Arbanasi Monastery

Popular Name Arbanasi
Orthodox Name Virgin Mary
Region NC, Veliko Turnovo

The St. Virgin Mary convent can be found at the very beginning of the Arbanasi village, which in turn is situated 5 km away from Veliko Turnovo on the road to Gorna Oryahovitsa. It is one of the cloisters scattered around the former capital of Bulgaria, which hold painful memories of the Turks’ invasion in Bulgaria. A visit of this monastery can be a part of a nice day off or a weekend in the ancient village of Arbanasi. Another monastery, St Nikola lies at the other end of the village and can complement a visit in the neighborhood.

History and general info
The St Virgin Mary cloister was established at the time of the second Bulgarian state, which ended with the fall under Ottoman rule in the end of the 14th century. Only a few houses of Arbanasi, including this monastery, survived after the Tsarevets fortress of the Bulgarian king (in Veliko Turnovo) had been conquered by the Ottomans. During the first years of Ottoman domination, the monastery remains a wealthy convent, but was later abandoned following a series of raids by groups of the so-called Kurdzhalii.

In 1680, local people raised money and erected the monastery’s church, which has survived to date. This interesting building could be easily distinguished from the gorgeous churches of other cloisters – it represents a low and longish building (18 meters long, 6 meters wide) with two entrance halls and a spacious chapel, without external brilliance or bell-tower. Its walls were painted by Krastyo, Tsonyo and Georgi masters in 1704. Soon afterwards (in 1716), the Troyan monk Danail initiated the construction of monks’ dwellings and brought the monastery back to life. In 1762, the church and the chapel were additionally decorated with frescoes. Besides the wall paintings, a few icons, painted by the Tryavna master Zahari Stefanov and his son, Tsonyo, have been also preserved to present days. The bell-tower is new and stands out just above the main entrance of the monastery.

The icon of St Virgin Mary with a silver repousse cover owns great attraction to the visitors. The silver cover was added later due to a local trader’s funds. It is believed that the trader’s child was cured by the miraculous icon. Both the nuns and the local people believe in the extraordinary power of the icon and because of this reason lots of people come to the monastery to address their prayers to it. It dates back before Bulgaria fell under Ottoman rule. According to the legend, at the time the nuns abandoned the monastery shortly after the fall of the state, they covered the icon with cloths and hid it in the ground. Many years later, a shepherd boy heard a mournful voice coming from the ground at the same place while walking his herd, and found the icon with the help of his father.
Accommodation and food
The monastery does not offer accommodation or food. Instead, one can take advantage of the plenty of hotels, rooms to let and restaurants of the holiday city of Arbanasi.
One can reach the monastery easily by car, following the signs from Veliko Turnovo to Arbanasi, on the main road to Gorna Oryahovitsa. The street that leads to the monastery starts at the very entrance of the village. The entire road from Veliko Turnovo to the monastery is a good asphalt one.
+359 (0)62 256 70; +359 (0)887 546 331

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