10 Remarkable Bulgarian Monasteries around Sofia
Every year, ones of the most special places I visit are the Bulgarian monasteries. Each of them is a real centre of spirituality, faith, culture and solid relationship with our history and the Bulgarian soul. Besides that, most of the monasteries in Bulgaria are located in quite beautiful places.
To Understand Bulgaria, You Must See Its Monasteries!
Therefore, visiting each of them combines both a lovely walk and a touch with the history. As I live in Sofia, the beautiful capital of Bulgaria, it is quite understandable that most of the monasteries I have visited are located around Sofia. For your information, there are about 30 monasteries around Sofia. During the last couple of years, I got to visit most of them. For this article, I selected the most interesting among them.
If you would like to find more information about any of the monasteries listed below, you can visit my blog (http://drumivdumi.com). It is in Bulgarian, but you can use online translation services.
Buhovo Monastery “St. Maria Magdalena”
In the area of Buhovo there are two monasteries and this is one of them. If you come from Sofia, it is located on a small hill just before the town of Buhovo. The monastery can be reached by car. Coming from Sofia, just before the town, there is an exit to the left (on the right you can see the plant Kremikovtsi). Near the fork junction, there is a well distinguishable road sign. The monastery can be seen from the main road exit.
The monastery was created in the 16th century over the foundations of an early Christian basilica. It is believed that the basilica was built at the time of Emperor Constantine the Great. The monastery was destroyed during the Ottoman slavery. It was revived again in the first half of the 19th century. Unfortunately, the information about the Buhovo monastery is very scarce.
Currently, the Buhovo monastery is a quite pleasant place in the southern slopes of the Balkan mountains, with a beautiful view of Vitosha mountain. The monastery consists of a small church, built in 1881, and a residential building.
Divotino Monastery “Holy Trinity”
The Divotino monastery is located near Bankya, at the opposite end to Sofia. The monastery is very well settled, with well-maintained garden, and a small but beautiful church decorated with interesting frescoes. The hosts there are quite friendly.
The Divotinski monastery was built between X-XII centuries. It was burned during the Ottoman slavery and later on in the late XIX and early XX century the monastery was rebuilt.
You can reach the Divotino monastery by an off-road car, but I would suggest you something different and more interesting. You can leave the car in the Bankya outskirts, in the area of Mihaylovo district, and from there to hike the Divotino eco trail. The walk is short, only around 20 minutes, but pleasant.
Dragalevtsi Monastery “Virgin Mary”
It is one of the most beautiful monasteries around Sofia. The monastery is located in the foothills of the Vitosha Mountain near Dragalevtsi neighbourhood and is accessible by car. The road to the monastery starts from the centre of Dragalevtsi.
The Dragalevtsi monastery was founded in 1345, during the rule of the Bulgarian king Ivan Aleksandar. The monastery was not only a part of the group of medieval monasteries around Sofia called “Sofia Saint Forest”, but it was the main one among this group. The monastery shared the fate of the most Bulgarian monasteries when Bulgaria fell under the Ottoman rule – it was destroyed. In the 15th century, the Dragalevtsi monastery was restored.
German Monastery “St. Ivan Rilski”
The German monastery is located near the Sofia village of German. It is nestled between several hills of the Lozen Mountain. It is accessible by car. How to reach it? It is not so difficult, just follow the guidelines below.
The exit to the German monastery is just at the beginning of the village of German coming from Sofia. To be precise, the first exit left immediately after the entrance sign of German leads to some industrial buildings. The road to the German monastery is at the next junction, where you should turn left and then left again. There are corresponding road signs there, but be careful, they are all white coloured (not brown, as usual for cultural sites) and it is a bit difficult to stand out from the regular road signs.
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After the exit mentioned above, you should follow the 5 km old but passable by car asphalt road leading to the monastery. Just in front of the monastery, there is a large place, convenient for parking.
The German monastery “St. Ivan Rilski” is one of the oldest monasteries around Sofia. It was built in the 10th century. At the end of the 14th century, when Bulgaria fell under the Ottoman rule, the monastery was destroyed. In the 15th century the monastery has been restored, but later it was destroyed again.
In its present view, the German monastery was built shortly after the Liberation. A few years later, in 1886, the present church was built. Interestingly, the iconostasis inside the church was created by brothers Ivan and Nicolas Dospevski. Both brothers came from the famous Samokov Art School.
Nowadays, the monastery is a very nice place for a short walk.
