THE ROZHEN MONASTERY ,,THE NATIVITY OF THE HOLY VIRGIN”

The monastery is situated in the south-most part of Bulgaria in a region of exotic beauty and centuries of history. Their backgrounds are the bluish silhouettes of the peaks of Pirin Mountain and the mysterious sandy pyramids of Melnik. It stands at 1 km off the village of Rozhen and 6 km off the town of Melnik.
It is believed that it was founded in the 13th c when the region was ruled by the mighty boyar Alexiy Slav but there are no historical data about that. The monastery is mentioned in an addition to a manuscript from the 13th and 14th c. We don’t know what happened after the invasion of the Turks. What we know is that the monastery was renovated in the 16th c. The church was built then and is still preserved today. It is a three-nave building without a dome and has a narthex. In the alcove above the entrance at the western facade is depicted the oldest fresco – Christ the Almighty on a throne surrounded by the twelve apostles and in the lower side on the left is the date 1597. This date indicates that the church was renovated and decorated with mural paintings.
In the years to follow there were several reconstructions. Stained-glass windows were added, which are characteristic of some houses in Melnik and are
unique. On one of the windows we can read 1715.
The monastery gradually strengthened economically and in 1732 there was still another reconstruction. It was complete and included new mural paintings, the making of the major iconostasis and the carved furniture for. This is why the interior is in perfect harmony.
In the naos are depicted over 150 evangelic scenes on two levels. So many scenes do not appear in any of the churches of that period, the only exception being the Rila monastery. To the traditional scenes are added others related to the
patron The Holy Virgin and among them there are 24 lines from the akathist of Virgin Mary (a hymn in praise of the Mother of God). In the central alcove of the altar wall is situated ,,The Holy Virgin Reigning in Heaven” with young Christ in her hands. The narthex is also decorated with new mural paintings but some of the older ones are still preserved, probably dating from an earlier reconstruction from the 16th c.
The southern part of the temple is covered with paintings, probably also from the 16th c. Above the entrance is depicted ,,Virgin Mary on a throne”, to the right is ,,Doomsday”, partially deleted, and on the left is the composition ,,The staircase of virtues”, which puts emphasis on the strive of Christians for perfection and the threats awaiting them along this road.
In the northern part of the church is the chapel dedicated to Saints Unmercenaries Kozma and Damian (Holy Healers), who are popular in these parts and known for their mild climate and mineral springs. To the left of the entrance to the chapel is the portrait of the nun Melania, probably donor of the monastery. Here is situated the iconostasis which includes painted frieze with ornaments left from a former archaic iconostasis. Other painted parts and icons are added to it.
The closeness of the Rozhen monastery to Mount Athos explains the similarity in the style of the paintings to those of the Athos painting tradition. Probably they were made by the same masters.
The Rozhen monastery is also proud with its carved iconostases which are masterpieces. The major one is from 1732 and the small one is from the end of the 18th c and the beginning of the 19th c. They consist of a fine web of plant and animal motifs combined with Biblical scenes, with alternating gilded and dark parts, and a number of stylish icons. They are among the best in Bulgaria.
The living quarters enclose the yard of the monastery on all sides. With their narrow windows and the nail-studded gate they make the monastery a place difficult to access for unwanted visitors. The long corridors with the monastic cells, the wooden staircases with railings, the protruding balconies and creeping vines make the internal space warm and create an atmosphere of peace and security. Very interesting is the vast monastery dining-room where the mural paintings have been restored.
The wealth of mural paintings, icons, wood carvings and buildings created in the 16th-18th c makes the Rozhen monastery one of the largest Bulgarian monasteries and a centre of Bulgarian spiritual culture from the period of Ottoman rule. During certain periods the monastery was under Greek influence and for that reason no Bulgarian books or other written manuscripts have been preserved.
To the north of the monastery complex is the bone vault of 1597 dedicated to the life of St. John the Baptist and also covered with nice mural paintings.
Not far from the monastery is the church ,,Saints Cyril and Methodius” built in 1914 on the initiative of the Voevode Yane Sandanski who was later buried in it.

Facebook Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Alternative tourism combines tourist products or individual tourist services, different from the mass tourism by means of supply, organization and the human resource involved.