We have just returned from Burgas on the Black Sea in Bulgaria, where we received fantastic hospitality during our week stay and now fully intend to return to this fascinating country.
A few days before we left our hosts took us to visit the only functioning monastery in southeast Bulgaria, which is dedicated to St George the Victorious, the same St George as the patron saint of England.
The full name of the monastery is “St. Arch Martyr George Victorious” the same St George that fought and killed the dragon. The monastery is of extreme importance to Bulgaria, because of its historic value in providing spiritual support during the times of Ottoman rule. Legend has it that before the monastery was built there was a temple believed to date back to the 7th century, also dedicated to St George, demolished by the Ottoman invasion.
Today’s male monastery dates back to 1856. One constant legend tells that in these lands in the 18th century settled the Turk Selim Bey, who built a large farm. Although being extremely rich, he suffered from a severe illness from which there was no known cure. An old farmhand named Neno dreamt of a young man on a white horse (St George) who pointed to a spring located in the farmyard. The next morning the spring was found and Selim Bey drank from it and his ailments were cured. In gratitude, Bey ordered a small chapel to be built and later changed his faith to Christianity and together with his sons became the first monks of the monastery.
Today the monastery has only four monks together with an Eastern Orthodox Priest called Father Valentine. Fruit and vegetables are grown and goats and sheep are kept by the monks. There is also a distillery.
The Monastery seen from the outside
The two storey structure built on two sides of the internal courtyard provides cells for the Monks
One of the four Monks in conversation. The Monks are extremely friendly and happy to talk
This is Father Valentine with possibly his wife, as priests in the Bulgarian Orthodox Church are allowed to be married, but not after ordination.
Father Valentine with Annie
The Monastery Bell Tower
The base of the Tower provides access to the Holy Spring, where pilgrims come to drink
The Entrance to the Holy Spring
An Icon in the Spring Room
St George and the slain Dragon
The Spirit Slill
Two interior shots of the Monastery Chapel
Pears ripening on the trees