The Etropole monastery originated back to the time of the second Bulgarian state. According to the legend, St John of Rila settled in a nearby cave in search of peace and solitude. A little later he left the cave and moved to Rila mountain, far away from laymen’s vanity. Nevertheless, the local people of Etropole declared the place holy and laid the foundations of the present-day monastery. During the time of the Ottoman rule, the cloister was abandoned by its monks and stayed uninhabited for centuries. Yet by the end of the 16th century, it was restored and monks again settled in. To a large degree, the monastery’s prosperity was due to the softer regime of control the town of Etropole was subjected to during Ottoman times, due to its role of a strategic mining centre.
The Etropole monastery has played a major role in the Bulgarian spiritual and historical development in 16th and 17th centuries. The Varovitska school developed there, in which worked famous writers, calligraphers, artists. From that period is the Monastery library, which has preserved all manuscripts and church books.
The monastery’s church “St Trinity” has retained its present-day look since 1858 and currently is considered a remarkable monument of Bulgarian architecture from the time of the Renaissance. It was built by Ivan Boyanin from the Bratsigovo architecture school and represents an imposing cross-like building with five domes. The church’s wall paintings were made later, in 1907. There are two chapels – “St. Joan” and “St. St. Kozma and Damyan”, settled north and south of the narthex.
Unfortunately, the most precious relics of the church have not survived until present days – one of these is a silver monstrance from 1692 and two silver (later covered with gold) crosses from the 15th and 16th centuries. It is only the old icon of the Old Testament Trinity (16th century) that is still preserved, though in the Church’s historical and archeological museum in Sofia.