We invite you to explore the rich Christian heritage and the centuries-old history, to feel the existence in this land of Christianity and Islam. Visit medieval and renaissance churches and monasteries, renowned for their unrivaled architectural beauty, with its ancient basilicas and numerous historical attractions, which tell the story of the glorious cultural and religious past.

Discover the place where centuries-old history and rich religious heritage coexist.

Day 1-Arrival in Elena

In Elena, this small but lively revival town, Christianity has contributed essentially to its religious, cultural, and educational development. The three churches built testify for this (there had been a school in one of them until the last century): „St. Nikola”, “the Dormition of the Mother of God”, and “Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary”.

Apart from the churches, you may also visit the exhibition “Christian art of the xix century” in the first class school Daskalolivnitsata, house-museum “Ilarion Makariopolski” and Elena art gallery, in order to see the exhibition of icons from the Elena region.

You can also enjoy a walking route town of Elena – Valchevtsi village – Kapinovo monastery – 5 hours or visit  Plakovo monastery “St. Elijah ”and Kapinovo monastery – part of the Sveta Gora of Tarnovo region.

Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary church

The history of the “nativity of the blessed virgin mary” church is related to the historical development of Elena. In 1812, a chapel was built by hadji Yurdan “the beard”, on a place gifted by three brothers:  hadji Panayot, hadji Yurdan the beard, and Hadji Dimitar Razsukanov. It was reported in Tarnovo that the chapel had been built secretly without the sultan’s permission.  Like Hadji Ivan Kisyov and Hadji Yurdan, the beard disguised the construction for the inspection, as he put mangers and horses in the chapel and it looked like stables. The chapel and the cells in its vicinity were initially used as a convent, where the wife of Hadji Yurdan the beard became a nun.  The rebels who took part in the  Velchova zavera, unsuccessful uprising,  swore over the icon of hadji Yurdan the beard, brought from the holy land to the church of St. Iliya monastery in Plakovo. On 20 July 1859 the church “nativity of the blessed virgin mary” was burned down and the construction of a new church was launched. It was finished in 1865. The new church was built by the young master Kolyo Petkov from Tryavna, who was an apprentice of the master Kolyu Ficheto. In the next year, a girls’ school was established at the church and it functioned until 1894. On the memorable November 22, 1877, in the bloody battles of the Russian-Turkish war, the town was burned, the iconostasis was not spared and the church was turned into a grain warehouse. On their return from the flee, the local people managed to save the burning grain and were given a sack of it to survive the winter. A precious relic from the church is the icon of St. Cyril and Methodius, drawn by Stanislav Dospevski in 1866 at the request of the local people. The icon was titled “the Bulgarian enlighteners”. The icon was in the church for 15 years, then it was gifted to the public school and now it is kept in  Daskalolivnitsata.

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“Ilarion Makariopolski” house museum

In the center of the town of Elena, hidden behind thick stone walls is the dignified home museum of Ilarion Makariopolski.  The house is unique in its architecture. It is a spiritual place, significant for every Bulgarian. It was built in 1710 and is the oldest preserved building in the city. Ilarion Makariopolski, who fought for church independence, was born there, as well as his brother – Nikola Mihaylovski, a prominent scholar and activist of the revival, and his son – Stoyan Mihaylovski, a satiric poet and fable writer. In 1863 “Napredak” community center was founded in one of the rooms of this house. Since 1963 it has been a house museum. The exhibition presents the life of Mihaylovski’s wealthy family (the so-called chorbadzhii) during the national revival period.

On the first floor, visitors can also see the exhibitions – “church art from the period 17 – 19 century”, “Petko Todorov – life and work”, as well as some of the temporary exhibitions that are organized periodically.

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Art gallery in Elena

The old class school, emblematic of the town, has been restored to its authentic image. It was built in 1874 and was burned down thirty years ago. Now it has been turned into an art gallery and a place for organizing events from the cultural calendar of the municipality. It houses exhibitions presenting:

  • In the art plenary, organized in the framework of the project “culture in eternity”
  • The works of contemporary Bulgarian artists: prof. Hristo Berberov, Yordan Kasarov, Nikola Pindikov, Stoyan Minkov, prof. Ivan Petrov, the prominent artists Preslav Karshovski, Yordan Popov, prof. Aleksandar Terziev, Ivan Milanov and others were either born in Elena or the region.
  • Icons, works of the Bulgarian church fine art during the revival, originating from the Elena region

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The clock tower

The clock tower is a remarkable and original cultural monument in the town of Elena, which is of national significance. Its place is successfully selected to be seen and heard from every part of the town. The clock tower, the dome of the church: the Dormition of the mother of god, and the belltower are triple vertical dominant, which marks the social-religious center of the town. It was built in 1812 by an unknown master from Elena. In the prayer book of the priest Hristo Kurshov is mentioned, “…to be known when it was built in 1812, the bell was fixed on Inov den (midsummer day).” The mechanism and bell which are inside the clock tower were bought from patron faisi aga. The bell was infused in the town of Gabrovo, as evident by the inscription on the bell. The tower was thoroughly re-built in 1857 or 1858 by a famous Elena builder Tsoncho Ustabashi, was stabilized in 1953 and completely restored in 1987.

