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The stauropegial Troyan monastery, "Assumption of Virgin Mary”, lies 10 km to the southeast of the old Balkan town of Troyan, in the skirts of the Balkan mountain range. Built at about 400 meters above sea level, the biggest monastery in the Balkan mountains is surrounded by beautiful forests and the Cherni Osam river, which gives a particular charm to the place. The monastery’s complex is quite developed as a tourist site with plenty of shopping outlets, restaurants and entertainment facilities in the neighbourhood.
Between the time of its establishment and 1830, the monastery lived through difficult times, when it was often raided and destroyed, while its monks – killed. The monastery’s dependence on the Greek bishops of the Lovech eparchy, who used its lands and forests for their own enrichment, added to the monastery’s troubles. The solution to the latter problem came in 1830, when a delegation of monks visited the Patriarchy in Constantinople (present-day Istanbul) to present a request for religious, administrative and economic independence of the Troyan monastery. With the help of a supportive letter by the metropolitan bishop of Troyan, Ilarion, the monks achieved what they went to Constantinople for. A special Charter, dated December 4, 1830 and signed by the ecumenical Patriarch Constandios, gave the monastery the desired autonomy, by declaring it "stauropegial” – meaning that it was exempted from the jurisdiction of the local bishop of Lovech and was directly subjected to the Patriarchate of Constantinople. From that point onward, the monastery has expanded and developed into a cultural and religious centre.
The monastery is built in the style of the Bulgarian Renaissance. The chapel of St Nikolay the Miracle-Worker is the oldest but best preserved religious building in the area, though it lies outside the present-day monastery complex, at about half an hour walk south of it. The monastery’s church, "Assumption of Virgin Mary”, was built in 1835 by a master from the village of Peshtera, named Konstantin. The church was built of porous limestone and large bricks in alternating layters, and impressed foreign visitors with its architecture. One such traveller, the Hungarian Felix Kanitz, expressed his admiration at the church in his book "Danubian Bulgaria and the Balkans” in 1871.
Though its parts were built by various masters at different times, the monastery is remarkable for its harmony. The monastery’s dwellings are 3 and 4-storeyed, with long open verandas looking to the inner yard and columns and parapets in the style of old Bulgarian cell-schools. The frescoes of the monastery and the church were painted in 1847-1849 by the famous Bulgarian artist, Zahari Zograf from the Samokov school of art and iconography. The icons of the church represent in their majority works by other masters of the Samokov school, including Zahari’s brother, Dimitar Zograf. Bearing in mind that Zahari and his schoolmates painted a large number of the frescoes at still-preserved monasteries, those at the Troyan monastery remind of many other places, including the popularRila mondstery Nevertheless, the ornamentation of the Troyan monastery is more lavish with more Baroque branches with leaves and blossoms.
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