Bachkovo monastery (Bachkovski Manastir) is the second largest monastery in Bulgaria, picturesquely etched amidst the hills of the Rhodopes, 12 km from the town of Assenovgrad. Sunk into the valley of the impetuous river Chaya, the monastery is surrounded by high mountainous uplands, a background for its monumental buildings.
It was founded in the 11th century by the Georgian military commander Grigorii Bakuriani. In 1038 he grants a donation for the construction of the monastery in the narrow lands along the Chaya river. The ossuary – one of the first buildings in the monastery preserved to present times, is related to that year and to the name of Bakuriani. The two-storey structure of the ossuary and the decorative façade treatment with blind arches are similar to Syrian, Armenian and Georgian architecture. Still, the mixed masonry of stone and bricklayers is an old Bulgarian technique, which continues throughout time to the Late Middle Ages. On the lower floor is the charnel house (tomb); while on the second floor is a small chapel, painted by the GeorgianYoannis Iveropoulis. The Georgian influence existed until 14th century.
The Bachkovo monastery consists today of two inner rectangular courtyards, formed by the joint construction of the monastery cells. In 1604, in the first (northern) courtyard, to the existing church “The Holy Archangels” was built the main church “The Holy Assumption”. The church has four separate piers, of the widely spread during the 14th century in South Eastern Europe “Mount Athos” monastery type. At that time (1601) was reconstructed the southern wing of the monastery, where the kitchen premises are found – a domed cookhouse (kitchen) and a spacious refectory with a marble table. There is an inscription on the table wit the year of its construction, the names of the donors Damaskin from Plovdidv and master Nicholas. The second (southern) courtyard is formed by the cells built on two floors most probably during 1834-37, when the church “St. Nicholas” was also built. It could be assumed that the courtyard existed before as farmyard. The church was painted by Zahari Zograph, who painted also the famous monumental picture “General panoramic view of the monastery” on the northern wall of the refectory in the main monastery courtyard.
Many works of art are kept at Bachkovo – murals, woodcarvings and icons. Pilgrims from near and far come here to bow before the miraculous icon of the Blessed Virgin. The monastery also has a spiritual relationship with nearby Asenovgrad. For centuries Christians have reached the holy place along a sacred route from the town, through the Assen fortress and its church to Bachkovo monastery. The entire landscape, everything around bears the powerful spirit of faith, of the sacred. This feeling is also enhanced by the numerous chapels, twinkling white in the cultural landscape around Bachkovo monastery.
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