Monastery founded because of an icon
The cloister of Troyan is the third largest in BulgariaAdelina Lozanova
The Troyan Monastery of the Assumption of the Holy Mother is the third largest cloister in Bulgaria. It is located in the scenic valley of the river Cherni Osam, 10km to the south of the town of Troyan and 120km to the northeast of Sofia. Almost next to nothing is known about the earliest history of the monastery. It was presumably founded by an Athonite hermit monk, who built a small wooden church by the river in 1600 during his pilgrimage to Wallachia with a wonderworking icon of the Holy Mother of the Three Hands, a replica of the 14th-century wonderworking icon kept at the Monastery of Hilandar on Mount Athos.
The story goes that whenever the monk tried to leave the cloister the icon itself would somehow go back to it. Eventually, he left it there and went on his way and the locals built a monastery on the site. The icon has ever since been kept in the monastery, attracting thousands of pilgrims.
Between the 17th and the 19th century the cloister survived thanks to the efforts of patriotic monks and freedom-loving inhabitants of the nearby mountain villages. In 1830, the Monastery of Troyan was proclaimed stauropegic, i.e. administratively independent, under the sole jurisdiction of the Patriarchate of Constantinople. Two monastic communities, of St Nicholas and of St John the Baptist, were built in the early 19th century in hard-to-reach areas near the monastery.
The major landmark of the Troyan Monastery is the Assumption of the Holy Mother Catholicon built in 1835-1837 to replace the old wooden church. The main church is a cross-in-square solid basilica made of stone, with two layers of brickwork. Both its interior and its exterior were painted by renowned Bulgarian artist Zachary Zograph of the Art School of Samokov. Alongside biblical scenes such as The Wheel of Life and The Last Judgment, he painted a marvellous self-portrait, portraits of the patrons and donors of the church, depictions of the Holy Brothers Cyril and Methodius, of Bulgarian patriarchs, kings and saints.
The gold-plated iconostasis in the naos was wrought in 1839 to become an exquisite example of the output of the Woodcarving School of Tryavna. With its colonnettes, horizontal cornices, intertwined sprouts, floral and avian motifs, leaves and clusters of grapes, it is emblematic of the exuberant woodcarving style of the Bulgarian National Revival. In 1866, a unique in terms of its concept five-storey tower was built in the complex. The basement was used as a storeroom, a chapel of Sts Cyril and Methodius occupied its middle part, and a belfry perched atop.