Bachkovo Monastery

Bachkovo Monastery


The Bachkovo Monastery "Assumption" is a stauropegial monastery near the village of Bachkovo, Asenovgrad municipality, Plovdiv region. It is the second largest Bulgarian monastery after Rila. The Bachkovo Stauropegia with a temple holiday on August 15 is located in the valley of the Chepelarska River (also known as the Chaya River), about 10 km south of Asenovgrad. The monastery is picturesquely surrounded by the hills of the Rhodopes, which, together with its impressive size and rich history, makes it one of the most visited in Bulgaria.



The monastery was founded in 1083 by Gregory Bakuriani - a great domestic of the Western armies of the Byzantine Emperor Alexius I Comnenus and Abazius, his brother. The monastery statute (typical) compiled by order of the founder is preserved in transcripts in Greek and Georgian. According to him, the secular and ecclesiastical authorities, incl. the Metropolitan of Philippopolis (Plovdiv), have no right to interfere in the affairs of the monastery (Chapter 3) and access to it is closed to Greek monks (Chapter 24).

Bachkovo initially developed as a center of Georgian monasticism. Towards the end of the 11th century, a literary school was formed there, known in the sources as Petritsonska - a name derived from the original name of the neighboring fortress Petrich. The connections of medieval Georgia with Byzantium were realized through the translation work of the writers working in the monastery. One of these writers is the Georgian Neoplatonic philosopher Ioan Petritsi (c. 1050 - 1130), a student of Ioan Ital. Since that time, two important buildings have been preserved - the ossuary and the church "St. Archangels.

In 1344, the Stanimash region was ceded to Ivan-Alexander by the Byzantine Empress Anna of Savoy in exchange for promised help in the fight against John Cantacuzino. For about twenty years the monastery enjoyed the patronage of the Bulgarian king (for whose portrait in the monastery ossuary see below). Bachkovo remained within the borders of the Tarnovo state until 1364, when the Ottomans conquered Plovdiv, Stanimaka and other Rhodope fortresses.

After the fall of Tarnovo in 1393, Patriarch Evtimii was expelled "to Stenimah". It is believed that it was the Bachkovo Monastery. The patriarch continued his literary work with the help of his student Andrei-Andronicus and died around 1404 (for his supposed tomb, see below.) In the Stanimashki (apparently Bachkovo) monastery, the Ecumenical Patriarch Simeon (1467) withdrew after his removal from the throne.

It is not certain whether the information preserved in Ottoman documents from the 16th century refers to the Bachkovo Monastery. A postscript in the second Lovchanski collection mentions that the church of the monastery "fell to the ground from the time of the reign of the wicked." At the end of the 16th century, during the time of Patriarch Jeremiah II, the fraternity Abbot Parthenius built the new Church of the Assumption (1604) and the refectory (1623).

By a letter dated February 15, 1628, Patriarch Cyril I Lucaris confirmed the Stauropegial rights of the Bachkovo Monastery, recognized by his predecessors Dionysius, Joasaph, Mitrophan, Jeremiah and Neophyte. In 1801, however, Hieromonk Macarius was confirmed abbot not by the Patriarch of Constantinople, but by the Metropolitan of Plovdiv - "according to a long-established old custom."

The presence of gifts from Bulgarian relatives and fellow citizens, as well as several Slavic manuscripts, testify to the presence of Bulgarian monks. However, by 1869 a school was opened in the monastery, where children from the surrounding villages study in Greek.

On December 8, 1894, at the request of the monks, the monastery passed under the authority of the Bulgarian Exarchate. The hieromonks Haralampius, Dionysius, Joasaph and the monk Seraphim were sent there to establish a Bulgarian brotherhood.

In 1941-47 the Plovdiv Theological Seminary was evacuated in Bachkovo. A fire broke out on the night of December 10, 1947, destroying the rich seminary library.

Evtimiy Tarnovski was buried in the "church of Petriotis", usually identified with that of the Bachkovo monastery. However, most scholars believe that the tomb discovered in 1905 under the church of St. Archangels is not his. The Bulgarian Exarch Stefan and Patriarch Kiril wish to be buried in Bachkovo. Their remains rest in the western part of the main monastery church "Assumption".

