From Hesychasm to revolution
The Dryanovo Monastery was founded at the beginning of the 13th century
24 June, 2017
A bird's eye view of the cloister from the rocks towering over it.
The monastery's church.
The iconostasis dates back to the 19th century.
An ossuary dedicated to the fallen rebels.
The “St. Archangel Michael” Monastery of Dryanovo is located in a scenic karst valley at the foot of steep rocks some 4km away from the town of Dryanovo and to the south of the former Bulgarian capital Veliko Tarnovo. The cloister was founded during the rule of King Kaloyan (1197-1207), under whose decree the relics of St. Michael the Warrior were transported from Potuka to Tarnovgrad. En route, the group stopped to spend the night near the River Dryanovska in an area known today as the Tsarkvishteto (a place of worship), some 2km north of the modern monastery complex. According to the Christian tradition, the place was declared holy and a monastery was built there.
In the 14th century, “St. Archangel Michael” was a major hub of Hesychasm, a mystical tradition of contemplative prayer that was imported from the Byzantine Empire and thrived in medieval Bulgaria. The cloister was destroyed during the Ottoman invasion of the end of the century but it was quickly restored at the beginning of the 15th century. It was once again reduced to rubble in the 17th century only to rise from the ashes and become a cultural and religious centre soon after. At the end of the 18th century, a copy of the book of Bulgarian history written by Saint Paisius of Hilendar was made there.
The monastery underwent complete renovation in the middle of the 19th century, which included the construction of the “St. Archangel Michael” Church in addition to the small old “Uspenie Bogorodichno” Church (The Assumption of Mary). During the Independence movement the monastery sheltered many revolutionaries. Father Matey Preobrazhenski (aka Mitkaloto) and the national hero Vasil Levski used it as a hiding place and established a revolutionary committee there. During the April Uprising of 1876, the detachment of rebels led by father Chariton and teacher Bacho Kiro took up positions in the monastery and was defeated after nine days of intense fighting, as a result of which the cloister was set on fire.
The monastery was restored in 1880 and in 1897 an ossuary commemorating the fallen rebels was built on the site of the destroyed small church. The “St. Archangel Michael” Church, which was severely damaged during the 1876 battle, bears the marks of these fighting to this day. The church has no frescoes and its walls still keep the holes left by Turkish shells as a reminder of the April Uprising events. In the 1930s a tall belfry in the style of the Bulgarian National Revival architecture was added to the western side of the church, while the northern side got a new vaulted narthex.
Built on a low ledge over the river, the monastery complex has a long shape, widening to the south and narrowing to the north. The river constantly laps at the foundations of the residential buildings and a small arched door opens to a wooden bridge leading to a large meadow. The Monastery of Dryanovo also has a modest collection of icons housed in a building next to the belfry.