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Kilifarevo Monastery Bulgaria
Kilifarevo Monastery
VIEWS 2211
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Kilifarevo Monastery

The Kilifarevo Monastery Nativity of the Virgin

Address: str. Emilian Stanev 7Е, 6404 Dimitrovgrad, Bulgaria

The Kilifarevo Monastery Nativity of the Virgin is located 16 km from Veliko Tarnovo and roughly 5 km from the city of Kilifarovo. The monastery and the iconostasis in the monastery church were declared an artistic landmark in Issue 51 of the State Decrees for 1973.

The Kilifarevo Monastery was founded in 1350 by Saint Teodosiy Tarnovski (Saint Theodosius of Tarnovo, a Bulgarian hermit monk canonized as a saint), under the patronage of Tsar Ivan Alexander (reign 1331-1371). Before it was destroyed during the Ottoman invasion of 1393, the monastery became a key theological center, producing the lives of the saints, translations of saints’ lives and liturgies.

The monastery was rebuilt in 1718, but during 1793-1798 it was again destroyed. Construction at the site was resumed in 1842, under the supervision of the highly respected Bulgarian master builder Kolyo Ficheto, who rebuilt both the Saint Dimiter (Saint Demetrius) Church and the monks’ living quarters. Materials for the new church were taken from the former church. The former church, Nativity of the Virgin, was converted into a chapel and dedicated to Saint Teodosiy Tarnovski. The monastery has another chapel, Saint Ivan Rilski, which like the other sanctuaries at the monastery are part of The Saint Dimiter Church complex. Visitors to the church may view the sculpted wooden iconostasis most likely created by the celebrated masters of Tryavno, along with the other venerated icons in the church.

The Kilifarovo Monastery now functions as a convent. The annual celebration in honor of the church is held on September 8. Nuns at the monastery can provide further information about its history for interested tourists. The monastery also offers overnight accommodations.

Ruins and remains are proof of the presence of civilization in the neighbouring area since the times of the Thracians. A fortress which guarded a pass through the Balkan Mountains existed nearby during the Roman Empire. During the Second Bulgarian Empire and more precisely the rule of Ivan Alexander (1331–1371), Kilifarevo was a centre of literary activity and the site of Theodosius of Tarnovos school and monastery, founded in 1350, which actively promoted the spiritual practice of hesychasm.

Upon Bulgarias conquest by the Ottoman Empire, the monastery was besieged, captured and razed by the invading Ottomans. It was later reconstructed and still exists today. During the Ottoman rule, Kilifarevo was the birthplace of Velcho Atanasov the Glazier, who organized the Velchova zavera, an unsuccessful uprising against the Ottomans, in 1835.

Kilifarevo has a cultural centre (chitalishte), founded in 1884 and called Napredak (Progress), and a museum of local history, which occupies an old house. There are two Eastern Orthodox churches, St Archangel Michael and Dormition of the Mother of God.

The Kilifarevo Monastery has gone down in the annals of Bulgarian history as the Second University of Mediaeval Bulgaria, following that of Clement of Ochrids large School in Ochrid. It was founded between 1348 and 1350 upon the order of Tzar Ivan Alexander, 12 km south of Turnovo, for the purpose of providing shelter for the Hesychast and hermit Theodossius of Turnovo, a man of letters and an enlightener roaming the Bulgarian lands at the time. The monastery soon gathered writers, philologists, translators and calligraphers alongside with clergymen who spread Hesychasm, theologians and philosophers. Liturgical books and Byzantine chronicles were translated, volumes were compiled of the lives of Bulgarian, Serbian and Greek saints, and sermons were written against the different and numerous heresies.

The most remarkable work of art here is again in the chapel: the old carved iconostasis, probably the work of Tryavna masters, fashioned with great imagination, seen above all in the figures of mythical monsters and beasts, with great sculptural talent, manifesting at the same time a perfect measure for decorativeness.

Kilifarevo Monastery repeatedly restored and reconstructed, has a complete, harmonious appearance, blending with the enviroment, which ranks it among the finest architectural ensembles of the Bulgarian National Revival period.