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Transfiguration Monastery

Updated: 2014-07-28 / (veliko.co.uk)

Preobrazhenski Monastery (the Monastery of the Transfiguration — Preobrazhenie) is the biggest of the monasteries around Veliko Turnovo and the fourth largest in the country. It lies at a distance of 7 km from Veliko Turnovo in the wooded gorge of Derventa, below the caves in the cliffs which surround the Belyakovo Plateau.

It was burned to the ground when the capital of the Second Bulgarian State was taken; centuries had to pass before life was reinstated here, on the top of the ruins. The monastery started its second existence only in 1825. A part of the building and the Holy Virgin Church were erected - a revival of the late 14th century Athos type of architecture, an absolute exception from the ideas and construction principles of the National Revival period. The principal Church of the Transfiguration of Our Lord was begun in 1834 by Master Builder Dimiter Sofialiyata, who took part in Velcho's Conspiracy (1835), and after he was hung it was completed by Master Kolyu Ficheto who continued the work of building the monastery. He created one of the supreme examples of Bulgarian Baroque - a cruciform, three - apside and domeshaped building.

The mural paintings in the Church of the Transfiguration of Our Lord were painted by Zachari Zograph, the Samokov icon painter, in 1849 — 1851. He also painted the large icons of the iconostasis. He left his signature in the lower right hand corner of the church icons of The Transfiguration, and painted his self-portrait in the north-western angle of the women's section, next to those of SS. Cyril and Methodius. "The wheel of life" is one of the most popular murals and it is painted on the outside of the church. The open-work carving of the royal altar gates is particularly beautiful.

During the Russo-Turkish War of Liberation (1877— 1878) an army hospital was quartered in the Monastery. In gratitude for its hospitality after the Liberation the Russian troops presented bells, chandeliers and liturgical books for the church to the Monastery. The Monastery possesses valuable icons, painted by the Tryavna Iconpainter Papa Vitan the Younger, and Stanislav Dospevski, the Samokov icon painter, who had studied abroad at academies and was Zachari Zograph's nephew.

In 1991, a gigantic boulder fell from the cliff above and broke into smaller pieces before crushing a few monastic cells. One large chunk split in two and the pieces miraculously ended up on either side of the central church. Fortunately, no one was hurt.

The monastery is open for visitors every day from 7am to 7pm.


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