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Besarbovo Monastery Bulgaria
Besarbovo Monastery
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Besarbovo Monastery

Besarbovo Monastery – the Monastery of Saint Dimitar Basarbowski

Besarbovo Monastery – the Monastery of Saint Dimitar Basarbowski – is a Bulgarian Orthodox cave monastery near the city of Ruse in north-eastern Bulgaria. It has the same name as the nearby village of Basarbovo and lies about 35 metres above the river Rusenski Lom, south of the Danube.

Situated in the rocks of the picturesque valley of the river Rusenski Lom, the Basarbovo Monastery is the only active monastery in Bulgaria. It is a place that is rich in history, nature, and mysticism. A place that brings out the spirituality in you and brings you that sound feeling of peace.
The rocks of the Basarbovo Monastery
The Basarbovo Monastery
Although it was established at the time of the Second Bulgarian Empire in the 12th century, the monastery only became famous in the 17th century, after the death of Saint Dimitar Basarbovski who was a monk living a quiet and peaceful life in the rocks of the monastery.

The monastery complex
The Basarbovo Monastery consists of residential buildings, a rock church and premises, and a bell tower. A well-kept and beautifully landscaped yard surrounds the buildings at the foot of a sheer rock face. The buildings are new, built in Revival style. The path, which leads people to the monastery, passes through an archway gate to reach the beautiful green inner yard and ends at a well that was dug by the monk Dimitar himself. Locals believe that water from the well has healing properties.

The garden and the well in the Basarbovo Monastery
To reach the rock church and the monasterys shelters, you must climb 48 stairs, but once you reach the caves, the view will make you forget about the tiredness. First you can get to a platform with a niche, where the most famous monk of the monastery slept – Dimitar from the nearby village of Basarbovo.

A mural in a niche in the Basarbovo Monastery Totally carved into the rock, the rock church has a rectangular plan and measures 4.5 x 8.6 m. The eastern portion of this church has a semicircular apse. There is an entrance to the temple from the west. Its southern wall was built of stone during the restoration of the monastery in the 1930s.

On other stone steps you can reach a cave-tomb where another famous monk, Father Hrisant was buried. He was the one who revived the battered monastery in the 1930s. It is located on the level of the rock church. In the past, the bones of the deceased monks of the monastery were placed in the room next to it but some years ago they were buried in the monastery cemetery. Now the cave is a bone-vault that hosts a museum exhibition.

The Basarbovo Monastery
If you look carefully at the rocks, you will notice fossils of seashells. This is because the monastery is carved into limestone – a sedimentary rock type that primarily forms at the bottom of oceans.

During the Second Bulgarian Kingdom (12th-14th centuries), hundreds of rock monasteries rose in the Rusenski Lom River valley and its tributaries. One of those was the Basarbovo Monastery. It is believed that the greatest flourishing of the rock monasteries in Bulgaria in the 14th century was associated with hesychasm – the tradition of contemplative prayer, a current in Orthodox Christianity in which monks sought union with God through intense prayer and meditation.

Inside the Basarbovo Monastery
When Bulgaria fell under Ottoman rule at the end of the 14th century, the monasteries were repeatedly attacked and looted. This led to their gradual decline or, at best, they continued to operate with only a few monks. The fate of the monastery in Basarbovo was similar.
The earliest historical evidence for the existence of the monastery dates back to the 15th century. Turkish tax register documents from 1431 mention it.
Scientific research in the 20th century revealed evidence of life and spiritual activity in the caves of the rock monastery – interesting medieval artwork depicting deer, horsemen, horses and other subjects.
Nowadays, this is the only actively functioning rock monastery in Bulgaria. The patronage of the church is celebrated every year on October 26th.

According to the legend, Dimitar appeared in a dream to a blind girl from the village after the river swept and drowned him. In this dream Dimitar revealed the exact location of his body. After the girl told about her dream, the monks relics were found intact and even fragrant.