The monastery buildings form two rectangular courtyards - northern (original) and southern (added in the 30s of the XIX century). Twice, in 1912 and 1947, parts of residential buildings were destroyed by fire. In its current form, the eastern side of the northern courtyard was built in 1928 - 29, the western - in 1949 - 55, and the northern - in 1964. The monastery wings in the southern courtyard were restored in the 80s of the 20th century. project of the architects Nikola Mushanov and Zl. Kirov. Subsequently, their interior was designed by arch. D. Damyanov and arch. Hr. Ganchev. Recently (2009) a fountain was made in the middle of the north yard. In addition to the main church, the complex includes the smaller temples "St. Archangels ”and“ St. Nicholas ”and the cell church“ All Saints ”(above the old dining room).


Main Church "Assumption of the Blessed Virgin"
The current church was built in 1604 on the foundations of the old Bakurian church and on the model of the Athos triconch temples.

The iconostasis is one of the earliest (from the first decades of the 17th century) wood-carved iconostasis in the Bulgarian lands. Its lower part is an altar partition made of travertine, on which the wooden parts are erected: a belt of royal icons, a three-part architrave and two rows of small icons. They form a relief architectural frieze, crowned with a high wooden cross, flanked by two ripides. The carving decoration includes a vine with ornamental motifs. The icons in the festive order date from the 17th century, and those of Christ and the Mother of God in the royal order were painted in 1793 by Jacob, a monk in the monastery of Iviron on Mount Athos.

The original painting in the nave was completely repainted by the painter Moschos from Edirne in 1850. The more valuable are the preserved frescoes in the narthex, which according to the donor inscription date from 1643 and include magnificent portraits of donors George and his son Constantine from the Thessalian town. Vlasi (Κλάσι Καρδίτσας, Βλάσι των Αγράφων). These murals reflect the leading trends in monastic art in the Balkans in both style and subject matter (including illustrations of rare Old Testament subjects, scenes from the church calendar, The Assumption of St. Ephraim the Syrian, and others).

Church "St. Archangels
The two-story church is dedicated to the leaders of the heavenly army, Michael and Gabriel, and is located west of the main temple, adjacent to it. Legend has it that it was built by Emperor Alexius I Comnenus. According to archeological data, it was built before the 13th century and probably renovated in the 14th century by Tsar Ivan-Alexander. The temple icon "Council of the Archangels" (now preserved in Sofia) is one of the best works of painting from the middle of the XIV century. Zahari Zograf painted in 1841 the arched passage under the church with illustrations of the Gospel parables and a portrait of Alexius I Comnenus. The frescoes in the church itself (on the upper floor) date from 1846 and, like those in the main church (see above), are the work of Moschos from Edirne. They include an image of a miracle performed by Archangel Michael in the Athos monastery of Dohiyar.

Church "St. Nicholas
Built from 1834 to 1837 under the abbotship of hieromonk Ananius - a Bulgarian from Sliven, the church rises in the southern monastery yard and impresses with its frescoes from 1840, the work of Zahari Zograf. The prominent Bulgarian artist painted the interior and the open porch of the temple. In the extensive image of the Last Judgment he painted among the sinners images of some of the then rich people of Plovdiv. Nikola Tondjorov, who visited Bachkovo soon after the completion of the frescoes, reported in a letter to Neofit Rilski (April 20, 1843) about the "Zahariev's paintings painted there, on which filibelia are angry, why he men and women ... " Along with the images of the monastery abbot Matthew of Stara Zagora and his predecessor (pro-abbot) Ananias in the upper corner of the facade wall of the church, the artist painted his self-portrait, inscribed" be depicted with my hand " "Zachary H. Zograf Bulgarian".

The old dining room
The old, now unused dining room is located on the ground floor in the south wing of the monastery. It is a rectangular room with a semi-cylindrical vault and an apse on the west wall, where the abbot sat. There is a marble table (made, according to an inscription carved in it, in 1690), on which the monks ate for more than two centuries.

