THE ELESHNITSA MONASTERY ,,THE HOLY VIRGIN”

The Eleshnitsa monastery is among those in the Sofia region that had an active spiritual and cultural life in the past. It is believed that is was founded in the end of the 16th and the beginning of the 17th c. It is situated on the southern slopes of the Balkan Mountains, along the River Yakovshtitsa, which springs from Peak Mourgash.
The church still preserved today dates back to the period when the Turkish authorities put restrictions on the construction of religious buildings. It has a modest structure. In the beginning the church was a rectangular naos and in the middle of the 17th c an almost square narthex was added. In the middle of the 18th c was built an open gallery on the southern side.
Unimpressive on the outside, the church has remarkable mural paintings. The first mural layer is from the beginning of the 17th c and only a few paintings and figures have been preserved from it in the naos. Since this is the period when priest Pimen of Zograf worked in the Sofia region, it is believed that the murals are his creation.
The second stage in the decoration of the church is from the middle of the 17th c when the newly built narthex was covered with paintings. They are the work of unknown painters and are relatively well preserved. The upper row depicts scenes from the acathgyst of the Holy Virgin. In this case, as different from the tradition, they are not isolated by frames. The second row on the western wall are depicted the participants in two ecumenical councils. They figures are enlarged and show some elements of realism.
The third layer of murals dates from 1863 and it is quite possible that they are the work of Nikola Obrazopisov, representative of the Samokov School. There are repainting only in a few places where the old murals had been damaged.
The best preserved painting of that period is the scene of Doomsday on the eastern side of the narthex.
In the middle of the 18thc were erected living quarters, which form the entire set up. The monastery was an important spiritual centre. From its very beginning it housed many literary men connected later with the Etropole literary school.

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