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The Bulgarian monasteries

The first monasteries appeared near the capitals and the largest cities in the 9th and 10th century - near Pliska, Great Preslav, Ochrid, and in Mount Athos (the Zograph Monastery). In the 10th century AD the first hermitages monasteries appeared - the Rila Monastery (on the UNESCO world natural and cultural heritage list) and later the Lesnovski Monastery (11th -12th century AD) etc. During the period of Byzantine domination (1018 - 1186 AD), the monasteries preserved the Bulgarian national conscience, language and literature, which later prospered at the time of the Second Bulgarian Kingdom. The first rock churches, monasteries and sketos appeared in the 1 0th century. Rock monasteries lie near Ivanovo in the Rusenski Lorn Valley (on the UNESCO world natural and cultural heritage list), near Alfatar, Krepcha, Karlukovo, and in the Suha Reka Valley. The monasteries Sveta Bogoroditza (Holy Virgin Monastery) and Sveta Troitza (St Trinity Monastery) in Veliko Tirnovo, and the monasteries in Kilifarevo, Batoshevo, Zemen, and Dragalevtzi date from this period. The first monastic communities emerged - the Tirnovo community with its center at Sveti Chetirideset Muchenitzi (40 Holy Martyrs Monastery), the ones near Sliven, Vidin and Assenovgrad. The famous Mala Sveta Gora (Minor Mount Athos Monastery) near Sofia was composed of 14 monasteries. Some monasteries even had fortification.

After the fall under Turkish domination (14th - 19th centuries) many monasteries were destroyed or deserted. In the second half of the 15th century, people began restoring the monasteries and building new ones - including Eleshnishi (15th century), and Bilinski Monastery. During the National Revival period, the monasteries of Rila, Bachkovo, Preobrazhenie, and Troyan were restored and enlarged. The Hilendar and Zograph Monasteries in Mount Athos played an important role in upholding spiritual life. Through the beginning of the 19th century, the monasteries remained the centers of culture. They had libraries; writing and damascenes emerged; and they maintained connections with other monasteries in Russia, Serbia, Moldova, Wallachia, and Mount Athos. Only the monasteries preserved a portion of Bulgarian literature - the royal libraries had been plundered and destroyed. Many priceless written documents of Bulgaria's history were given away, sold or destroyed. Invaluable artifacts have been stolen or taken to foreign museums, or have disappeared into private collections.

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