Kurdzhali Monastery

Popular Name Kurdzhali
Orthodox Name St. Ioan Predtecha
Region SC, Stara Zagora

The St John the Precursor monastery is located in the Veselchane quarter of the town of Kurzhali. The monastery, of which the church is the only building that has been restored to date, represents an impressive medieval monument of culture.

History and general info
In the 60es of the 20th century, medieval walls were excavated during construction works in the vicinity of the river bed of Arda. As a final result, a large medieval church and the foundations of different buildings appeared. During the 80es of last century, the famous Bulgarian archeologist, professor Nikolay Ovcharov, started in-depth exploration of the remains. Finally, in 2000, the church, named after St John the Precursor was open to visitors.

At present, remains of only three of the four monastery walls can still be seen. The northern wall was destroyed during relocation of Arda’s river bed. The four-sided shape of the monastery wall is similar to the Athos cloisters of the late 10th and early 11th centuries.

The first church of the monastery emerged in the second half of the 9th century. It represented a one-nave, one-apse church typical of the early Christianity. Unfortunately, today one can see insignificant remains of the apse and the central part of that church. Later on, in the early 11th century, a monumental church with three apses, the architecture of which reminded of the Athos-based St Atanasii church, was erected in the place of the old church. The walls were built of layers of stones and bricks and were generously decorated. A small tomb chapel was built later on as a part of the complex.

Different representative and auxiliary buildings were gradually constructed within the monastery complex in the 12th-14th c. The dining room was designed after those in aristocratic castles. Monks went to the dining room together, while religious texts were read during meals. The monks’ rooms were to be found on the second floor. Some galleries, a bathroom and other premises have been identified among the ruins. At first, the monastery was supplied with water via a special covered water pipe, built of stone slates. In addition, a four-shaped well can still be seen in the yard of monastery.

The rich monastery complex maintained active trade with the rest of the world, but also appealed to plunderers. At the beginning of the 13th century, it was destroyed most likely by the Fourth Crusade. The monks restored it, but then in the 40es of the 14th century it was again set on fire and this time – abandoned.
Accommodation and food
Not offered at this time.
The monastery is easy to reach as it is located in the very town of Kurdzhali, in the Veselchane quarter.

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