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Patriarchal Monastery Bulgaria
Patriarchal Monastery
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Patriarchal Monastery

The Patriarchal Monastery of the Holy Trinity

The Patriarchal Monastery of the Holy Trinity is a Bulgarian Orthodox monastery in the vicinity of Veliko Turnovo, north central Bulgaria. Founded in the Middle Ages, it was reconstructed in 1847 and again in the mid-20th century.

Address: Saint Trinity Monastery, 5040, Bulgaria
Opens 9am Tue
Phone: +359 61 122 476

The first sanctuary in the vicinity dates back to 1070. Later on, in 1368 a hermit, Teodosii of Turnovo, moved to a small cave formed in the rocky massif above the present-day monastery. As other monks started arriving here to seek spiritual advice from or just talk to Teodosii, the place was gradually transformed into a true community of monks. Soon afterwards, the future Patriarch Evtimii also joined the cloister and promptly became famous for his abilities in the first literary school in Bulgaria, established by the monks there. As Teodosii grew older, he gradually transferred his everyday tasks of running the monastery to Evtimii. Thus, after the sudden death of Teodossi in Tsarigrad (present-day Istanbul) during an oecumenical council, Evtimii became naturally father superior of the monastery. The monastery was supported by the authorities in the face of Ivan Alexander and Ivan Shishman who used to come to the cloister to talk to Teodosii and often provided financial support and food for the monks. At the end of the 14th century when the state was invaded by Ottoman troops, the then-Patriarch Evtimii was entrusted with gold by Ivan Shishman to buy out the capital if needed, while the tzar himself led his troops to the borders. Unfortunately, neither the Patriarch nor the tzar was able to save the country from falling under Ottoman domination.

While the 300 monks of the monastery were slaughtered by the Ottomans, Patriarch Evtimii together with other high-ranked officials of Turnovo were lined up and forced to either convert to Islam or die. When the turn of Evtimii to make his choice came, the Patriarch declined to convert and was sentenced to death. The verdict was not executed though as the hand of the executioner froze in the air and could not move. This was taken by the Turks as a holy sign and the Patriarch was sent in exile instead. Shortly before the liberation from the Ottoman domination the monastery was restored with the famous master, Kolyo Fitcheto, having his contribution. The master rebuilt the church in 1848 while another famous artist of that time, Zahari Zograf, painted its frescoes. Unfortunately, an earthquake ruined the church and other buildings of the monastery in 1913. The design of the reconstructed church, kept till present days, is different from Kolyo Fitchetos one as it has domes, banned for Orthodox churches during Ottoman times. The monastery was a male one until 1946 when the first women came here, initially living in the staples and cattle-sheds. The current mother superior arrived in 1948 and is currently 84 years old. Due to her and the other nuns efforts, the monastery has grown in the past few decades. The oldest buildings that are still functioning date back to 1948, while the church in its present-day design is about 10 years old and is still being painted inside.

The monastery does not offer food and accommodation, Instead one can rent a room in a private house or in one of the many hotels of Veliko Turnovo and taste traditional Bulgarian cuisine in beautiful old-style restaurants and pubs in the town.

The road to the monastery starts in the suburbs of Veliko Turnovo close to the remains of Tzarevets fortress. It is surprisingly good as it was recently re-asphalted.

The Patriarchal Monastery of the Holy Trinity is located 6 km north of Veliko Tarnovo. It is situated in a beautiful area at the foot of an inaccessible rock. According to some sources, the Holy Trinity Monastery was founded in 1070. Other theories claim that the monastery was founded most likely by Patriarch Evtimiy (1325 – 1403) with the help of Tsar Ivan Shishman (who reigned in the period 1371 – 1395), and thus it got the names Patriarchs Monastery and Shishmans Monastery. The monastery was the centre of Tarnovo Literary School when Evtimiy was hegumen there. The monastery continued to flourish even after 1375 when Evtimiy was elected Patriarch. The church of the monastery was built in 1847 by Kolyu Ficheto (one of the most renowned master builders of the Bulgarian Revival Period) and has beautiful wall-paintings. Zahari Zograf (the famous Bulgarian artist and iconographer, representative of Samokov Artistic School) painted the big icons of the Virgin Mary, John the Baptist, Christ Almighty, the Holy Trinity, etc.

