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Sokolski Monastery

Sokolski Monastery

Sokolski Monastery is a Bulgarian Orthodox religious complex situated 15 km South- West of a Bulgarian city of Gabrovo just few miles past ethnographic village museum of Etar. It stands on top of a cliff in the Balkan Mountains in the Bulgarka Nature Park.



Location: 15 km South-west of Gabrobo, Gabrovo Oblast   Map

Found: 1833




Description of Sokolski Monastery


Sokolski Monastery is Bulgarian Orthodox Monastery found in 1833 and named after its founder Archimandrite Joseph (Yosif) Sokolski who arrived here with a monk Agapi.  Monastery complex stands on top of a rocky outcrop overlooking a valley of Yantra river below. At the time of its construction this area was largely uninhabited and covered by virgin forest. A small wooden church near Sokolovo Cave was completed for a small male community of monks. Its architect Konstantin from Peshtera designed the main church and many of the first buildings within a complex. The interior of the main church were coverd by frescoes and icons that were finished in 1834. Hristo Tskov, a Gabrovo- born artist, donated an icon of the Virgin Mary and Christ that was widely believed to be miraculous. The same year the abbey was inaugurated on August 15, 1834 by Tarnovo Patriarchal Bishop Ilarion of Crete.


Sokolski Monastery as it happened with many monasteries in the Balkans became the centre of Christian educational center as well as a center of national resistance to Islamic Turkish rule in the region. In 1836 Joseph Sokolski found the convent school for the local peasant kids. One of its first teachers was Neophyte Bozveli, a Bulgarian cleric and one of the most famous leaders of national educational and religious movement of the Bulgarian Renaissance. Additionally Sokolski Monastery became a center of book production.


In addition to purely education center Sokolski Monastery became prominent as a center of Bulgarian national resistence against the Ottomans. The abbey protected such important Bulgarian revolutionaries as Captain Dyado Nikola in 1856 and Vasil Levsky, probably the most famous freedom fighter. In 1876 Sokoloski Monastery became the rally point for volunteer gathering under leadership of Tsanko Dyustabanov. It didn't work out too well and after April Uprising of 1876 he was wounded, caught and hastily executed in Veliko Tarnovo nearby. Many of the monks and freedom fighters were hanged in a small cave in the Lower Monastery and their bodies were thrown off the cliff below. Even today you can enter this cave and see hooks on top of the cave ceiling.


Lower Church of the Sokolski Monastery is flanked by two caves. The cave that is closest to the cliff side contains hooks that are drilled into a cave roof. It was used by the Turkish troops to hang monks and Bulgarian volunteers who tried to oppose Ottoman Empire. During Russo- Turkish War of 1877-78 that liberated Bulgaria from the Turkish rule it served as a hospital.


Sokolski Monastery is one of the most popular and visited Orthodox Monasteries in the coutnry. Like many other religious sites it is also clounded with numerous stories, legends and supestitions. One of these legends that are still circulating in the region is that a hidden cave system exists that can take you out of the Sokolski Monastery. Whether it is true or not is not so important. It is more famous for its frescoes and icons that represent some of the best works of art of Bulgarian National Revival.


Originally a male Sokolski Monastery it was given to several nuns in 1959. It can be divided into two regions, the Upper and Lower Sokolski Monastery. The Upper Monastery is the one that you see as soon as you enter Sokolski Monastery. Inner courtyard is surrounded by the monks cells with Sokolska fountain in the middle. It was desgined by a grand master Nicolas Fichev.








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