Rebel's cloister

The Arapovski Monastery St Nedelya was built at the end of the Ottoman rule of Bulgaria

Viewed from the outside, the Arapovski Monastery resembles a fortress.

In the heart of the plain situated east of the town of Asenovgrad, in southern Bulgaria, is the location of the Monastery St Nedelya, better known as the Arapovski Monastery. It was established in 1856 near the healing holy spring outside the village of Zlatovrah, which was once named Arapovo. This is the only entirely new Bulgarian cloister built during the Ottoman rule, as it was not a restoration of a previous one.

The monastery's Church of St Nedelya was built in 1859 by eminent Rhodope masters, whose work also includes the adjacent residential and farm buildings. Its prototype was the church of the Gornovodenski Monastery, built several years earlier in a style resembling the Mount Athos cruciform (or cross-shaped) churches. The side entrances to the church leading into the sanctuary are marked by canopy porticos finishing in wavy pediments in the shape of a scale-beam.

The church was painted between 1864 and 1884, and besides the traditional gospel scenes there are also frescoes depicting events from the life of the monastery's patron St Nedelya as well as from the lives of St Ivan Rilski, Patriarch Evtimiy, St Ilarion Maglenski, St Marko Preslavski and St Paraskeva, who was especially honoured in this area. St Cyril and St Methodius are depicted as clergymen, teachers and baptisers of the Bulgarian people. The church keeps one of the wonder-working icons of the Holy Virgin Mother of God.

The most impressive building in the monastery is a large stone tower in the middle of the courtyard, which the folk memory associates with the name of the voivode (leader) Angel - one of the most famous rebels in the area and the main benefactor for the monastery's construction. The tower is a rectangular three-storey building. The first two storeys are made of stone and have narrow windows adapted to serve as loopholes, and the third one is made of wood and has projecting bay windows on all sides.

The monastery's feast day is celebrated on 7 July and is dedicated to St Kyriaki the Great Martyr (or St Nedelya in Bulgarian). The beautiful young woman was tortured and eventually sentenced to die by the sword on 7 July 289 in Nicomedia, Asia Minor, for refusing to renounce her Christian faith. During the rule of the Asen dynasty (12th-13th centuries), the saint's relics were moved to the then capital of Tarnovo.

Near the north gate is the monastery's holy spring, whose water according to a local belief has healing properties. Next to it, preserved to this day, stands the building of the cloister's first chapel. It holds one of the most interesting monastery stone fountains in Bulgaria. Its front consists of five large stone blocks - one is used as a moulding, two side ones form semi-columns, and the last two are embossed with figural patterns and form the main part of the structure. Five stylised cypress trees are cut into the stone directly above the spout, with a depiction above them of two lions facing each other and separated by a cross.

Similar articles