According to a missing inscription, the dining room was built in 1623 and covered with frescoes in 1643 at the expense of the same donor George, who paid for the decoration of the porch in the main monastery church (see above). In terms of artistic merit, these frescoes can be compared only with the best specimens of Mount Athos, and more precisely with the paintings in the dining room of the Great Lavra "St. Athanasius ”(1535). In addition to the Last Judgment and the figures of saints-monks, here we find scenes from the history of the Christian church - images of the seven ecumenical councils, which condemn heretics and uphold the purity of the faith. Twenty-four scenes illustrate the liturgical chant in honor of the Mother of God, known as the "Akathist of the Mother of God." The branches of the "Tree of Jesse" - a family tree of Jesus Christ - unfold in the arch. Next to it are the images of ancient philosophers and writers (Aristotle, Socrates, Diogenes and others), who are considered the forerunners of Christianity, and their wisdom is compared with that of the biblical prophets. The frescoes were cleaned in 1967-72 under the direction of the Czech restorer Raimund Ondracek.


In 1846 Alexi Atanasov painted on the outer wall of the dining room an unfolded panorama of the Bachkovo Monastery and its surroundings. It includes the images of the main founders and restorers of the monastery (Gregory Bakuriani, Alexius I Comnenus, Bakurian's brother Abazius, Gabriel and his son George) and depicts the annual church procession held today on Holy Monday (after Easter) with the Bachkovo miracle. of the Holy Mother of God. This is the largest panoramic mural composition in Bulgaria.

The ossuary
The two-storey cemetery church is located about 300 meters east of the main buildings of the monastery. The restoration of the temple and its frescoes was completed in 2002 with funds from the Cypriot Levendis Foundation.

An ossuary (tomb) has been formed on the lower floor, and a temple on the upper floor. The original fresco from the 12th century is relatively well preserved and ranks among the most valuable works of Orthodox art from the time of the Comnenus. It includes two majestic images of the resurrection of the dead - the Last Judgment and the vision of the prophet Ezekiel in the valley of dry bones (Ezekiel 37: 1-14). A Greek inscription states that the painting was the work of the artist Ioan Iveropoulos, who, judging by his last name, was of Georgian descent.

In the 14th century, during the reign of Tsar John Alexander, the open arcades on the upper and lower floors of the ossuary were walled up. The newly formed niches are painted with images of the ruler himself, of his patron saint John the Theologian, of St. St. Constantine and Helena, and on the lower floor - of "Sevast Gregory Pakurianos, slave of Christ, great viceroy and donor" next to "Master Abbasius, brother of the donor" and of "George and Gabriel, the second donors" (the inscriptions are in Greek ).

The Bulgarian king is depicted in a pose typical of an imperial portrait. In his right hand he holds a scepter crowned with a cross, and in his left, pressed to his chest, a scroll. The Byzantine influence in the then Bulgaria is evidenced by the fact that the inscription (now destroyed) "John in Christ [God faithful king] ..." was in Greek. The king's clothing repeats in the smallest detail the Byzantine imperial robes: he wears red dalmatia, loros, camilafkion and a crown studded with precious stones.

The Bachkovo icon of the Holy Mother of God
The biggest shrine of the Bachkovo Monastery is its icon of the Most Holy Mother of God. It is kept in a special place in the cathedral monastery church and because of its miracles it is the subject of worship by a constant stream of believers.

From the whole painting only the faces of St. The Mother of God and the Infant, and everything else is covered in honor with two silver fittings. On the older of them there is an inscription, according to which it was donated in 1311 by the Georgians Athanasius and Okropir (Chrysostom). The newer fittings date from 1819.

The earliest written information about this icon is given by the Plovdiv priest Konstantin Ikonom in his description of the Plovdiv diocese published in 1819: “We do not know how and when the icon was brought here. According to a legend, after the conquest of these places in Thrace, the icon was found in a cave half an hour away from the monastery on the south side of the gorge, now called Clovion, where there is a church of the Holy Mother of God and a holy spring next to it. And every year on the second day of Easter, when they say that the icon was found, they carry the icon of the mentioned Clovion in a liturgical procession and hold a liturgy in the nearby church of the Holy Mother of God. Many people from nearby villages and palanquins take part in this procession. "

