Chiprovtsi monastery "St. Ivan Rilski", Municipality of Chiprovtsi


Chiprovtsi monastery is located in the foot of Yazova Mountain (part of Western Stara Planina) in the valley of Chiprovska River on 6 km from town of Chiprovtsi an don 30 km eastwards from town of Montana.

History of the monastery

Chiprovtsi monastery was built by the Bulgarian Catholics in the tenth century and is one of the thirty monasteries of the first Bulgarian state that established in the country the Christianity and the deed of Cyril and Methodius. For nine centuries it was an important literary and educational center continues to exist after the Magyar invasion in the 13th century, the fall under Ottoman rule in XIV c. and the raids of Michael the Brave in 15th c. It served as a main refuge and foothold in the uprising Constantine and Fruzhin (15th c.) and Chiprovtsi uprising (17th c.). For the period of its existence it was destroyed and rebuilt several times (in the chronicles of the monastery are marked six fires and destructions). The first demolition of the monastery took place in 1404 after the revolt of Constantine and Fruzhin. Particularly serious consequences had the second attack on the monastery, which was after the suppression of Chiprovtsi Uprising of 1688. Then was destroyed the rich monastery library containing valuable Slavic books and icons. Bulgarian Catholic population was forced to emigrate and the monastery was abandoned. In the early 11th c., in Chiprovtsi monastery settled Orthodox monks and reconstructed it under the requirements of their ordinance. There were established links with some Russian monasteries and were sent representatives in Russia. In 1800 the Russian Emperor Paul I gave the monastery a throne Gospel with silver plating, which is now kept in the National Museum of History.

In 1806 Chiprovtsi monastery was looted and burnt by the Berkovitsa Yusuf Bey Pasha. In 1818 it was rebuilt, but ten years later it was burnt again. Another resurrection of the monastery took place in 1829, and then was built the present church "St. Ivan Rilski". In 1837 the fire again absorbed everything. And again, construction to come the last burning after the Liberation. During the uprisings in northwestern Bulgaria Chiprovtsi monastery sheltered several thousand rebels. Monks themselves are included as rebels in Lom conspiracy of 1867-1868. In July 1876 near the monastery kept fighting the detachments of Panayot Hitov and Filip Totyu.

Architecture and current status

In the middle of the courtyard stands the monastery church of "St. Ivan Rilski", dating from the late eighteenth century and renovated in 1829. It is a living elongated building, semi-circular inside and hexagonal outside. The interior of the shell is segmented by 4 arcs carried by the pilasters. With the reconstruction of Orthodox monks in the late 17th century, the original murals are covered with lime, but under the white layer are visible geometric and floral ornaments. The iconostasis is carved and decorated with painting and gilding, and the icons in it are the work of painter Hristo Enchev from Koprivishtitsa. An interesting building in Chiprovtzi monastery is a 3- storey tower- ossuary. In the ground floor are kept the bones of monks and the people killed in Chiprovtsi uprising. A Plaque at the entrance to the ossuary illustrates the names of Petar Parchevich, George Peyachevich, Mancho Punin from the village of Bistrilitsa, Varban Penev from village of Belimel, Panayot Hitov and Filip Totyu. On the second floor of the tower, which can be reached by external stone steps, there is a small chapel- "St. Athanasius" whose interior is entirely decorated with frescoes. From the top floor, where the bell is located a beautiful view of the courtyard and the surrounding hills is disclosed. Due to the sloping terrain outside the monastery it looks like a mighty fortress, and inside it creats an impression that was dug in the ground. The monastery courtyard is rectangular, with western and southern sides are occupied by buildings, while the eastern and northern are surrounded by stone walls.

Currently Chiprovtsi monastery is permanently operational and consists of a church, two chapels, and three-storey bell-tower residential and utility buildings.

Transport access

To Chiprovtzi monastery one can reach by the detour on the road between the villages Belimel and Zhelezna. The nearest railway station is Montana. By car it is easy to reach, following the way from Montana to Chiprovtzi along Ogosta River. The monastery lies near the road, at about 4 km northeastwards before Chiprovtzi. Chiprovtzi monastery does not offer accommodation and food. However, in 2005 an additional building was built to the complex, which receives visitors. It is mainly used to free accommodation for pilgrims and not as a hotel.