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Bachkovo monastery “Assumption of Holy Virgin”

Bachkovo monastery “Assumption of Holy Virgin”

Bachkovo, Plovdiv region



Bachkovo monastery is the second largest monastery in Bulgaria. It is beautifully situated on a ledge, on the right from the Valley of Chepelarska River, close to the village of Bachkovo, 10 km from Asenovgrad and 30 km from Plovdiv. This easy accessibility makes it the second most visited monastery in the country.
The monastery was established in 1083 by the Great Domestik of Western Byzantine Garrisons, the Georgian, Grigorii Bakuriani. In the very beginning, the monastery has been developed as a centre of Georgian monkhood and it has preserved its Georgian character until the end of 12th century. Due to its origin, the monastery combines three cultures – Byzantine, Georgian and Bulgarian. In 1344, the monastery and the surrounding area came under the rule of the Bulgarian king Ivan Alexander. Bulgarian ruler renovated Bachkovski cloister, patronized it and generously made considerable donations to it. A portrait of Ivan Alexander can be still seen in the arcs of the bone-vault’s narthex owing to his renovation of the building.
Spared during the first wave of enslavement when Turnovo Kingdom fell from power in 1393, Bachovski cloister became the prison of the last Bulgarian Patriarch Euthymius who was exiled there and whose relics was kept until the 19th century. The present monastery’s main church of Bachovski Monastery, Virgin Mary was built in 1604 following Mount Athos churches sample. It was painted out in 1643. Narthex murals are preserved from the first period of its painting. The murals on western walls on both sides of the church entrance are the most remarkable. Frescoes in the lower part of the temple were refurbished in 1850 by Mosko Odrinchanin. Thus, older paintings, dated back to the middle of 17th, century were discovered. Interesting portraits of generous donators, such as the tradesman George and his son Konstantin, as well as Old Testament plots and stages of the religious calendar can be seen in the main church. One of the oldest wood-carved iconostases in Bulgarian lands is preserved in the church. Talented master made the carved decoration with ornamental patterns space interpretation skill.
The most treasured item of the monastery, which is also held in the monastery’s temple, is the miraculous Virgin Mary icon. It dates as far back as 1311, as it was a gift to the monastery from two Georgian travelers-Atanasii and Okrapir. You might be curious to know that a legend tells how the icon ‘was flying’ to Bachkovo from a Georgian monastery and it ‘lands’ in the area “Kluviata”. From there monks have brought it in Bachkovski Monastery and put it in front of the temple, so as it can observe who comes with a good heart in the holy place. The dining room of Bachkovski Monastery is situated in the southern wing of the monastery building. It was constructed in the beginning of XVII century together with monastery’s main church. An extraordinary marble table from 1601 where monks have eaten was preserved in the dining room. The spacious room was decorated with exceptionally valuable frescoes in 1643. They can be compared to the paintings of 1535 in the dining room of Saint Atanasii Great Monastery in Mount Athos in their respective artistic qualities. Jesey Tree – Christian saints genealogical tree composition is depicted on the vault. In addition, ancient Greek philosophers are painted in its basement. Bachkovski Monastery Wonder Worker Icon Procession composition was painted on dining room’s outside wall by the renowned painter Alexi Atanasov in the middle of 19th century. The Ossuary, which is the only building preserved from the initial monastery building, is situated 300 m to the east of the central complex of Bachovski Monastery. This two-storey stone tomb dated back to 11-12 century. Frescoes in the Ossuary are made by the Georgian painter Yoan Iviropulos and they are among the most valuable artistic ensembles of XI-XII century Byzantine culture. It is the only tomb church in Orthodox religious world preserved from Byzantine Komnin Dynasty epoch and painted on both floors with frescoes. The Ossuary was renovated by Bulgarian King Ivan Alexander during 14th century and his portrait still can be seen in the narthex of the second floor. Exceptional works of applied arts such as marvellous church plates, covers of manuscripts and many others, most of which are treasured in the monastery museum and the rest-in the National Museum of Church History and Archaeology in Sofia, are preserved in Bachkovski Monastery. 103 manuscripts and 252 old-printed books were discovered in the monastery during the past 30 years of 20th century.
A direct visit would help the students to broaden their knowledge.




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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.