The Kilifarevo Monastery has gone down in the annals of Bulgarian history
as the "Second University of Mediaeval Bulgaria", following
that of Clement of Ochrid's large School in Ochrid. It was founded between
1348 and 1350 upon the order of Tzar Ivan Alexander, 12 km south of
Turnovo, for the purpose of providing shelter for the Hesychast and
hermit Theodossius of Turnovo, a man of letters and an enlightener roaming
the Bulgarian lands at the time. The monastery soon gathered writers,
philologists, translators and calligraphers alongside with clergymen
who spread Hesychasm, theologians and philosophers. Liturgical books
and Byzantine chronicles were translated, volumes were compiled of the
lives of Bulgarian, Serbian and Greek saints, and sermons were written
against the different and numerous heresies.
The most remarkable work of art here is again in the chapel: the old
carved iconostasis, probably the work of Tryavna masters, fashioned
with great imagination, seen above all in the figures of mythical monsters
and beasts, with great sculptural talent, manifesting at the same time
a perfect measure for decorativeness.
Kilifarevo Monastery repeatedly restored and reconstructed, has a complete,
harmonious appearance, blending with the enviroment, which ranks it
among the finest architectural ensembles of the Bulgarian National Revival
Popular Name: Kilifarevo Monastery Orthodox Name: St. Nativity of Virgin Mary Region: Veliko Tarnovo
Location: The present-day complex of the Kilifarevo monastery, St Birth of Virgin Mary, lies in the valley of the Belitsa river, about 4km to the southeast of the town of Kilifarevo (close to Veliko Turnovo). At the very beginning of its existence, the cloister was situated on the near-by hill.
History and general info: It is believed that intially, the Kilifarevo monastery was built between 1348 and 1350. Its founder is the renowned Bulgarian clergyman, Teodosii of Turnovo, who with the help of the then-ruler, Tsar Ivan Alexander, transformed the cloister into one of the most important centres of the Bulgarian education and literature of the Middle Ages. A Kilifarevo school of literature was established for a short period of time and in 1360, this was already teaching 460 students, the most famous of which was the future Bulgarian Patriarch, Evtimii of Turnovo.
The monastery was surrounded by thick fortified walls, while the monks’ residential part was placed in their inward-looking side. A few-storey tower was rising in the centre of the inner yard, offering a good sight over the road to the Haimboaz Pass. Its existence, however, did not save the Kilifarevo fortress from being ruined to the ground and the large-scale cutural centre – from being completely destroyed shortly after the invasion of the Ottoman troops in Bulgaria. Centuries afterwards, in 1718, the monastery was restored in its present-day place. In the end of the 18th century the cloister was raided and destroyed by the so-called Kurdzhalii several times, but only to be rebuilt again and again.
Following years-long appeals before the Turkish authorities and fund-raising campaigns, the famous Bulgarian Renaissance master, Kolyo Fitcheto, started the construction of the present-day one-dome basilica St Dimitar in 1840. The master decided to preserve the old altar wall and the two chapels, dedicated to St Teodosii and St Ivan of Rila. The church was finished in 1842, while the internal decoration was completed a year later. The iconostasis represents a golden masterpiece, done by two woodcarvers, Tsonyo and Simeon Vassilevi – a father and a son from the town of Tryavna. Bsides the ocnostasis, the visitor is also impressed by the icons of the Tryavna iconpainters Dosyu Koev, Simeon Simeonov, Yonko Popvitanov.
In addition to the church, currently the complex also includes two beautiful residential buildings in authentic Renaissance style, the older of which dates back to 1849. The monastery is declared a monument of culture.
Accommodation and food: The Kilifarevo monastery offers accommodation in good conditions. The prices (as of the summer of 2004) are 6 levs per night in a room with a bathroom&WC in the new residential building and 4 levs per night in a room without a bathroom&WC in the old building. One can have food in a mehana (i.e. pub) about 500 meters away from the monastery’s gates.
Transport: The monastery is easy to reach following the road to the south of Veliko Turnovo. Which crosses the Balkan mountain at the Haimboaz Pass. The town of Kilifarevo lies about 12km away from the monastery, while the road from the town to the monastery is signed.