The Basarbovo Monastery at sunrise
Another legend is related to historical events and explains why the monastery is an attractive place for tourists from Romania. In 1774, after winning the Russo-Turkish War of 1768-1774, General Saltykov bowed to the saint and arranged with the monastery to move his body to Russia. On the way through Romania, where the plague was raging at the time, the sick suddenly stopped dying and all attributed this to the presence of the holy relics. Residents of Bucharest begged the general to keep the relics in the city. Today they lie in a silver coffin in the Sts. Constantine and Elena Church in Bucharest and the saint was declared the patron saint of the Romanian capital.

How to get to the Basarbovo Monastery
Basarbovo Monastery (or Rock Monastery St. Dimitar Basarbovski, BG: Басарбовският манастир Свети Димитър Басарбовски) is easily accessible by car. It is located in the valley of the river Rusenski Lom near the village of Basarbovo, about 10 kilometers south of Ruse and about 100 kilometers north of Veliko Tarnovo. There is a small parking at the entrance of the monastery but there is a much bigger parking area on the right side of the road after you pass the complex. Parking is free of charge.

The view from the rocks of the Basarbovo Monastery
Youll need to pay the entrance fee of 4 BGN to visit the monastery.
It is advisable to bring your own food and drink to the monastery as there are no shops nearby for food or snacks. The Basarbovo Monastery does not provide accommodation to visitors within the premises but there are many hotels in Ruse that offer good accommodation at reasonable charges.
The Basarbovo monastery is situated near the city of Ruse, which is very close to the Romanian border.
It was established by Hesychast monks during the period of the second Bulgarian Empire (1185-1396). The monastery got its name from St. Dimitrii Basarbovski, a hermit that spent his entire life at these rocks.
The legend says that after Basarbovski died, his body was brought to Bucharest, and as soon as his remains got there, people stopped dying from the plague. He then got canonised, and his relics can still be found in the Metropolitan Church in Bucharest today.

A couple of centuries ago, the Basarbovo Monastery was a major centre of Hesychasm. This is a mystical tradition of prayer in the Orthodox church. The devotees would practice asceticism, fast and put themselves into specific body postures that are accompanied by breathing exercises.
Later, the monastery was uninhabited for a long period. But it was brought back to life and renovated in the 20th century. Today, the Basarbovo Monastery It is the only active rock monastery in Bulgaria.

Ivanovo Monastery
After passing through the gate, you will reach a beautiful inner yard that leads to a well that was dug by Saint Dimitrii. The locals still believe that the water from this well has healing powers. You will then need to take a deep breath and climb the 48 stairs to reach the caves.

The complex consists of a rock church, hermitages, a bell tower, and a crypt. Some of the hermitage cells have colourful murals, and the church contains a large icon of Saint Dimitrii surrounded by ten scenes of life.

It is good to know that the monastery is not that big, but It is quite an impressive sight. Especially when youre trying to imagine how hard the lives of the monks who lived here must have been like!

It took me less than an hour to visit the monastery and take some photos. It is also good to know that you will need to pay an entrance fee of 4 leva to visit the place.

Basarbovo Monastery HOW TO GET TO THE BASARBOVO MONASTERY The Basarbovo Rock Monastery is located 11 km (6,8 mi)) from Ruse. This city is about 300 km (186,4 mi) from Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria or 92 km (57 mi) from Romanias capital Bucharest.
There are multiple ways to reach it:
Car: The easiest and most flexible way to reach the monastery is by renting a car. Theres a free parking lot at the entrance. Bus: If youre taking public transportation, you will first need to head to Ruse, the nearest city. From here, you can take the bus from the Iztok Bus Station. You will still need to walk a little bit from the bus stop to the monastery. Tour: You can book a tour from Bucharest in neighbouring Romania. These tours are usually combined with the nearby city of Veliko Tarnovo. BEST TIME TO VISIT
The best time to visit Bulgaria is in April and May or September and October. At this time of the year, the weather will be at its best (around 20°C).

Alternatively, the months of March, June, July, August and November are also pleasant. During the Summer months, the temperatures can climb up to 30°C, while the months of March and November will be cooler (around 10°C).