Ivanovo Rock Monastery, Bulgaria

In Northeast Bulgaria, there is a place you must visit because it is believed to be really close to God. A complex of rock-hewn churches, chapels, monasteries, and cells developed in the vicinity of the village of Ivanovo. In addition, the Monastery is listed in the UNESCO book as part of world cultural heritage.

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The monastery was founded in the 1220s by the monk Yoakim. The Bulgarian tsars Yoan Asen ІІ (XIII century) and Joan Alexander (XIV century), were among the monastery donators. During the apogee of the religious complex, the rock churches are believed to have been about 40, and the cells of monks around 300. 

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After parking the car in the parking lot, you will see stairs leading you to the monastery carved in the rocks. If you turn around, you will undoubtedly have an incredible view, as you will be high enough in this sacred place. 

The churches of the complex are very small – 20 – 30 square meters (do not forget where they are). Wall paintings will show you the specifics of Bulgarian church art in the 13th – 14th century and you can find them preserved in six of the temples. The main church of the complex has valuable frescoes depicting scenes from the Bible: Christ Agony, Icons of Apostles and saints, etc. During the Second Bulgarian Empire (12th – 14th century) the monastery was established as a spiritual and educational center.

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The frescos of the Ivanovo churches are an important achievement in the Christian art of South-Eastern Europe. The interesting part here is that the actual frescoes have only been conserved without any, even partial, restoration. The method used for painting is the world-famous Italian style called "Afresco", which means repeatedly applying paint to the wet mortar. This application could reach up to 18 times, depending on the thickness of the mortar.

Does it sound unique? Come and see it yourself!

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Petya Petrova

Petya Petrova is a journalist, believer, and traveler.

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