Guardian cloisters

Two monasteries keep watch over the village of Prisovo near Veliko Tarnovo

The St Panteleimon monastery was founded in the 1870s.

In the spiritual tradition of Bulgaria it was common for two monasteries to be built near or even within the same settlement - one a friary the other a nunnery. This is the case with the village of Prisovo near the town of Veliko Tarnovo. At the outskirts of the village there are two monasteries - one is a St Panteleimon nunnery and near it is the friary of St Michael the Archangel.

The legend runs that the monastery of St Michael the Archangel was founded at the end of the 12th century by brothers Asen and Peter to commemorate the victory over the Byzantines led by Emperor Isaac Angelos, won exactly on the Archangel's celebration day. After this victory, the Bulgarian state was restored following almost two centuries of Byzantine rule.

During the Middle Ages, there was a fortress near the monastery which safeguarded the ravine from plundering raids on the capital Tarnovo. In the times of the Second Bulgarian Kingdom clergy and books scribes were trained in the monastery. Tsar Ivan Alexander and his family visited often and made generous donations of money and liturgical items.

After the Ottoman conquest at the end of the 14th century, the monastery was ravaged but then restored already in 1409. It was again razed to the ground on two occasions during the Tarnovo uprisings of 1598 and 1686, to be restored as late as in the 19th century.

In its present-day form the cloister exists since 1858 when the new church and monastery buildings were erected. The church is a one-nave, one-apsis building with an open narthex and two conchs. The most generous donors of St Michael the Archangel monastery during the National Revival period were the coppersmiths of Tarnovo, and their guild often held meetings there.

The monastery of St Panteleimon is much younger. It was founded in 1870 as a family cloister of the Raichevs by the spouses Mincho and Drazha. The monastery's church was consecrated in 1881. Its walls are decorated with frescoes depicting Bulgarian saints and enlighteners, such as St Prince Boris, St Ivan of Rila, Patriarch Eutimius, Theodosius of Tarnovo, Paisii Hilendarski.

Jesus Christ, surrounded by angels and apostles, looks down from the cupola and in the altar are the icons of the Mother of God, St Demetrius, St Panteleimon, and the 26 Zographou Martyrs - a replica of the icon kept at the Zographou Monastery on Mount Athos. In the yard there is an octagonal belfry and a drinking fountain with an inscription engraved in 1910. At the entrance to the monastery there is a stone plate brought from the Roman town of Nicopolis ad Istrum. It is an ancient pagan sacrificial altar which today is used during water consecration ceremonies.

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