Tale of a king, an abbess and two carriages

The Holy Trinity Monastery of Divotino is located in in the folds of Mount Lyulin some 20 km west of Sofia.

The Holy Trinity Monastery of Divotino, founded way back in 1046 and popular among the locals as “the king's monastery”, huddles in the folds of Mount Lyulin, 5km away from the town of Bankya and 20km from Sofia. It is among the earliest cloisters in the group of monasteries known as the Sofia Sveta Gora.

The story goes that a righteous man and his wife found a big pot of gold coins while ploughing their land. Being devoted worshippers, they put the pot on their donkey's back and decided to build a monastery in a place shown to them by God - where the donkey would stop. Soon after, the animal laid down in a shaded meadow between two babbling brooks. The couple hired builders and the construction commenced. The area where the pot was unearthed is still known as The Fortune. During the Ottomans' conquest of Sofia and the region in 1382, the monastery was reduced to rubble, only to be rebuilt in the next century.

Another legend has it that a miracle was performed during the incursions of kircali brigands in the early 19th century. They devastated the monastery and stole the herds of cows, sheep, horses and oxen. The kircali chieftain Hasan Hodja, who drove the stolen cattle, was thunderstruck and died on the spot. The horrified brigands fled, leaving the livestock behind, and the cloister was rebuilt once again. Like most monasteries during the Bulgarian National Revival, the one in Divotino had its own school and supported the fight for independence, even hiding Bulgaria's national hero Vasil Levski.

The church and the buildings in the monastery complex acquired their present exterior at the turn of the 20th century. The one-nave church was designed in the Athonite style; its walls were decorated with ornaments and depictions of the Holy Virgin. It keeps three precious icons of the 18th-19th century. The icon of the Old-Testament Holy Trinity, after which the church was named, is the most classical representation of the three angels visiting Abraham and Sarah.

In 2005, the icons were stolen but returned shortly afterwards. Since the late 19th century, the locals have been calling the cloister “the king's monastery”, as King Ferdinand frequented it and supported it in all possible ways. He even presented the then-abbess, Mother Claudia, with two carriages - one was used for ceremonial purposes and the other helped the abbess inspect the vast lands of the convent. The carriages are lost now, but the memory survives.

The monastery's feast day is Pentecost. On this day, monks stand at the Royal Doors and shower the worshippers with leaves of the walnut tree, symbolising the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the twelve apostles in the form of flames, 50 days after Easter.

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