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Bulgaria

Ivanovo (Cut – in – the – Rock) Monastery


Location: The unique Rocky monastery complex “St. Archangel Michail” is situated in the picturesque canyon of Russenski Lom river, close to the village of Ivanovo and 20 km away from the town of Rousse (North-eastern Bulgaria). It is known also as Ivanovo (Cut-in-the-rock) Monastery. The monastery complex consists of 20 medieval churches, chapels and about 300 cells hewn into the rocks 32 m above the river and connected by paths and rocky steps. Ivanovo (Cut-in-the-rock) Monastery is listed in the UNESCO book as part of world cultural heritage.

History: The churches of the complex are small – 20 – 30 sq. m. From the 11th century to the 14th century they were inhabited by monks, bookmen and men of letter. It is considered that during this time there was a great cultural and spiritual life in the Second Bulgarian Kingdom. Many Christians made a pilgrimage in the monastery. Many workers and painters were sent up to dig new churches and to paint new icons. Monk Joakim came to the monastery from the capital Tarnovo. It is believed that Tsar Ivan Terter (1279-1292) spent the rest of his life in the monastery. So, due to the Ivanovo Monastery and other Bulgarian medieval rock churches and monasteries the valley of Rusenski Lom river became popular and important orthodox and literature centre.

Part of the rock complex was destroyed by earthquakes, rain, ice and sun. People forgot the real names of the preserved churches, and call them in their own way: Gospodev Dol, because there is icon of Jesus Christ, “Letters”, because there are signs, notes and legends, “The Buried Church”, and just “The Church”.

Frescoes: The Ivanovo Monastery owes its unequalled cultural and historic value predominantly to the beautiful and well-preserved wall paintings dating from the 13th and 14th century and preserved in five of the rock churches. Talented artists pained them with realistic frescos, exquisite in colour and composition, and turned them into a true treasure of Bulgarian medieval painting.

The main church of the complex has valuable frescoes depicting scenes from the Bible: Lord’s Supper, Christ agony, icons of Apostles and saints.
One of the preserved churches is “Gospodev Dol”. It has the richest wall paintings. Its frescos depict scenes with Jesus Christ.
Another impressive church is "The Buried Church". There is a portrait of Tsar Ivan Assen Second. He holds a model replica of the church - a typical feature of church donor’s portraits.
The third noteworthy church probably was founded by Tsar Ivan Alexander (1331-1371). It has valuable Bible wall paintings.

In the 14th century Archangel Mihail rock monastery was a centre of hesychasm, in the centuries of Ottoman rule it was gradually abandoned. In the 18th century the monastery had its revival, and nowadays it is one of the most popular cultural destinations visited by thousands of tourists.




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