The Monasteries in Bulgaria
When Christian monastic community emerged as a spiritual vanguard of the new Christian world, it was as early as the 4th - 5th century that monasteries began to be built in the Bulgarian lands. Written documents and archaeological excavations from that time testify to the existence of several dozens of monasteries raised on territories that would later be inhabited by Bulgarian people. The construction of the first monasteries followed a Near East scheme that had already established itself in some places in Europe but as early as the 6th century Byzantine plans began gradually to make their influence felt only to turn later into a major standard of constructing Eastern Orthodox monasteries.
In the last few years, Bulgarian monasteries, which are closely connected to the historical fate of the Bulgarian state and nation, have witnessed increasing tourist interest. From the very start, monasteries have gained great importance as centres of the Bulgarian literature and culture and have preserved the nation's values during difficult times. Some of the monasteries, which date back to Byzantine times, have played a key role in keeping up the Bulgarians' spirit and self-consciousness during 5 centuries of Ottoman domination. Others were built in the late 20th century in the place of destroyed cloisters in order to restore past glory and respond to the religious needs of local people. Due to Ottoman invasions or merely to the course of time, only few of the still-functioning monasteries keep their original architecture and interior of the buildings. Nevertheless, the visit of each one of them leaves a lasting memory and a deep impression. Some impose on the visitor with their unique design, others - with their valuable icons and masterly wall paintings, third - with their location in most beautiful and wild parts of the country.
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