Hidden among cliffs and rocks

The Razboishte Monastery is one of the few boasting a church entirely built in the rocks

Photo: Adelina Lozanova The Razboishte Monastery is nestled in a picturesque area some 70 kilometres northwest of the capital Sofia, not far from the Serbian border.

The “Vavedenie Bogorodichno” (Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary) Monastery is located in the gorge of the Nishava river not far from the village of Razboishte and some 70 kilometres northwest of the capital Sofia. The area abounds in unapproachable crags, caves and rock niches, which attracted monks in the Middle Ages and lent itself to the building of many churches and monasteries in the rocks.

The most famous of them all is the Razboishte Monastery, established in the 13-14th century, during the Second Bulgarian Empire. The oldest layers of wall-painting in the monastery church go back to that period. Following the Ottoman occupation of the late 14th century, the monastery was razed to the ground. It was alternatively restored and abandoned in the centuries that followed, only to be revived in the 18-19th century, with the life of seclusion becoming popular again.

According to a local legend, during the Ottoman rule the monastery was destroyed by the governor of the nearby town of Dragoman as retribution on the now-extinct village of Kurzhilovci, whose residents frequently attacked his convoys. There was only one monk at the cloister at that time. He hid in the cave behind the monastery, destroyed the wooden ladder that led to it, and that is how he survived.

In one of the numerous restorations of the monastery, the residential buildings were built on the right bank of the river, on a flat, sunny patch of land. And so, the “Vavedenie Bogorodichno” church, which was built in the rocks, remained outside of the set of buildings. Made of rough-hewn rock blocks stuck together with mortar, it is a one-nave church with a half-cylinder apse and a small altar. A bridge over the beautiful Nishava river and a narrow staircase cut into the rocks lead to the church.

There is a narrow passage between the outer walls of the church and the cave, through which, if tradition has it right, only the righteous can pass. Preserved old frescoes on the western front of the church depict scenes from Judgement Day, clearly the work of masters of mural painting gifted with an unusual sense of colour. The remaining icons and church plate date back to the second half of the 19th century. The old 19th-century iconostasis is kept safe in the monastery, while the new one goes back to 1950.

Among the residential buildings, of particular interest is a small room with a secret passage through which rebels chased by the Ottoman authorities used to escape to the outer walls of the monastery and from there to the caves. The wooden doors of the cloister are lower than the average man's height, equipped with three locks and still bear the inscriptions etched by the local rebels.

Similar articles

  • Treasures for the afterlife

    Treasures for the afterlife

    The necropolis near the village of Duvanlii sheds light on Thracians' beliefs

    The afterlife beliefs of the ancient Thracians have always fired up the imagination of those who are fascinated with ancient history while the specialists are trying to elucidate them on the basis of the available material. One of the most abundant sources of data shedding light on these beliefs was discovered in the necropolis near the village of Duvanlii, where according to experts the mortal remains of members of the Odrysae dynastic family have been buried.

    60
  • Safeguarded by St Ivan of Rila

    Safeguarded by St Ivan of Rila

    The Ruen Monastery is built near the birthplace village of Bulgaria's most famous saint

    Amidst a picturesque beech forest at the end of a meandering road high up in the Ruen Mountain, over the small village of Skrino and near the town of Kyustendil, stands the Ruen Monastery of St Ivan of Rila. The saint after whom the monastery is named was born in that village circa 876. An older monastery, dedicated to Great Martyr St Demetrius of Thessaloniki, existed at the same place before. Experts presume that St Ivan of Rila took the monastic vows there and then started his secluded life in a cave which is preserved until today, not far away from the present monastery.

    82
  • Scent of figs and old wine

    Scent of figs and old wine

    The architectural reserve of Melnik is the smallest town in Bulgaria

    The smallest Bulgarian town, Melnik - with a population of less than 200 people - was first mentioned in written sources in the early 11th century as a border point between the Byzantine Empire and Bulgaria. The first to live in the region were the Thracian tribe of Medi, to which the legendary gladiator Spartacus belonged. Centuries later, the Slavs settled in the area naming the town Melnik, from the word 'mel' for white clay. It is namely clay that the fantastic red golden sand hills surrounding the town are made of.

    88