One of its kind, the monastery was built
during the Ottoman rule of Bulgaria.
According to the legend, water from the monastery’s holy spring cured the
beloved one of Arap Bey, a local Turkish ruler. Arap Bey was so grateful that
he donated a plot of land and allowed the construction of a monastery around
Firstly, the monastery emerged as a monks’ simple
residence close to the holy spring in 1856. It was transformed into a thorough
monastery complex by 1863 with donations by patriotic citizens of Plovdiv, as a
counteraction to the assimilatory attempts of the Greek Church at that time.
The monastery complex was built by Rhodopi masters
from the village
of Yugovo, led by Stoyan
Uzunov (Gudevski). The monastery church was constructed in 1859, as it can be
seen from an inscription over its western door. The church represents an imposing
three-nave, three-apse stone building, with its exterior being covered with
stone plates. Six stone columns support the dome, while the floor is covered
with marble tiles. The altar’s iconostasis and the four small icons at the
columns were painted by the famous painter of the Bulgarian Renaissance period,
Georgi Ganchov – Zografina, a close friend and collaborator of Vassil Levski.
At the beginning Ganchov worked with his teacher, Alexii Atanassov, but due to
unknown reasons, later on he was left to finish the church alone, when he was
only 18 years old.
More than 150 scenes are painted in the frescoes
of the church. The life and work of the saint brothers, Cyril and Methodius,
can be seen here for the first time in Bulgaria’s monumental painting. This
is done in a cycle of 10 consecutive themes, in which the images of the saint
brothers are not canonised but look rather lively.
One of the most valuable icons of the monastery is
the one of the Holy Mother that is considered to be miracle-working. It can be
seen to the right of the southern entrance. It is painted so that its sight
always follows the worshipers.
The most original building in the complex is the tower of Angel Voyvoda – one of the most famous
rebels against the Turkish rulers. According to a legend, he personally
mandated the tower’s construction. The tower is rectangular, and had been used
both as a watchtower and as a residential building. The first two floors are
made of stone and have narrow windows that served as loop-holes. The third
floor represents the actual residential part, and has a wooden frame-built
construction with strongly-outgoing bays. There are four rooms in this floor
that are currently rented out to visitors.
The old holy spring can be found behind the
monastery’s walls, not far away from the northern entrance. The first chapel of
the monastery that is still preserved was built around it. The chapel was
painted in 1870, again by Georgi Ganchov.
The monastery was closely connected with the
educational and revolutionary activity in the region. A school for priests was
established here in 1868 and it functioned in parallel to an existing school
for children from the region. In 1871-1872, "St Nedelya” served as one of the
many monastery shelters of Levski.