Guarded by two saints

Built in the 10th century, the Vladayski Monastery was destroyed and restored many times throughout its history

The church dedicated to St Petka is located on the highest point of the monastery's courtyard.

The Vladayski Monastery is situated at the southeastern foot of Mount Lyulin, some 25 kilometres away from the capital Sofia. The existing buildings of the cloister are relatively new, but it is believed that the monastery was founded back in the 10th century, or during the Second Bulgarian Empire at the latest - a time when more than 100 monasteries were built in the Sofia area. Since then, it has been destroyed and rebuilt many times.

One legend has it that in 1328 the monastery was razed to the ground by crusaders and all its monks killed. Before they met their end, the monks put up a stone cross, underneath which they buried a Gospel book and two icons - of St Petka and the martyr St Nedelya, as the monastery was dedicated to both saints at the same time. Years later the monastery was restored on the same spot. There is a legend that King Ivan Shishman often stayed there on his way to the Rila Monastery and made generous donations to it.

During the Ottoman rule, the locals covered up the church with a large mound so as to protect it from getting desecrated and destroyed. So it stayed half-buried in the ground and the Ottoman authorities could not find it, which allowed for Christian services to continue to be performed there. According to historical records, during that time the monastery also served as a gathering place for rebels, who liked to have their rest in the shadow of the oak-trees dotting the courtyard.

Even though located a little bit to the side, the Vladayski Monastery is a part of the medieval ring of monasteries circumventing Sofia - the Sofia Mala Sveta Gora. Currently it consists of two churches - the old “St Petka” and the new “St Nedelya” - one chapel and cloister buildings. “St Petka” was built in 1902 on the ruins of an old church, while “St Nedelya” was consecrated in 2004.

The iconostasis in the old church has been designated a cultural monument of local significance. Albeit scarce, the remaining frescoes there are relatively well-preserved and depict the Four Evangelists - Matthew, John, Mark and Luke (the apostles who wrote the Gospels explaining the life and teachings of Jesus Christ). The northern side bears a modest portrayal of St Ivan of Rila.

The new church, dedicated to the other patron of the Vladayski Monastery - St Nedelya - is similarly painted. Nowadays, church services and liturgies are performed there. The two 1911 stone candlestick columns in the monastery's courtyard are noteworthy as well.

Following the construction of the new church, the monastery once again was dedicated to the two saints - St Petka and St Nedelya. It is currently an active convent whose holiday is celebrated on the 14 October (St Petka's day, or Petkovden).

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