The tower consists of three parts, which are harmoniously coordinated. The base of the tower is made of stone and is square-shaped, with a height of 12,5 meters with elucidated loop-holes. The middle part is an eight-sided prism with plastered walls, painted and whitewashed, covered with copper lament. The mechanism of the clock is inside the prism. The top part is a square with lightweight wood construction and it is open from all sides and angles. Inside hangs the bell. The roof is cone-shaped, trimmed with copper lament, and has a tall point with four lead balls.

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Kamburov’s inn

Kamburov’s inn was built in the first half of the 19th century and bears the name of its owner – Stoyan Kambura, who took part in several uprisings and was a member of the revolutionary committee in Elena. The building is an immovable cultural value, categorized as “local significance”. Since 1981, the inn has been a museum. The permanent ethnographic exhibition focuses on agriculture and animal husbandry as the main livelihood activities of the local people. There are exhibitions of valuable works of the most characteristic traditional crafts for the period of the revival period – homespun tailoring, pottery, boiler making, wine-growing, silkworm breeding. A part of the jewelry collection is shown. There is also an exhibition of traditional folklore costumes, rugs, and belts woven “on bark”. Urban life is also represented.

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“Daskalolivnitsa” the first class school

The class school in Elena, known as Daskalolivnitsa was established in 1843 by Ivan Momchilov. It originated and developed based on the century-long literary tradition of the town. It was founded in response to the matured socio-economic and cultural needs for well-trained teachers. Daskalolivnitsa is the first teacher-training school in Bulgaria. The building of the class school in Elena was built on the initiative of Ivan Momchilov in 1844. Restored in 1968, today it is a museum in the “Daskalolivnitsa”.

  Two expositions are presented –
   1. “Elena during the renaissance”  – presents the history of Elena from the origin of the village to the Russo-Turkish war of liberation 1877-1878.
   2. “Christian art from the xix century”– on the ground floor of Daskalolivnitsata is exhibited icons, church utensils, and murals from the church “archangel Michael” in the village of Shilkovtsi.

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St Nikola church

St Nikola church is within the museum complex Daskalolivnitsa. It’s the oldest church in the town.  The visitors can see murals, icons, and wood carvings in it.

On April 23, 1800, St. George’s day, when the town of Elena was attacked by the people from Kardzhali, the church was burnt down. It was renovated in 1804 with the means and labor of the local people. The building itself was built for a short period of 40 days, and there is a saying that this was kept secret from the Turkish authorities. Externally the architecture of the church is humble and unpretentious. The interior is richly decorated, in accordance with the orthodox concepts of the church as a mirror of the human soul.

The murals in the church “St Nikola” are painted by David and Jacob, who came to Elena from Hilendarski monastery as they were invited by the local people.

They finished their work in 1817-1818. Yoan Popovich and Yordanov Mihov Kmetski also took part as assistants. The church has been declared an immovable cultural value and categorized as “national significance”, and the decoration inside is one of the best achievements in church art from the period of the early revival. Visitors can see the gallery images of saints, including Methodius of Moravia, George Novi Sofiyski, Sava Srabski, and st. Clement of Ohrid.

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The church: the Dormition of the Mother of God

The church: the Dormition of the Mother of God is one of the unique sights of Elena – a monument of architecture and art from the revival period. It is located in the same courtyard as St. Nikola church. It was built on the site of an old chapel on the initiative of wealthy local people. Its construction began in 1836 and was completed in 1838. It was built entirely of stone, using material from the destroyed stronghold. With its impressive dimensions and its bold and successful architectural solution, the church is one of the most significant representatives of church construction during the revival. It was the largest one in northern Bulgaria until the liberation and is one of the largest in the country to this day.

Its construction is the work of master Miho from the neighborhood of Gorni Bolertsi, near Elena. The whole building has a solid construction and processing of the material. The artistic work of the detail and especially the internal spatial solution are a mirror not only of the increased self-confidence of the citizens but also of the great construction mastery and constructive thought of master Miho.

The church is three-nave church, triabside with a narthex and a gallery above it. The three sections are separated by two rows of four slender round columns. The middle section is twice as wide as the side ones. The arches are supported by arches connected by a common structural system in both directions, reinforced with wooden tensioners. A separate building is the bell tower, built-in 1912.

