Bachkovo monastery

THE BACHKOVO MONASTERY “THE HOLY VIRGIN OF PETRICH”

The Bachkovo monastery was established in 1803 in the beautiful valley along the river Chaya, 11 km south of Stanimahos (today Assenovgrad), by the Byzantine military commander Grigoriy Bakuriani, Georgian by birth, and his brother Abazius. According to its statute, the monastery is independent and is managed ,,without being under the power of anybody”. The founders donated large land property. The monastery acquired great influence and turned into a school for the preparation of young monks and a literary centre.

Only the bone-vault and the church have remained of the original monastery, situated about 300 m off the monastery complex. It is an exceptional monument of culture of that period, with its architecture and the exceptional mural paintings.

The monastery survived the whole period of Byzantine rule (1018-1186) and the Crusaders (1189) didn’t cause much damage. In the period 13th-14th c it changed its affiliation and belonged either to the Byzantine Empire or to the Bulgarian State.

During the Ottoman rule the Bachkovo monastery was in disgrace but life in it did not die. It is believed that Patriarch Evtimiy was exiled and spent his last days there (1402). We have scanty information about the following two centuries.

In the beginning of the 17th c the monastery prospered again and attracted a large community of monks. The new church ,,The Holy Virgin” was built in 1604 and later the rest of the living quarters and the farm buildings round it.

The main church of the monastery attracts attention with its grandeur. In it we can see one of the earliest iconostasis in our country. The walls were painted in 1643 but parts of them are preserved only in the narthex while the naos was painted again in the 19th c by Mosko of Edirne.

The old dining room was built during the same period and the marble table for 100 made by Master Nikola in 1601 is preserved. The monks had their meals at it for three centuries. The dining room is decorated with wall painting impressive with their images and colours and with some rare evangelical themes.

In the beginning of the 18th c more than 100 monks lived there. The monastery is still functioning.

The Bulgarian population and wealthy Bulgarians supported the Bachkovo monastery all the time and it soon became too small for the numberless worshippers. In 1830 a new church ,,St. Nicholas” was built in the southern yard and it was surrounded by new living quarters. The church was painted by Zachary Zograph between 1839 and 1841. A little later, in 1846, the famous local painter Alexi Atanassov painted a broad panorama of the Bachkovo monastery on the external wall of the dining room.

Today the Bachkovo monastery is among the most remarkable monuments of the culture and art of Bulgarian past. In addition to the old architecture and mural paintings, the monastery has created a museum collection with valuable exhibits. Particularly interesting is the temple icon ,,The Holy Virgin” of 1310 with silver casing. It is believed that it has miraculous power. For several centuries it is in the centre of the yearly procession to the spot where, according to the legend, it was rediscovered after it had disappeared.

The Bachkovo monastery has existed for more than nine centuries and its history is a proof of the stable cultural development that survived the turns of history.

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