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The Bachkovski Monastery (Bachkovo Monastery, the Petritsoni Monastery or Monastery of the Mother of God Petritzonitissa) is the second largest monastery in Bulgaria after the emblematic for the country Rila Monastery. The Bachkovski Monastery was built 10 centuries ago in a beautiful spot in the valley of the Chеpelarska river in the Rhodope mountains. It lies only 25 km southeast from Plovdiv on the main road from Asenovgrad to Smolyan (take the Bachkovo turn 7 km after Asenovgrad).
The Monastery was originally founded by a Georgian monk and developed a literary school that left a valuable library of Old Georgian, Byzantine and Bulgarian books. There is a rich collection of various masterpieces of applied arts - from exquisite metal, mainly silver and enamel sacral objects, ornaments and decorations to refined goldthread needlework on garments and tapestry.
There are 3 churches on the monastery grounds. The Cathedral Church of the Virgin Mary homes the miraculous icon of the Virgin Mary Eleusa from 1310. The legend tells that this icon flew from Georgia to the Bulgarian lands where it was found by monks close to the monastery and brought here. It attracts many pilgrims. The Church of the Archangels dates back to the 12th c. and the St Nicolas Church was built in the 19th c. They both are smaller than the cathedral and their walls are covered with unique murals, masterpieces of iconography.
There are few more attractions one should look at, most of which accessible for an extra fee.
* The Diospyros tree was brought from Georgia centuries ago and still spreads its branches in the monastery courtyard.
* The refectory - here you will see the emblematic murals of the Last Judgment and the Tree of Jesse. The first displays the self-portrait of the 19th c. author in the 'righteous' section and some of his 'material' contemporaries (merchants, loan sharks, etc) in the 'damned' corner. The second has the portraits of classic philosophers such as Aristotle, Socrates, Diogenes etc. at the base of the tree. The marble dining table in the refectory is an original - for nearly 5 centuries monks have sat around it, prayed and dined.
* The Ossuary (The Holy Trinity Church) has the most interesting architecture closest to the original monastery building from the 10th c.
The Bachkovski Monastery is surrounded by hills and mountains which offer a great variety of hiking trails and beautiful picnic spots. It has become a very popular tourist destination not only for pilgrims but for regular travelers too. There are numerous little shops, stalls and restaurants around it selling literally anything that grows and is produced in the Rhodope. You can find anything here from homemade wild berry jam to hand woven woolen blankets.
The Bachkovski Monastery offers accommodation (it has 200 beds capacity) and the nearby village of Bachkovo is abundant in rooms to let, guesthouses and B&Bs. There are many pubs and restaurants close by and Plovdiv is only half an hour drive away.
Visitors are accepted everyday from 8 till 5. For a fee you can enter the refectory, the ossuary and the museum.