Arapovski Monastery

Popular Name Arapovski
Orthodox Name St. Nedelya
Region SC, Plovdiv

The Arapovo monastery “St Nedelya” is located 8km to the northeast of the town of Assenovgrad, close to the village of Zlatovrah (formerly named Arapovo). “St Nedelya” is one of the few Bulgarian monasteries built in the field and not in the natural protection of the mountain.

History and general info
The monastery was built during the Ottoman rule of Bulgaria. A legend tells that water from the monastery’s holy spring cured the beloved one of Arap Bey, a local Turkish ruler. Arap Bey was so grateful that he donated a plot of land and allowed the construction of a monastery around the spring.

The monastery first emerged as a monks’ residence close to the holy spring in 1856. Thank to the voluntary donations by patriotic citizens of Plovdiv, as a counteraction to the assimilatory attempts of the Greek Church at that time, by 1863 the residence was turned into a monastery complex.

Rhodopi masters from the village of Yugovo, led by Stoyan Uzunov (Gudevski), built the complex. The monastery church was erected in 1859, an year known according to the inscription over its western door. The church represents an imposing three-nave, three-apse stone building, with its exterior being covered with stone plates. Six stone columns support the dome, while the floor is covered with marble tiles. The altar’s iconostasis and the four small icons at the columns were painted by the famous painter of the Bulgarian Renaissance period, Georgi Ganchov – Zografina, a close friend and collaborator of Vassil Levski.

Saint brothers, Cyril and Methodius, were depicted for the first time in the frescoes of the church , which represent more than 150 scenes. Their images are not canonized but look rather lively.

One of the most valuable icons of the monastery is the one of the Holy Mother that is considered to be miracle-working. It can be seen to the right of the southern entrance. It is painted so that its sight always follows the worshipers.

The tower of Angel Voyvoda, who was a famous rebel against the Turkish yoke, can be seen in the complex. According to a legend, he personally mandated the tower’s construction. The tower is rectangular with a dual function – a watchtower and a residential building. The first two floors are made of stone and have narrow windows that served as loop-holes. The third floor represents the actual residential part, and has a wooden frame-built construction with strongly-outgoing bays. There are four rooms in this floor that are currently rented out to visitors.

Behind the monastery’s walls, not far away from the northern entrance, the old holy spring can be found. The first chapel of the monastery that is still preserved was built around it. The chapel was painted in 1870, by the same master- Georgi Ganchov.

The monastery served as an educational centre and a place where revolutionary activity in the region was done. A school for priests was established here in 1868 and it functioned in parallel to an existing school for children from the region. In 1871-1872, “St Nedelya” served as one of the many monastery shelters of Levski.
Accommodation and food
Food is not offered, but in the monastery could be found several rooms that are rented out to visitors. The rooms are nothing luxurious, while the bathroom is shared. Yet they are often fully rented out for big Christian holidays so booking beforehand is recommended.
The monastery is easy to reach from Assenovgrad by following the road to the town of Purvomay. Shortly after leaving Assenovgrad, one need to take a signed asphalt off-road to the right that leads to the monastery.
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