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THE ALADZHA MONASTERY

The rock monastery "Holy Trinity", called by the population "Aladzha" (which means multicoloured in Turkish), is situated at 14 km off the city of Varna and 2 km off the "Golden sands" resort. It consists of numerous natural dwellings or such cut in by man in the vertical rock. They were used for living and as temples by hermit monks. The dwellings are connected by narrow passages, paths or stairs cut into the rock. This kind of rock dwellings is extremely unusual for the contemporary people and provokes real amazement among the visitors.

The spot was populated in prehistoric times and in antiquity. It is believed that the monastery appeared in the early Christian period but in its present from it was build only in the 1 Oth c when hermits became popular in Bulgarian territories. During the Second Bulgarian State (1186-1396) rock monasteries spread in Bulgaria under the influence of Hesychism. During that period Aladzha monastery was in its flourish.

The cutting of the monastery dwellings lasted a long time till they acquired their present configuration on two levels. Initially there were only five monastic cells on the lower level, connected by a corridor. The northern part grows into a staircase which leads up to a relatively spacious room - the temple of the monastery. There is also a dining room, a kitchen, a crypt and a small chapel for reading burial services for the diseased. A small chapel was cut in the rock later.

During the ages of Ottoman oppression the monastery gradually declined but was inhabited till 1940.

The present-day complex differs considerably from the original one due to landslides and subsidence. The remnants of about twenty rooms and three churches as well as remains of traditional church paintings are still preserved. Best preserved are those in the small chapel on the last level. The characteristics of the paintings indicate that the decorations date from the 14th c.

At about 500 m west of the major part of the monastery is situated a group of rooms called "Catacombs". It is believed that this was the bone vault of the monastery.

The monastery has a well organized museum.

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