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Plakovski monastery “St Ilia”

One of the largest and most famous monasteries in the Tarnovo region is the Plakovo Monastery “St. Elijah ”, built among the forests and mountain ridges of the Elena Balkan. According to legend, Tsar Ivan Asen II once built a large monastery nearby. When the Turks conquered the Bulgarian lands at the end of the 14th century, it was completely destroyed. The remains of his old church, called Balaklii, still protrude immediately south into the nearby forest. It is not known when Plakovo Monastery originated in its present place, but according to some written reports, at the end of the 14th century, it already existed. An octave, written in the monastery in 1595, has been preserved from that time. According to a later commemorative inscription, the old monastery church, which does not exist today, was renovated in 1643. The monument of the monastery mentions renovation in 1700 with donations and aids from the local people.

The last renovation of Plakovo Monastery was carried out in the first half of the 19th century when master Kolyu Ficheto built the now existing monastery church. In terms of its construction plan and architectural design, it is also a rare phenomenon in Bulgarian cult architecture. It was built on the so-called “Athos type” churches, which appeared in the Bulgarian lands at the end of the Second Bulgarian State and is preserved to this day in the Trunski, Poganovski, and Mrachkiya monasteries. The elongated, single-nave, spacious building with a huge cone-shaped dome on a cylindrical drum, the Plakovo Monastery Church has a monumental view. It is three equally high semi-cylindrical apses and the open narthex on the west side with massive cylindrical columns, capitals and arches create considerable variety and mobility of the external design of the church. The frieze of small blind decorative arches, which surround the walls under the main cornice, also creates plastic mobility.

The only wall painting in the Plakovo monastery church, painted above the front door on the west wall of the church and depicting the Ascension of the Prophet Elijah, was painted by an unknown painter in 1852 with the funds of the Gabrovo fur craftsman during the time of Abbot Sophronius. The residential buildings of the monastery were built at that time. In the lower part of the high bell tower, the builders have left an inscription: “Masters, Krastyo, Apostle, Hristu, 1850”, and above, on the bell tower itself – a relief inscription: “1856, h. Sophronius ”. The west wing was built in 1866 again under the abbotship of h. Sophronius.

Many small and large icons are kept in the church of the monastery, most of which were painted by the Samokov painter Zachary Zograf and are valuable works of old Bulgarian art.

During the early years of the Bulgarian revival, the Plakovo monastery was an important spiritual hearth and developed a lively literary and educational activity. Unfortunately, the numerous manuscripts and printed books of the monastery were later destroyed when it was set on fire by the Kurds. The Phanariot Joseph, appointed by the metropolitan of Tarnovo as abbot of the monastery at the end of the 18th century, inflicted especially great damage on the cultural heritage of the monastery.

Plakovo monastery took an active part in the national liberation struggles. In the first half of the 19th century, when father Sergius, a bandit before that in the Elena Balkans, an ally and comrade of captain Georgi Mamarchev, became abbot, the monastery became the center of the Velchova conspiracy (1835). After the plot was uncovered, the Turks again devastated the monastery.

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Kapinovo monastery –St Nicholas the Miracle Worker

Kapinovo monastery “St. Nikolay the miracle worker near the clear and sparkling waters of the Veselina river at the foot of the picturesque Elena Balkan is located the Kapinovo monastery “St. Nikolay the miracle worker”. It is 14 km south of Veliko Tarnovo and is close to the villages of Velchevo, Kapinovo, and Plakovo monastery. Next to the monastery, on the river Veselina, is the beautiful Kapinovo waterfall. It is one of the largest monasteries in Bulgaria, a remarkable monument of old Bulgarian architecture and art. Huge wooden gates and steep stone steps lead out from under the residential buildings in the vast monastery yard. The monastery church is nestled in the middle of the courtyard, and the date 1272 is written on the cornice of its altar apse, probably according to a legend about the founding of the monastery during the reign of tsar Constantine Assen (1257–1277).

Destroyed at the end of the 14th century during the Ottoman invasion, according to written reports, the Kapinovo monastery was rebuilt in the 16th century and by the end of the century, it was already developing an active literary activity. However, data on the activities of the monastery during the later period of Ottoman rule are almost non-existent. In all probability, like all Tarnovo monasteries, it was repeatedly devastated and destroyed by the Turks and rebuilt by the Bulgarian population. The existence of the monastery in the 18th century is evidenced by the so-called “Kapinovo beadroll-triptych”, started in 1700 during the time of the abbot of the monastery Archimandrite Theodosius. Some dates from the wood-carved iconostasis and some of the large iconostasis icons from 1811 and 1820 all hint at the later existence of the monastery.

