Monastery by marketplace
The cloister of Strupets preserves a philosophical inscription on its old drinking fountainAdelina Lozanova
The Strupets Monastery of Saint Prophet Iliya is located about 100 kilometres to the northeast of Sofia near the village of the same name and belongs to the Vratsa diocese. Its other name is Tarzhishte (Marketplace) Monastery because there was a big marketplace near it which emerged as early as the Middle Ages.
It is believed that the monastery was founded during the time of the Second Bulgarian Kingdom, but there is only scarce data about its functioning at that time. During the Ottoman invasion in the 14th century, the monastery was plundered and destroyed. It was partly restored in the 16th century when its oldest building preserved to the present time was erected - the monastery's church.
The full restoration of the cloister started in the early 19th century. Most probably at that time it was given to the Cherepish monastery to be used as a convent. In 1851, the new residential quarters were built with donations from the local people. The three-storey building, about 55 metres long, was fully completed in 1857. On the ground floor there are work facilities and the two upper floors comprise 18 monastic cells, guestrooms and a winter church.
In 1862, a beautiful drinking fountain with four spouts and decorated with stone bas-reliefs was built near the main church. Its master maker, who carved the inscriptions on the fountain, left a message for the generations to come: “Water flows swiftly and it never stops and life goes quickly by. Therefore, my dear brother, turn your mind and heart to the heavenly sky.”
Throughout the centuries, the monastery has been not only a spiritual hub but also a stronghold of revolutionaries and a literary centre. Fighters for Bulgaria's liberation from the Ottoman rule, among them Vasil Levski and Nikola Obretenov, found shelter in it. Damaskin of Hilendar, a prominent scribe and bookman, also lived and worked in the monastery.
The Strupets cloister was again renovated in the 1980s, when restoration of the frescoes in the old church started, while the new church of St Prophet Iliya was built in the early 1990s. The older one-nave, one-apse stone church of St Nicholas the Miracle Worker is not functioning at the moment. It was reinforced with counterforts from one side and with anchoring beams from the other because its construction was not stable. If you peek through the narrow openings in the walls, you will see the beautiful frescoes of saints.
The church's murals date back to the 16th-17th centuries and are painted in accordance with the artistic principles of the Second Bulgarian Kingdom: exquisite drawing, dynamic poses and gestures of the figures and dramatic expressiveness of the faces. The image of Christ surrounded by a halo, part of an Ascension of Christ composition, is on the eastern part of the vault. The image of Christ Pantocrator dominates the central part, while in the western part there is a depiction of Transfiguration. A traditional half-length figure of the Mother of God decorates the apse, under it there is a depiction of Adoration of the Sacrifice.