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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Draglevtsi Monastery and Its Important History

There is a monastery on the outskirts of Sofia, Bulgaria, that was built in 1345.  It was abandoned with the Ottoman takeover of the area in 1382, although it was one of the few monasteries that the Ottomans did not destroy.  It was then renovated in the late 15th century.  The Draglevtsi Monastery of the Holy Mother of God of Vitosha became an important literary center.

It became a repository of Bulgarian cultural records.  One monk who stayed there in 1612 wrote a list of the medieval rulers of Bulgaria.  The scriptorium produced several manuscripts, including a gospel from 1469, a Draglevtsi gospel in 1534, and a psalter in 1598.

The monastery church, the Church of the Holy Mother of God, is the only surviving building today.  It is roughly 39 x 16 feet, with a single apse and nave. The architecture is typical of the era and region.

View of the apse of the main church.

What is important today is the art that has endured.  There are 15th century frescoes, and 16th and 17th century paintings.

The frescoes of warrior saints, George, Mercurius, and Demetrius of Thessaloni, date from 1475 -1476.  They are realistically painted with the armor of knights of that period.  Demetrius is featured in a mural fighting Kaloyan, the Bulgarian tsar, who is depicted as an enemy of the faith.

Saint Mercurius, possibly holding the sword that was
said to have been given him by the Archangel Michael.

There is an iconostasis in the church that was carved in the 18th century.  The iconostasis of a chuch is a wall of icons and religious paintings that separate the nave from the sanctuary.  (It is also an icon stand.)  The icons within were painted by Nikola Obrazopisov, from the Samokov Art School in the 19th century.

Both images (above and below) courtesy of the monastery website (linked below).

Radoslav Mavar was the feudal lord who funded the rebuilding in the late 15th century.  Portraits of him and his family are among the surviving paintings.

Besides the valuable examples of art from three different eras, the monastery is a good example of what Bulgarian monasteries were like.  During the mid-19th century, it was an underground center for revolutionary committees that worked in secret against the Turks.  It still functions as a cloister for nuns.  This is one of the overlooked treasures of history - one of the places that is ignored by the mainstream of history, but is rich in significance nonetheless.

Unless otherwise noted, images courtesy of Wikipedia.
The monastery website has information for visitors.


  1. Thanks for bringing the overlooked treasure in sight.

  2. Wonderful, isn't it? Thanks for taking the time to comment, Maarten.