Tzvetkova bara, Yagodovo, Slatina. It attracts the tourists with its interesting history and fascinating nature - green lawns, cold and clear as tear water, shady glades, and century-old green trees. They call St..Kiril and Metodii Klisura monastery the cultural pearl of north-western Bulgaria. It was founded probably during the Second Bulgarian State. It endured numerous sudden attacks and devastations during the century-long Ottoman slavery, but it was built up again from the ashes and has always been an important cultural center.
To the north-west of Teteven is located Glojene village where is situated one of the most beautiful Bulgarian monasteries – Glojenski. It is built on an awesome rock that rises above the countryside. According to legend , the monastery was established by the Kiev prince Gloj who came from Russia to seek refuge from the Tatars. The old building of the monastery was destroyed in a fire in 1856. In its place a new building was erected and is still preserved. People say that the former monastery church was incredibly beautiful with wood-carved iconostasis, real masterpieces of art and architecture. It was demolished by a strong earthquake in 1913 and a new building was erected on its place. The icon with a silver repousse cover of St. Georgi Pobedonosets and the tunnel underneath in the western part of the church which was the entrance of the monastery were preserved.