In 1913 the church was destroyed by an earthquake. Some old icons were saved, and one of them was the Holy Trinity icon painted in 1708 which the temple was named after. The church has an underground chapel and there are caves carved in the rocks that were used as cells and chapels during the Middle Ages. At the altar and the narthex of the church Roman monuments with inscriptions from Nicopolis ad Istrum were discovered.
The monastery took on its present appearance in 1927 when it was reconstructed.

The Patriarchal Monastery of the Holy Trinity was inhabited only by monks until 1946 when the first women came. In the beginning, they lived in the farm buildings. It is now a convent.

Accommodation is not available at the monastery. Icons can be purchased in it. The patron saints day of the monastery is celebrated on Pentecost (49 days after the first day of Easter).

The Patriarch Monastery Holy Trinity lies in an extraordinarily beautiful area at the foot of the picturesque Arbanassi plateau, about 6km from the ancient Bulgarian capital city Veliko Turnovo and 1,5 km away from the village Samovodene.

The road to the Patriarch Monastery starts from the suburbs of Veliko Turnovo to the direction of Gorna Oryahovitsa as the turn for the monastery is about 2-3km before reaching the famous resort of Arbanassi.

History of the monastery:
assumption has been made on the grounds of an inscription which was found during the construction of the new church in 1847. However, other records suggest that the holy cloister arose as far back as the reign of Ivan Alexander and its founders were Teodosii of Turnovo and Patriarch Evtimii. The monk Evtimii was chosen to be a patriarch in Turnovo in 1375 and since then the area on which the monastery stands is called Patriarsheska. The Monastery Holy Trinity gradually became a centre of the famous literary school Turnovo school. The created language rules and the significant spelling reform were introduced by that school. Popular Bulgarian writers were educated in the Turnovo literary school.

The Patriarch Monastery was plundered and demolished during the falling of Turnovo under Ottoman oppression.

The Patriarch Monastery was restored in 1847 with the financial help of the local people, but on a different place, 1km away from the old monastery. At that time a new church was created, a masterpiece of the famous Bulgarian Kolyo Ficheto. The icons and frescoes were painted by the eminent wall-painter Zahari Zograf. A huge earthquake destroyed a part of the monastery in 1913, including the church, the remarkable monument of culture and art from which only the icons and the iconostasis have been preserved. The monastery was completely reconstructed in 1927, but in an altered, simplified style and the design of rebuilt church differs from that of Kolyo Ficheto.

The Patriarch Monastery was a male one until 1946 when the first nuns have come. The monastery is officially declared to be a nunnery since 1948.

Architecture and present condition:
Patriarch Monastery The Patriarch convent was constructed in its present appearance in 1927. At that time the church was rebuilt on the foundations of the old temple dated back to 1847. The church has cruciform shape, three domes, covered four-column arch narthex and two entrances. The bell tower of the monastery, consisting of several bells and a hanging clapper, is housed in the narthex of the holy cloister. Roman monuments with inscriptions from Nicopolis ad Istrum, a Roman and Early Byzantine town founded by Emperor Trajan, are hidden in the altar and the narthex of the temple. There are interesting icons in the iconostasis of the church such as St. Nikola, St. Atanassii, Virgin Mary from 1861, Jesus the All-Powerful, Joan the Baptist, and wood-carved royal gates dated back to the 19th century, which certainly worth seeing.

The farming buildings are situated to the north of the church and the entrance of the complex is to the south-east. Monasterys buildings and the chapel St. Evtimii of Turnovo are located in the western part of the courtyard. One will admire at the well, dome-shaped and decorated with cherubs with six wings, which lies near the monasterys entrance.

Some relics are preserved in the Patriarch Monastery Holy Trinity. Some of them are the icons Archangel Michael from 1663 and Old Testament Holy Trinity from 1708.

The Patriarch monastery Holy Trinity does not offer food and accommodation. However, you can rent a room in a private house or in one of the numerous hotels in Veliko Turnovo pr Arbanassi and taste traditional Bulgarian cuisine in beautiful old-style restaurants (called ‘mehanas).

Places of interest in the region: Shishmanovo Kladenche which is believed to have been built by the tsar Ivan Shishman can be also visited sine it is not far away from the monastery Holy Trinity.

The national tourist places, Tsarevets hill and the picturesque resort Arbanassi are located only 5km from the Patriarch Monastery.