We have visited so many Bulgarian monasteries in the recent years and we will continue to explore them, because each of them is unique, makes us feel strong relation with the spiritual, and the most of them have reach history.
Traditionally, at the end of each year, I do a review of the monasteries we passed. Here are the Bulgarian monasteries we visited in the past 2017. They are exactly 12, all of them interesting and curious places. I arranged them in alphabetical order.
Balsha monastery “St. Teodor Stratilat”
The monastery is a good place for a short walk and for a picnic, very close to Sofia. It lies at the foot of the Balkan Mountains. The monastery can be reached by car and the road to it is new.
The church of the Balsha Monastery is not large: one-nave, one-apse with a narthex. I liked how the entire church was written inside. Among the frescoes I distinguished many saints, but the one made me the greatest impression was the image of St. King Boris the Baptist.
The buildings of the present monastery near the village of Balsha are new – their construction started in 1977 and were renovated in 2011 under a project funded by the Culture Program in Sofia. Regarding its history, there were no direct sources of information about the monastery, but it is believed that there was a monastery in that place in the 10th century. It is also believed that the monastery was restored by Pimen Zografski (lived around 1540 – 1620), who was born in the village of Balsha.
We visited the monastery “St. Theodor Stratilat” in March together with the Dobroslavtsi Monastery.
Basarbovo Rock monastery
The Basarbovo monastery “St. Dimitar Basarbovski” is the only active rock monastery in Bulgaria. It is accessible by car. It is situated in the picturesque valley of the Rusenski Lom River near the village of Basarbovo, about 10 km south of Rousse and about 104 km north of Veliko Tarnovo.
The monastery was founded during the Second Bulgarian Kingdom in the 12th-13th century. There were built several more rock monasteries during this time and the remains of many of them are still visible today.
The Basarbovo monastery became famous in the 17th century after the death of St. Dimitar Basarbovski (The New), who was a shepherd and lived modestly in the rocks of today’s monastery. The saint died in 1685.
We visited the Basarbovo monastery at the end of April.
Chirpan monastery “St. Athanasius”
The Chirpan monastery of St. Athanasius is the oldest active European monastery. It was founded in 344 by St. Athanasius himself, who at that time was an Alexandrian patriarch.
The Chirpan monastery is located near the village of Zlatna Livada, very close to the Maritsa highway. It was one of the last places we visited in March when we went to Sakar.
Dobroslavtsi monastery “Holy 40 Martyrs”
The Dobroslavtsi Monastery “Holy 40 Martyrs” is situated 3 km north of the village of Dobroslavtsi, in the southern folds of Stara Planina Mountains. It is reachable by car. About one kilometer after Dobroslavtsi, the road is branched out – the way ahead is for the Balshev monastery, described above, and the way on the right is for the Dobroslavtsi monastery. From that point there is about 300-400 meters distance to the monastery.
The Dobroslavtsi Monastery was our Sofia weekend destination in March.
Eleshnitsa monastery “Holy Virgin”
The monastery is situated in a beautiful gorge near the village of Eleshnitsa. It is a great place for an afternoon walk around Sofia.
The Eleshnitsa monastery was built in the 13-14th century. In the 19th century it was an important literary and spiritual center. Unfortunately, at present, part of the monastery buildings are in a very bad conditions.
In 2017 year we visited Eleshnitsa Monastery twice – once in February when we first saw it, and the second time in July when we climbed Mount Murgash.
Glozhene monastery “St. George the Victorious” is one of the most wonderful and impressive Bulgarian monasteries. It was founded in the time of Tsar Ivan-Assen II (13 century). There was a church school in the monastery during the Turkish slavery. A lot of Bulgarian fighters for freedom found shelter in the Glozhene monastery , including Vasil Levski.
After the Liberation, for about a year (1893-1894), the famous Bulgarian writer, politician and publicist Vasil Drumev, also known as Metropolitan Clement Tarnovski, was kept into custody in the monastery. The exile was because of his speech in defense of Orthodoxy while in the same time the head of the state was King Ferdinand who was a Catholic.
The monastery is located about 16 km away from the village of Glozhene, Teteven region. We went to see the monastery at the end of April.
Golyamo Bukovo monastery “St. Life-Giving Spring”
This is the only active monastery in Strandzha. There is a miraculous spring in the monastery. It is well-known that the quaint and miraculous springs are among the symbols of the Strandzha region.
The Golyamo Bukovo monastery is located about 4.5 km southeast of the village of Golyamo Bukovo. There is asphalt road to the monastery, which is in quite bad conditions. It takes about 15-20 minutes to get from the village to the Golyamo Bukovo monastery by car and an hour of walk.
I visited this Strandzha monastery in the middle of September.
Gorni Bogrov monastery “St. George the Victorious”
It is located in the village Gorni Bogrov, on the old road from Sofia to Varna. The current monastery was built in the early 20th century. On the altar of the church there is a miraculous stone with carved crosses, which is believed to have been brought by the Crusaders. What’s miraculous, you would ask? Some people say that this stone is growing with time.
We visited the monastery on a snowy day in February.
Kladnitsa monastery “St. Nicholas”
An interesting place for relaxation and a short walk, not far from Sofia, is the Kladnitsa monastery “St. Nicholas”, situated in a beautiful area near the village of Kladnitsa, Pernik region.
The monastery has a long history. In the Middle Ages it was part of the Sofia Mala Sveta Gora – it was a ring of monasteries near Sofia suring the Middle Ages. During the Turkish slavery the Kladnitsa monastery was destroyed. In 1841 it was restored. The man with the greatest merit for restoration was Spas Bournov who became the first abbot in the restored monastery … but not for long – he died of a Turkish sword in the monastery’s temple.
We went to Kladnitsa monastery in January.
Sokolovo monastery “Assumption of Virgin Mary”
The Sokolovo monastery is located near the city of Gabrovo. The area around the monastery is called Sokolova Cave – there really is a cave there. The Sokolovo monastery is impressive for the beautiful views that are revealed there and for its interesting cultural and historical values – you can see there icons depicted by Zachary Zograf, and a beautiful stone fountain built by Kolyo Ficheto, both were famous Bulgarian Renaissance masters.
We have visited the Sokolovo monastery many times. We’ll do it in the future as well – just the place is unbelievable. My last visit there was in November.
Ustrem monastery “Holy Trinity”
The Ustrem monastery “Holy Trinity” is accessible by car. It is located 12 km southeast of the town of Topolovgrad in the Sakar Mountains.
The monastery’s history began in 8th-9th century during the period of the iconoclasm in Byzantium – at that time the monastery was situated within the borders of Byzantium. The present look of the monastery began to be built in the 14th-15th century. In the 18th-19th century many Bulgarian rebels used the monastery as hiding place, and thus one of the names of the monastery was the Haidouk monastery.
We saw the Ustrem monastery in the beginning of March during our visit to Sakar.
Vladaya monastery “St. Petka”
The Vladaya monastery is about 15 km away from Sofia and about a kilometer north of the village of Vladaya. It is reachable by car.
The current buildings of the Vladaya monastery are relatively new, but the monastery is old and was part of the medieval ring of monasteries around Sofia, called Sofia Mala Sveta Gora (Holy Mount of Sofia ). It was repeatedly destroyed over the years.
These were “our monasteries” during the year 2017. I wonder if you like to visit Bulgarian monasteries? Which of them would you recommend me. Please share below in the comments!