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On the Day of Saint Michael the Archangel in the Kokalyane monastery

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Photo: Darina Grigorova

On November 8, the Bulgarian Orthodox Church pays homage to the heavenly warriors of light and justice who bring the prayers of the saints before God. These are the archangels Michael, Gabriel, Raphael, Uriel, Selatiel, Yehudiel and Barachiel. For the Bulgarian people, the Day of Saint Michael the Archangel (Arhangelovden) is the second most important autumn holiday, after the Day of Saint Demetrius (Dimitrovden) marked on October 26.

The great church holidays urge us to rediscover the spiritual Bulgarian roots, and the wonderful weather conditions this autumn make trips to the mountain monasteries especially alluring.

One such route is to the monastery of St. Archangel Michael, which is part of the monastery complex "Sofia Sveta Gora" (the Sofia Holy Mountain). It is located on the northern slope of Plana Planina, not far from the village of Kokalyane, 10 km south of Sofia. It is difficult to reach, along a steep forest path that starts a little after the village from the so-called "Devil's Bridge" over the Vedena River (a tributary of the Iskar River) and winds over the main road connecting Sofia and Samokov, along the upper part of the Iskar Gorge.‎

It is believed that the holy monastery was founded in the 11th century, during the reign of King Samuel, and many properties were included in it. During the conquest of Bulgaria by the Ottomans, after the fall of the nearby Urvich fortress, the remains of which are located on the other side of the gorge, valuables and old books were taken to the monastery. Among them were two relics from the era of the Second Bulgarian Kingdom, related to the last ruler, Tsar Ivan Shishman - a silver gourd and a crystal table cup with gold inlays.

Later, during the Ottoman rule, the monastery was twice burned and looted, and in 1858 was restored by Hieromonk Chrysand, who came from the Rila Monastery, as the current church in the monastery complex was built in 1896, on the remains of the former one. In addition to the temple, the monastery has two chapels, and the bell tower was built in 2000.

Despite the raids over the centuries, the Kokalyane Monastery has managed to preserve the so-called ‎‎"Urvich collection", containing words of praise for the Archangels ‎Michael and Gabriel, and the word from St. Clement of Ohrid is especially valuable. Until 1870, the crystal "royal" cup with golden flowers was also kept there, but it was broken by a novice in the monastery. ‎

You can read more about one of the most magnificent monastery complexes and its history in the publication from Radio Bulgaria’s Best Collection.‎

Compiled by Darina Grigorova

Music: Albena Bezovska

Photos: Darina Grigorova

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