A major renovation of the Kapinovo monastery was carried out probably in 1835 when the Dryanovo masters Pencho and Racho built today’s elongated, single-nave, domeless church with an elongated nave and vestibule. In addition, an open wooden narthex was built on its western side. In 1845, on the west wall of the church under the open narthex, the painter Yoan Popovich from the town of Elena painted the extensive composition of the last judgment – one of the largest fresco compositions in Bulgarian monumental painting. The same artist also painted separate scenes from the six days on the lower part of the partition wall between the vestibule and the nave of the church. He also owns some of the preserved icons in the church. The renovation and expansion of the Kapinovo monastery continued in the following years. In 1864, with the funds of the two donors from the town of Elena – the Horozov Brothers, today’s impressive two-storey residential buildings with extensive wooden verandas were erected. When they were built high on the north wall outside the front door, the images of the two Slavic educators Constantine Cyril the philosopher and Methodius were painted. Along with the mural on the wall, a commemorative inscription was painted for the renovation of the monastery by the Horozov Brothers.

Built on two floors in the style of revival architecture, the residential buildings have the shape of a wide arch, open to the south to the courtyard. Their spacious shady wooden verandas bring an intimate mood and home atmosphere to the monastery. Viewed from the north, they give the monastery the look of a medieval fortress.

Along the eastern part of the residential buildings in 1864 the chapel “introduction to the Mother of God” was built, decorated entirely with frescoes, as it is supposed, by the Asenovgrad painter Alexii Atanasov. Monumental and in bright color, despite the small space of the chapel, the painting has a representative appearance and suggests to the viewer the solemnity of the atmosphere. Particularly impressive are the figures of straight saints in natural stature, dressed in shining hierarchical robes. Among them are the images of prominent Bulgarian clergymen Ivan Rilski, Teodosii Tarnovski, Evtimii Tarnovski, Ilarion Maglenski. Above the front door of the chapel is painted the founder’s portrait of the Horozovi Brothers. In the yard of the monastery, where Theodosius Khorozov is buried, in 1865 another chapel was built, the walls of which are also painted with frescoes.

During the era of the Bulgarian revival, the Kapinovo monastery developed as a center of Bulgarian literature and education. Stoyko Vladislavov from Kotel, the future bishop Sofroniy Vrachanski, resided here for some time in 1794. He brought with him the transcript of “Slavo-Bulgarian history” by Paisii Hilendarski, which the monks read and studied with patriotic enthusiasm. For a short time, Stoyko Vladislavov was abbot of the monastery while waiting for his election as bishop of Vratsa.

During the time of abbot Neftalim in 1830, a cell school for grammarians and priests was opened in the Kapinovo monastery. In addition, he was associated with the revolutionary struggles. The Khorozov Brothers turned it into one of the revolutionary nests in the Tarnovo region, where many of the participants in the popular riots and uprisings found refuge. They met here many times.

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Day 2 Arrival in Medgidia

Visit the church of Saints Peter And Paul and the Mosque Abdulmejid „the Big Mosque“. End the day by enjoying the Cultural Landscape”Podgoria Murfatlar”/ “Podgoria Murfatlar” /.

The mosque Abdulmejid „the Big Mosque“

Abdulmejiid mosque, also called the great mosque, is a historical and religious monument built between 1859 and 1865. It was built in honor of sultan Abdulmejid, who ruled in the period 1839-1861.

The building is in unison with the traditional form of Muslim mosques, the interior is with oriental ornaments and inscriptions in Arabic. It also has a museum collection. The minaret is 25 m in height. The furniture is made of cedar wood from the Lebanese mountains. The emblems on the top, at the altar, and on the minaret were made in Istanbul and were transferred to Medgidia.

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Church of Saints Peter and Paul

The church was built in the period 1890-1899. Outside the church is distinguished with its three towers, two smaller ones and a bigger one. The interior features a specially carved walnut altar, eight corinthian–style columns, which are as high as the royal gates, and eight other columns in the same style above them; large framed icons interposed between the first columns and adorned with impressive flower garlands. The royal gates are also made of walnut wood. There are two statues (royal and bishop’s). The dome and the walls are masterfully painted.

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Podgoria murfatlar cultural landscape

One of the most famous vineyards in Romania is located in the center of the Dobrudzha plateau and it enjoys favorable weather, which allows the growing of distinctive natural and sweet wines. They are certified by professionals and sommeliers and win medals from international competitions.

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Project „Culture in Eternity“, code: ROBG-423

Project value (ERDF): 1, 199, 667.16 €

It is implemented by Elena Municipality in partnership with Medgidia Municipality, Constanta county, Romania.

Project „Culture in Eternity“ is cofinanced by the European Union through European Regional Development Fund under the Interreg V-A Romania – Bulgaria Programme.

The Culture in Eternity project is directly linked to the principles of sustainable development and actively promotes equal opportunities, non-discrimination and gender equality.