The monastery near Troyan is the apotheosis of the Bulgarian Revival
It survived thanks to its patriotic monks
Every time my foot crosses the threshold of the gate of the Troyan Monastery, I feel a real thrill. And it can’t be otherwise, because I always think about the ancient and mysterious history of the Christian monastery, about the dozens of dramatic events that happened here. And also about the significance of this place, because together with the Rila and Bachkovo monasteries, this monastery is the third stauropygial monastery in Bulgaria, subordinated not to the local metropolitan, but directly to our patriarch.
The beginning of its history is lost in the past centuries. According to legend, the founder was a hermit monk who built the wooden church “Assumption of the Holy Virgin” near the lush Osam. The only written record has been preserved in the Monastery Chronicle written in 1835/1836. It was created by “a certain Ognyanovich” and it is written there: “The Trojan monastery dates back to two and a half centuries ago, the year 1600”.
Most of the researchers believe that the shrine was really founded at the beginning of the 17th century. However, there are not a few who refer it back to the Middle Ages. As is known, in the 14th century the large city of Lovech and its surroundings were ruled by the despot Ivan Alexander, who would later become the king of Bulgaria. There were many monasteries in the adjacent area, including the one located 4-5 km from Lovech “St. Virgin”, also known as “Hawk”.
A preserved tradition connects the fate of this monastery with the earliest history of the Troyan monastery in an interesting way. It tells that during the Ottoman slavery, the spiritual center was looted and burned, and all the monks were killed. Only the main miraculous icon of St. Theotokos Troeruchitsa was saved. She does not allow the non-believers to make fun of her, takes off like a hawk from under the rubble and flies to the mountain. There it stops under a walnut tree and by the waters of Osma. It was at this place that God-fearing people established the Troyan monastery.
These circumstantial facts lead many to think that it was not founded in 1600, but revived after a period of decline and stagnation. This is exactly what surviving monks from the Yastreb monastery do. The identity of the temple patron saint of the main churches – the Mother of God – also points to this idea.
The history of the Troyan monastery in the 17th-19th centuries is dotted with pogroms and fires caused by the enslavers. It survived thanks to its patriot monks and the help of the vigilant inhabitants of the reviving Balkan villages. Sometime in the second half of the 18th century, a new and larger church was built on the site of the original small church, which was further expanded in 1812.
Also in those times, in the hard-to-reach hills east of the monastery, the hermitage “St. Nicholas”, and around 1830 another, dedicated to St. John the Forerunner, in the area of Zelenikovets, 8 km in the mountains. At the same time, in order to get rid of the encroachments of the greedy Greek bishops in Lovech, the monks made several attempts to make the monastery independent from Constantinople. This was finally granted, and in 1830, with a special charter, the Ecumenical Patriarch declared the Troyan monastery stauropygial.
The monastery is extremely important for preserving the national spirit not only in this region, but also in the whole of Bulgaria. A number of manuscript books from the 18th-19th centuries, which were compiled and written by the local monks, have survived. The first cell school was opened three centuries ago. Early revivalists such as Joseph Sokolski and Onufrii Gabrovski received their education there. The latter is today canonized because, because of his attachment to Christianity, he was beheaded by the Turks on the island of Chios in 1818. Another famous local monk is the famous artist Lekitius, a master of church prints.
The apotheosis of the rapid rise was the construction of a new church and the expansion of the residential wings, which began in 1835 and continued until the end of the 19th century. In order for the large-scale construction to be carried out, the founders of Chorbadji and rich craftsmen from Troyan, Teteven, Kalofer, Koprivshtitsa, Karlovo. The massive stone temple bears the name “Assumption” again and is the work of master Constantine of Peshtera. It is located in the southern courtyard of the monastery, nestled among tall two-three-story residential buildings with wooden bay windows protruding outwards. According to the plan, the building has a single nave with a central part and a wide vestibule. From the east, it has semi-circular conches typical of the era, and the dome rises above. An interesting element is the frescoed gallery on the west, which extends half way up the north wall. The early appearance of the temple can be judged from a print from 1839 and from the descriptions and drawings of the Hungarian traveler Felix Kanitz.
The Troyan Monastery is particularly impressive with its representative residential wings. During the reconstruction of the 1930s, Master Petar also built the western building. Next to it, in 1865, master Ivan from Mlechevo erected a 4-story bell tower. On the second floor is a chapel dedicated to the Bulgarian and Slavic teachers, the holy brothers Cyril and Methodius. The northern yard and chain farm buildings were created already at the beginning of the 20th century.
The monks of the Troyan Monastery never lost touch with ordinary laymen. They live with the problems of the people and help not only for spiritual upliftment, but also for national liberation. The outlaws took refuge in the monastery, and in the 19th century, the organizers of the national revolution against the enslavers.
Levski founded the secret committee in the Troyan monastery
It is documented that in 1872 the Apostle of Freedom personally came to the monastery. It was here that he founded the revolutionary committee for the Troyan region. During the April Uprising, in one of the cells, voivodes Panayot Volov, Georgi Ikonomov, and Toma Hitrov devised their tactics and strategy.
Grandfather Maxim’s last home
On November 9, 2012, the Bulgarian Patriarch Maxim, who died at the age of 98, was buried with a solemn ceremony in the Troyan monastery. The prominent clergyman began his ministry as a novice right here, and then led the Bulgarian Orthodox Church for 41 years.