Where Jesus' eyes follow worshippers
The Lopushan Monastery's church is modelled after the one in the Rila Monastery
16 May, 2018
The “St. John the Baptist” Lopushan Monastery is located in north-western Bulgaria, nestled in the Chiprovtsi section of the Balkan Range. Believed to have been established back in the 10th century, the monastery was destroyed and restored numerous times during the Ottoman occupation, like most Bulgarian cloisters. After it was reduced to ashes yet again during the Chiprovtsi Uprising of 1688, it fell into oblivion and the locals took to calling it “the deserted monastery”. The cloister was revived in the middle of the 19th century by monks from Chiprovtsi. The present-day church, the living quarters, the massive double gates, the stone walls and the fountain in the courtyard were all built between 1850 and 1853. The church was built in six years by master Lilo, founder of the Slavine Architectural School, which was very prominent during the Bulgarian National Revival. He wanted to raise a church like the one in the Rila Monastery and travelled there on two occasions to make notes of the architecture. Today, the Lopushan Monastery's church is the third largest of its kind in Bulgaria. The cruciform church has three naves and five cupolas. The spacious pseudo-basilica features a large naos with an apse and altar, two decorative apses on the east side, two side conchs and two chapels on the north and south sides, respectively. In an interesting architectural solution, small windows are built into the domes. All icons are the work of Stanislav and Nikolay Dospevski, nephews of the National Revival artist and iconographer Zahari Zograf. The monastery holds the icon of St. Mary Eleusa, believed to have miraculous powers because of the unction coming out of her eyes. Another valuable object is the icon of Jesus Christ, whose eyes seem to follow visitors wherever they go in the church. The monastery also holds one of the most beautiful iconostases in northern Bulgaria, real masterpiece in the best traditions of the Samokov School, rich with floral ornaments, birds, animals and Biblical motives. During the National Revival, the Lopushan Monastery was the home of a religious school and a gathering place for the activists of the underground movement for national liberation and independent church. The monastery was a favourite place for the great Bulgarian writer Ivan Vazov, who created part of his famous novel Pod Igoto (Under the Yoke) while staying there in the late 19th century. A three-spout white-stone fountain built in 1856 is still gushing water in the monastery courtyard.
The cloister's church is unprecedented with its five cupolas.
The church's interior.
The unique iconostasis.
The monastery fountain was recently restored.