Alexandra Karamihaleva, in turn, said in 2007 that according to some legends, the icon "flew" from a Georgian monastery and "landed" in the area "Kluviata" near Bachkovo. An unburned fire broke out during the "landing". Two shepherds, a brother and a sister, spent three nights contemplating the unquenchable flames and came to see what this wonderful fire was. They reported to the monastery and the monks with lithium took her to the church "St. The Mother of God ". They put it on the iconostasis. Several times the icon "ran" to the "Kluvia" and the brothers returned it to the monastery. One of the monks said that he dreamed of the Virgin Mary and said that she would stay in the monastery if she was assigned a special place on the right at the entrance she sees who enters the house of God with what heart, and every year on the second day of Easter she is "taken" to her old place, placed on a throne to the right of the main entrance, where she is today, and every year on the second day of each At Easter, she is taken to the Kluvia with lithium, where she prays.


Movable antiquities
The monastery has its own museum, where you can see liturgical utensils and samples of church art from different times. Particularly remarkable is the silver discus, donated (according to the Slavic inscription on it) in 1644 by Theodosius of Peshtera and made by the Chiprovtsi master Peter. Objects originating from the Bachkovo Monastery are also in the Church Historical and Archaeological Museum (Sofia) and in the Byzantine and Christian Museum (Athens). Most of the manuscripts from the former monastery library are now kept in the Church History and Archives Institute of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church.

Culture and tourism
The Bachkovo Monastery is among the Hundred National Tourist Sites, Bulgarian Tourist Union, working hours 08:00 - 17:00, has the seal of the Bulgarian Tourist Board.

The monastery complex and the surrounding area have become a developed tourist site with many shops, stalls and restaurants surrounding the pedestrian promenade to the monastery. Here is exhibited for sale literally everything that grows or is produced in the Rhodopes - rare herbs, homemade jam from wild fruits, goat and buffalo yogurt and cheese, Rhodope woolen blankets and more.

In the monastic churches, marriages, baptisms, etc. are performed for a reasonable fee.

Abbots of the monastery
Anthony (from Sliven) 1834 - 1840
Matthew (from Stara Zagora) 1840 - 1848
Hadji Kiril 1848 - 1852
Methodius (from Stara Zagora) 1852 - 1860
Akaki 1890 - 1894
Theodosius 1894
Charalampius (from Dupnitsa) 1895 - 1898
Dionysius 1898
Parthenius 1898 - 1902
Joasaph 1902 - 1904
Pakhomiy 1904 - 1905
Archimandrite Paisiy Pastyrev October 24, 1905 - 1906
Hieromonk Clement 1907 - 1912
Bishop Panaret Bregalnishki November 1, 1913 - October 1, 1915
Vladimir 1919
Bishop Panaret of Bregalnica 1919 - 1923
Archimandrite Paisius 1923 - July 11, 1927
Hieromonk Nicodemus July 11, 1927 - July 31, 1929
Bishop Panaret Bregalnishki September 1, 1929 - September 1, 1933
Archimandrite Clement April 28, 1924 - April 3, 1927
Archimandrite Nathaniel November 1, 1936 - August 31, 1938
Archimandrite Pimen September 15, 1938 - April 21, 1947
Bishop Jonah of Agathonia April 21, 1947 - November 30, 1949
Bishop Gerasim Branicki February 10, 1950 - April 15, 1951
Bishop Simeon Trayanopolski April 15, 1951 - July 15, 1955
Bishop Jonah of Agathonia July 15, 1955 - December 12, 1959
Constantine 1960
Archimandrite Filaret February 1, 1961 - September 15, 1964
Archimandrite Clement 1964 - 1968
Bishop Gerasim Branicki September 15, 1968 - August 1, 1971
Archimandrite Hilarion August 1, 1972 - December 31, 1980
Bishop Nestor of Smolensk January 1, 1981 - July 31, 1985
Archimandrite Galaktion July 1, 1985 - July 15, 1986
Bishop Nahum of Agathonia July 15, 1986 - January 15, 2004
Bishop Boris Agatonikiiski January 15, 2004 - February 18, 2014
Archimandrite Simon June 22, 2014 - December 17, 2017
Archimandrite Samuel December 17, 2017 - April 3, 2019
Bishop Zion Wieliczka April 3, 2019 -