Guarded by Saint Luke

The Granitsa monastery is the only one in Bulgaria named after the patron saint of artists

The Granitsa monastery is fully renovated and repaired, it is situated amidst a dense forest at the foothills of the Osogovo Mountain.

The Granitsa monastery of St Luke is located at the foothills of the Osogovo Mountain near the village of Granitsa, eight kilometres from the town of Kyustendil, in a locality known as Pustia Manastir. The only monastery in Bulgaria named after St Luke, it is situated in immediate proximity to the Granitsa medieval fortress which guarded the road between Velbazhd and Sip at the times of the Second Bulgarian Kingdom.

It is presumed that the monastery was founded in the 10th century and destroyed multiple times during the Ottoman rule, from the end of the 14th to the late 19th century, to be fully restored only in the 20th century. The hagiography of St John of Rila (876-946) mentions that he was an apprentice here before going to the Boboshevo monastery of St Demetrius, where he took monastic vows.

Two coin hoards have been unearthed in the cloister's garden: several hundreds of silver Venetian coins from the 14th century as well as coins made of gold and silver alloy of the Byzantine emperors Alexios I Komnenos (1081-1118), Manuel I Komnenos (1143-1180), Andronikos I Komnenos (1183-1185) and Isaac II Angelos (1185-1195). Several silver and bronze coins from the island of Thassos were also found here.

During the 15th century, when Kyustendil and the vicinity fell under the Ottoman rule, a boyar (nobleman) from Velbazhd by the name of Jacob became the monastery's father superior. His three sons were also monks. It was them who restored the Rila Monastery after robbers' assaults in the 15th century led to its abandonment. A drinking fountain was built in the yard of the St Luke monastery in commemoration of these three saintly men.

As regards its architecture, the monastery is a complex consisting of a one-nave, one-apsis church without a cupola, with a belfry and lodgings adjacent to its western facade.

The monastery is proclaimed a monument of culture. Currently it is a fully functioning nunnery. Its patron feast is held on 18 October every year. According to the tradition, hundreds of people throng to the sacred abode to pay homage to the saint who is the patron of artists, held as the first Christian iconographer. The monastery's living quarters surround a yard with lavish greenery in which there is a small pavilion where guests and pilgrims may have some rest.

Right above the monastery there is a nature preserve area called “Century-old beech forest”, covering 1.3 hectares, which is the starting point of a marked hiking route.

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