Monastery near fortress

Kladnitsa's St Nicholas the Wonderworker dates back to the time of the Second Bulgarian Kingdom

Photo: Adelina Lozanova The monastery church was built in the 1840s and is undergoing renovation.

The Kladnitsa monastery of St Nicholas the Wonderworker of Myra is located at the western foot of the Vitosha Mountain, 29 kilometres away from Sofia, on the outskirts of the village of Kladnitsa. It is settled in a beautiful place, and it has a rich history - in the Middle Ages it was a part of a sacred complex of Bulgarian monasteries around Sofia, called Sofia Mala Sveta Gora (Sofia's Small Holy Mountain).

The monastery was built in the middle of the 13th century, probably in the place of an earlier church which had been connected to the local stronghold. The fortress existed since the 5th century, and in the 11th century it was already a part of the defence system of the local governor Krakra of Pernik against the Byzantines. During the Second Bulgarian Kingdom the fortress retained its prominence.

Situated near the secure fortification, the Kladnitsa monastery was growing and getting rich. It owned vast properties like forests, pastures and meadows, constituting a small feudal manor. Inside the fortress there were two churches - the church of St Nicholas was situated in its lower part, which today belongs to the plot of the Kladnitsa monastery, and in its upper part - the church of St Petka, whose ruins were preserved until some 20-30 years ago.

During the Ottoman rule, the monastery had been devastated and completely destroyed several times. It was rebuilt in 1841. The year of that reconstruction can be seen inscribed in the porch of the temple. It was restored with donations from local people. The first monastery school for the children from local villages was established there, and it was functioning until the construction of the first secular school's building in Kladnitsa, at the end of the century.

In 2001, the local authorities had undertaken a restoration of the monastery and it gradually regained its property and resumed its spiritual activity. The monastery's complex comprises a church and residential and farm buildings. The church was built in 1841 and is a small one-apse building with two conchas and without a dome. In 1866 a portico was attached to its western facade, acting as an open narthex.

The church was painted in 1883 by a master of the town of Samokov who was a teacher in a nearby village at that time and whose signature can be seen on the original temple icon above the entrance to the temple. The frescoes feature primitivism and illustrative power.

The Samokov icon painter Nikola Obrazopisov worked on its iconostasis. It is carved, shaped with gesso and covered by foil. The depiction of Holy Trinity with three faces can be seen in the decoration of the temple and is noteworthy for being the only one of its kind in Bulgaria.

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