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Akyazili Baba tekke - Saint Atanas chapel

Akyazili Baba tekke - Saint Atanas chapel

Selo Obrochishte, 9630 Bulgaria

RELIGIONS Islam, Orthodox


The dual sanctuary of the Bektashi saint Akyazili Baba and his Christian double Saint Athanasius is a mysterious and magnetic place believed to be charged with divine energy. The name of the village comes from " oath ", that is to say, an offering to God. It is a sacred place for rituals, sacrifices and divine communion. The 12-meter tall and 11-meter-long mausoleum is a heptagonal stone structure with a dome. It is decorated with stylized plant and geometric ornaments in oriental style. Inside is the tomb of the Muslim saint Akyazili Baba, orientated east-west. In the past, the Saint's belongings were placed next to him, and today he is surrounded by the gifts of the pilgrims. There is an altar and a candle-lit place, which is characteristic of Alevi sanctuaries.
According to Ottoman chronicles, Akyazili Baba settled in the area of Balta in the XVI century. He is considered the spiritual successor of Osman Baba, a leader of the Muslim order associated with the Abdalan group and the teachings of the Hurufites. In 1492, shortly after the death of the head of the Dervish order, the followers of unorthodox Islam in the Ottoman Empire were subjected to persecution. At that perilous time Akyazili Baba becomes the new leader of the brotherhood, To save the order, he and some of his disciples moved to the valley of the Batova River, far from the center of the Ottoman Empire. Akyazili Baba becomes the spiritual head in eastern Bulgarian lands and establishes a dervish cloister. After his death, the devotees built his mausoleum. In time, a whole village grew around it. In contrast to Ottoman mosques, Akyazili Baba türbe was welcomed non-muslims. Everyone was allowed to visit the tomb of the saint and to seek healing and purification. The dervishes of the tekke became known for their hospitality, giving free food and shelter to all pilgrims. The sanctuary is mentioned in 1652 by the famous Turkish traveler Evliya Çelebi: "With the exception of the mausoleums of Imams Ali and Hussein in Baghdad, there is no other such tekke neither in Anatolia, nor in Persia,". At that time Evliya was very sick, but after spending one night near the tomb of the saint, he was immediately healed. Two hundred years later, the place made an impression on the Austro-Hungarian archaeologist and ethnographer Felix Kanitz, who wrote: "In the village of Tekke I came upon a dervish convent of such proportions that is without a doubt the largest on European soil, except for Istanbul". The large imaret was destroyed during the Russian-Turkish wars. Today, only the mausoleum of the saint survives.
Originally a Turkish settlement, today Obrochishte has predominantly Christian Orthodox population. Since the second half of the nineteenth century, the text has become a dual sanctuary, visited by Muslims and Christians. Pilgrims of both religions organize a common traditional gathering on May 1 and 2. The sanctuary is worshiped by both Muslims and Christians. The Alevi pilgrims venerate the resting place of Akyazili Baba, while Christians honor Saint Atanas. Both consider the saint to be their patron and protector. Despite the fact that believers perceive their visit through different religions, they practice the same rituals - they pray at the sanctuary, wash with water, hang rags on the branches of the surrounding trees for health, light candles, leave offerings. All these ordinances are for one purpose - to pray for the protection of the saint.
Saint Athanasius' day has became a holiday for the whole village. On this day, rituals for health are performed in the Orthodox temple, and then people go to the türbe, where both Christians and Muslims give offerings and drink holy water for health and blessing. The sarcophagus of Akyazili Baba is always covered with rugs, clothes, sheets, towels - gifts for the saint. Up to this day sick people sleep at the holy site hoping to be healed or to change their lives for the better. The slippers of the saint can still be found at his tomb. Some pilgrims put them on and walk around the grave three times - to be cleansed from sins and illnesses.
- Direct visit
- Virtual visit: Watch excerpts from the video and the photo galleries in the media resources section.
- Classroom activity (post-visit): After the visit, examine the shared values and syncretic spiritual practices of diverse religious communities as a basis for tolerance and interfaith dialogue. This could take the form of a discussion and a homework assignment. The topic could also be expanded to a research project encompassing two lessons and two homework assignments. For detailed instructions, refer to Research Project. (

Demir Baba Tekke - Sveshtari, Isperih municipality, Razgrad Province, Bulgaria

Otman Baba Tekke - Teketo, Haskovo, Bulgaria




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This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This web site reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.