27 April 2007 12:00

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Bulgaria: Home of the oldest monastery in Europe
27 April 2007

The St. Atanasiy Monastery is situated over the village of Zlatna Livada itself, on the right bank of the river Starata Reka, close to beautiful nature, on a well formed hill. After the visiting and pilgrimage of 115' Alexandrian Patriarch Petros VII (1949 - 2004) in 2003 at the monastery near Zlatna Livada and the course of the following Bulgarian scientific research, it was found that in all probability, that cloister was established personally by St. Atanasiy Alexandrine in the remote 344.

St. Alanasiy Alexandrine (lived during 296-373), who was respected as the Great, by the early Christian Church, because of his significant contribution in theology, was considered to be the bearer of the monkhood from Egypt to the European continent. The British historian Sir Julian Huxley, one of the greatest authorities in the modern history science, explicitly pointed St. Atanasiy's service for development of the European Christian civilization, in his works 30 years ago. The Alexandrian Patriarch visits our present Bulgarian lands in connection with the Ecumenical Council in Serdica (343-344) and as we read in his life, he stayed near Beroe (present Stara Zagora) on his way and has found a monastery. That cause isn't accident - St. Atanasiy is one of the greatest partisans for the purity of the Orthodox faith and mostly for its postulate about the Holy Trinity in the fight for the current, during that time heresy of Aryans (that heresy denies the heavenly equivalence of Jesus Christ). That is to say the two provinces Moesia and Thrace, which were populated by the Thracians and the Goths then, became main arenas for the fight between the two basic trends in the Christian principals then.

The place, where the monastery is found, has been chosen not only for the sake of its nearness with the strategic road Constantinople - Serdica then. Besides, it is situated at the pedestal of an important fortress, whose remains can be seen over the monastery nowadays and the place of the monastery is also near a Thracian Sanctuary. Obviously the sanctuary "was transformed" by the saint, from a pagan into a Christian water Sanctuary. It was practice, typical about that epoch of stage to the new Christian faith. Obviously, founders of such cloisters, due to their gift, could find and sanctify those places that are called healing power centres nowadays and which are some of the greatest natural and historical resources of Bullaria.

Local legends, about the medicinal water of the monastery well, connected with its establishment and patronage by the saint; the centuries old continuance of the health pilgrimage, seen in attributes and practice, and known from the late Antiquity (for example, spending the night in the Church with metal medallions, which are put on the sick place, etc,) also give reason, together with the data of the saint's life and some original archaeological evidence, to be supposed the establishment of the monastery in the remote 344.

The unique of that first and the oldest European monastery (followed by "Candida Casa" in Scotland found by St. Martin) is added by the hermitress in the cliffs above it. That is a miraculous hole, inhabited by the saint and his followers on days of fast, prayer and solitude, through which the pilgrims pass for health and prosperity. Such hermitresses are usually part of the spiritual and the architectural ensemble of the most significant monastery cloisters such as the Rila monastery. During its 1660 year old history the St. Atanasiy Monastery was destroyed and built many times. There is indisputable archaeological material about its existence in the Middle Ages, which was found by archaeological drilling in the 70's of the last century and kept nowadays in the historical museum in the town of Stara Zagora.

Even at the beginning of the 80's a new large building of the monastery had been built at the idea of Lyudmila Zhivkova. Its impressive architecture puts it among the superior Bulgarian monasteries. One of the new gains of the monastery is the Egyptian icon of St. Atanasiy, which has been granted to the monastery by the Alexandrian Patriarch Petros VII.

The Second of May is the patron saint's day of the monastery. Since 2004 the monastery has been studied by historians, archaeologists, ethnologists. They study its ancient history in connection of the studies about the beginning of the Christianity in Europe and the great missionary and theological activities of St. Atanasiy.

The Monastery complex, combining in itself the ancient Christian tradition with splendid natural beauty offers excellent conditions for cultural and ecological Tourism.

Courtesy Balkan Media Academy


Words from Properties in Bulgaria Editor:


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