Osenovlak monastery


The monastery is situated in the valley of the river Gabrovnitsa, near the village of Osenovlak, among the silence of the woods of the Balkan Mountain, away from busy roads and large towns. It is also called “The Seven Altars” for the unique structure of its church.

According to the legend it was founded by Kniaz Georgi, brother of the boyar Peter Delyan, leader of the uprising against the Byzantines in 1040. There are written data – an addition to a tetraevangelica from 1511 and a service book from 1554 – about the existence of the monastery from the beginning of the 16th c.

The monastery was destroyed and pillaged several times and the biggest disaster one was in 1737. It was restored in 1770 and then pillaged again in the beginning of the 19th c. For the last time the monastery was restored in 1815 when the present church was built, probably on the foundations of an older ritual building. In 1868 to it was added the open narthex on the west side of the church and the dome was painted. The architectural plan of the church is unique. The building includes seven altars which give it its name. There is one major church altar and the rest are in small chapels situated on both sides of the building.

Very interesting is the wood carving of the iconostasis of the separate chapels in which, in addition to the characteristic animal and plant motifs, there are also Biblical scenes among which stands out “Expulsion of Adam and Eve from Eden”.

The church keeps also an exceptional wooden chandelier called “Horo” which consists of 10 separate parts with painted carvings.

The icons in the big iconostasis painted by Master Stoyu of Troyan are a monument of culture. The apostolic frieze of the central iconostasis and the carved throne of the metropolitan are of particular interest.

The old monastery clapper of 1799 is also preserved and on it are the initials “S.B.V.” of Bishop Sofroni Vrachanski.

During the whole period of its existence the monastery was a center
of learning. In 1849 in it was opened a secular school for children from the neighbouring villages.

The fate of the monastery has inspired the great poet Ivan Vazov for his poem “The clapper sounds” in which he writes in praise of a legendary monk left alone to sound the clapper when the Ottomans of Mahmud the Godless attacked the monastery and was finally slain.

One can reach the monastery on the Sofia – Svoge – Mezdra highway along the Iskar defile. At bout 30 km after the town of Svoge is the branching road to the village of Osenovlak and the monastery.

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