Kladnitsa Monastery “St. Nicholas”
The Kladnitsa monastery “St. Nicholas” is located at the western foot of the Vitosha Mountain, on the outskirts of the Pernik village Kladnitsa. It is a place with beautiful nature and rich history. The monastery was a part of the aforementioned ring of monasteries around Sofia – Sofia Saint Forest.
The Kladnitsa monastery “St. Nicholas” is located 29 km from Sofia. It can be reached by car. From the village of Kladnitsa, you should take the paved road to the hut Selimitsa. The monastery is situated at the right of the road just after a big and steep right turn. For orientation – before this turn, there is a separate wooden relaxation area.
Kremikovtsi Monastery “St. George”
The Kremikovtsi monastery is located in the foothills of the Balkan Mountains. It is about 4 km from Sofia’s Kremikovtzi district and can be reached by car.
The monastery was built at the end of the Second Bulgarian Kingdom. It was a part of the monasteries group, mentioned above, “Sofia Saint Forest”. During the Ottoman rule, the Kremikovtsi monastery had a similar fate as the most Bulgarian monasteries – destroyed by the Turks. Later on, it was restored.
The monastery has two temples – the old one called “St. George” which has valuable murals and the new one named Pokrov.
From the courtyard, you can enjoy the appealing panoramic view of Sofia, the Sofia Flat field and Vitosha Mountain.
Kurile Monastery “St. Ivan Rilski”
The Kurile monastery is famous for the fact that the most revered Bulgarian saint – Ivan Rilski – lived shortly here before retiring in the Rila monastery; hence the name of the monastery.
It is located close to Sofia, near the Kurilo quarter of the town of Novi Iskar and it is accessible by car.
The area around the monastery is quiet, calm and pleasant. Perhaps, that is why the place around was chosen for settling a psychiatric clinic nearby.
In the monastery church, you can see the beautiful and ancient frescoes, the work of the great master Pimen Zografski. The monastery has a spring of healing water.
Lozen Monastery “St. Spas”
It is located about 5 km southeast of Sofia in the north slopes of the Lozen Mountain, near the village of Dolni Lozen. There is a nice and pleasant for walk eco trail called “Lozen Mountain” that starts from the village and passes through the monastery. You should foresee about 40 minutes walking to get from the village to the monastery.
The Lozen monastery is a small but well-maintained monastery with an interesting church with three domes and beautiful frescoes. From the courtyard reveals lovely panoramic views of the big Sofia flat field.
The Lozen monastery was built in the 13th century and destroyed in the end of 14th century during the Turkish invasion of the Balkan Peninsula. The monastery was rebuilt at the beginning of the 19th century.
Obradovski Monastery “St. Mina”
This is, perhaps, one of the most visited monasteries near Sofia and is quite commercialized. It is located at Benkovski quarter on the northern outskirts of the city of Sofia and is accessible by car.
There are currently operating three lavish temples in the monastery, which really sets it apart. All the three are very beautiful!
Unfortunately, there is not much information about the history of the monastery “St. Mina”, but according to a legend, it was founded in the late period of the Roman rule over our lands.
Seslavtsi Monastery “St. Nicholas”
The Seslavtsi monastery is close to the Kremikovtsi monastery, mentioned earlier, and is located above the village of Seslavtsi. The monastery can be reached by car. Firstly, you should pass through the local church and continue driving on the same street until you exit the village. The monastery is about 2 km from the village of Seslavtsi. Bear in mind that the last kilometre of the road is a bit rough.
The monastery was built during the Second Bulgarian Kingdom by the Boyar Seslav. It was destroyed during the Ottoman invasion and was restored in the late 16th century.
Now, there is not much remained from the monastery – only the church and ruins of other monastic buildings. Despite that, the place is quiet, very calm, and straight charming I would say. When we last visited this interesting place, the church was closed, but, hopefully, we managed to see through the window some of the ancient wall paintings done by Master Pimen Zografski.
This was the last monastery from the list of my favourites. Have you visited some or all of the monasteries above? Can you add some? I am eager to know …
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Hi, I’m Elena from Drumi v Dumi. I’m trained mathematician by education, by profession – a programmer, and my spirit is an avid traveller. I like authentic locations, be they natural attractions or historical sites preserved from ancient times; places without much foreign interference, because I find them interesting and curious. I admire the creations of nature – rivers, lakes, mountains, rock formations. Many places can make a person’s breath caught in front of their natural beauty. Also, I like when I touch something that exists for many many years. In my blog, I’m trying to offer to my readers a lot of interesting ideas for walks and excursions in Bulgarian. And last but not least, I want to promote, with what I can, the many beautiful places in Bulgaria. You can follow me on Facebook, Twitter and Google+