“St. Apostles Peter and Paul” most probably emerged in the 15th century – first as a chapel and later on, as a small monastery. According to a legend, the monastery was set on fire on St George’s Day (6th of May) in 1853. The reason behind its destruction was a beautiful girl from the village of Pasarel, named Doyna. Turhan Bey, a Turkish ruler, caught sight of Doyna while she was dancing on the village’s “horo” dance, and after he got to know who she was, asked the local bartender to take him to her house, so that he could spend the night there. When evening fell, the bartender took Turhan Bey to the house, but Doyna was already hidden in the monastery. The bey got angry and rode his hansom to the monastery. The bey, together with his Turkish soldiers, banged on the high monastery gates for two hours but nobody answered. Then Turhan Bey ordered that the monastery was set on fire. The monastery was thus destroyed, but in 10 years’ time, it was restored.
The monastery church, built in the 19th c., is the only building that has survived until present day. It represents a single-nave, one-apse stone building with no narthex or dome. Its roof is of two tiers and its western side is slight splayed. The two patrols of the monastery, St. Peter and St. Paul, are painted in a niche just above the entrance of the church. Two lions, depicted in a heraldic pose, can be seen to the right and to the left of the gate. The walls and the vault arch were thoroughly painted in 1878 by the Samokov painter Hristo Iliev, while an inscription over the entrance reads that in 1880, two brothers from the village of Tresonche (Debur region in Serbia) covered with frescoes the main hall of the church.
A painting of the donor of the church can be seen just above the door. It communicates that the church’s construction was financed by Father Monk Vasilii Ivanov from the town of Sopot. This is the only donor fresco in Bulgaria’s art of religious painting, in which the figure is presented in a humble and praying pose.
The monastery was declared a monument of culture in 1973, while in 2002; it was also decreed as a monument of national significance. According to a note put on a wooden plate next to the church’s entrance, the church is open between 11am and 2pm on Saturdays and Sundays. Unfortunately, our team has never had the chance to see it open even on those days, despite our numerous visits there.
The monastery can be reached by taking the old road that led from Sofia to Samokov before the construction of the Iskar Dam. Coming from Sofia, one needs to take an off-road to the left that starts about 2km after Pasarel and leads to the dam’s wall. There is a sign above the off-road that tells that this is the road to the monastery, too. The road follows the left-hand bank of the Iskar River and even if it is a dirty one, it is accessible for cars. About 2km. after the start of the off-road, one reaches the monastery that lies on the right-hand bank of the road. A new dirty road starts to the left, crosses the river at a ford and leads straight to the monastery. The river can be crossed only by high cars and off-road vehicles, however. There is a wooden bridge for pedestrians just next to the ford.