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Taking a trip to two of the lesser known monasteries near Sofia

There are many small monasteries in the environs of Bulgaria’s capital city Sofia, known from medieval times as the Sofia Mount Athos. There are around 40 of them, but few have buildings still standing from the time they were founded. Most cloisters have been renovated in more modern times. In our day they attract crowds of visitors seeking to escape the hustle and bustle of big cities.

The Three Holy Saints Monastery of Chepintsi, dedicated to St. Basil the Great, St. Gregory the Theologian and Saint John Chrysostom, is one of the few monasteries in Bulgaria erected in low country rather than up in a mountain. The chosen location of the cloister is no coincidence – it is close to a Thracian burial mound used by the monks as a hermitage. The buildings now in existence are from the turn of the 20th century.

The St. Ivan of Rila Monastery near Kurilo village, now a suburb of Novi Iskar, dates back to the time of the First Bulgarian Kingdom. It was destroyed in the times of Ottoman domination and restored at the end of the 16th century. It is this period that the frescoes in the church date back to – the work of famed painter Pimen Zografski (icon-painter).

Photos: Vladimir Vladimirov

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