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Assumption of Mary church in Saparevo – small replica of the temple in Rila Monastery

Photo: Veneta Nikolova

This is the most beautiful church in the area of Sapareva Banya – this is what everyone who ever crossed the threshold of the Assumption of Virgin Mary church, nestled on a small slope near the village of Saparevo (some 60 kilometers south of Bulgaria’s capital Sofia), will exclaim. The monolithic clock tower with the bell which can be heard in the entire municipality rises tight next to the church.

There are many legends about this church. Some people say that it was built by the poorest resident of the village – Kostadin Grahlyov. Once, Mother of God appeared to him in a dream and told him to build a church. Providence sent him another dream in which the poor man learnt where the money necessary for the construction of the church was buried. Today, the cauldron which was supposedly filled with gold coins used for the construction of the church is kept as a relic inside the temple. But what else do we know about this true masterpiece of ecclesiastical art?

“Our temple is similar to the one in the Rila Monastery. However, it has internal arches, instead of outer domes- father Dimitar says. -  The three-nave church was built by master-builder Milenko from the village of Radomir. Milenko built the entire southern wing of the Rila Monastery. In fact, he built a number of temples in this area.”

The Assumption of Mary church was built in three years only. However, construction was the easier part of the job, because icon painting continued for 12 whole years. The murals were painted by master-painters from the popular Samokov School of icon-painting. The famous icon-painter Nikola Obrazopisov, student of Zahari Zograf, was among them. There is another interesting detail- the father of master-painter Nikola was among the icon-painters who did the frescoes at the Rila Monastery. In fact, the aspiration of the master builders and master painters who made the Assumption of Mary church to imitate the patterns in the Rila Monastery is clearly seen. Along with the magnificent interior decoration, it is also worth seeing the four columns crowned with gilded images which support the central dome. The white rectangular tower which rises near the temple and can be seen from all corners of the village is also very impressive.

“This is the bell-tower with a clock – priest Dimitar says further. - The clock was bought in 1934 from Switzerland with donations of the residents of Saparevo. To this day, the clock works flawlessly.”

Do people come to the church and how believers prepare for the big temple feast- the Assumption of Mother of God?

  “Thank God yes, many young people come to the church! Church services are held here every Sunday and on all big Christian feasts. A lot of people go to the church on August 15 when church celebration is organized to mark the Assumption of the Mother of God. Traditionally, an evening church service is held on Friday. Later, water is sanctified and sprinkled for good health. Public worship will be held as well. We prepare boiled mutton soup each year on this day. We hand out the soup to the people. Then, they go to the village square to attend the festivities. The church is open all day long and everyone is welcome to come, light a candle and pray.”

English version: Kostadin Atanasov

Photos: Veneta Nikolova
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