Бачково (Bachkovo, also Batchkovo, Batschkowo). The full name of the monastery is Batschkowski Manastir.
Bachkovo lies less than 30 km south of →Plovdiv and occupies the beautiful Chepelarska valley. There's a small river called Aseniza. At Bachkovo, the Rodopi mountain range, dominating the south of Bulgaria, starts.
Nowadays, some 50 monks live and work here. And pray. Probably. Ora et labora.
Bachkovo monastery was already founded in 1083 by the two Bakuriani brothers, who came here from →Georgia. From the beginning, the monastery was dedicated to the Holy Virgin Mary. The monastery itself offers an interesting (some people might say chaotic) blend of different architectural styles. To be exactly, it combines Georgian, Armenian and Syrian elements and can be compared to some of the buildings in and around →Melnik. In the year 1346, Tsar Ivan Alexander made this part of the Rodopi range the centrepiece of his empire. Thanks to that, the monastery experienced its heyday. However, during the 16th century, Bachkovo was abandoned. Some dozen years later, it was reactivated. Today, monks live again here and take care of the facilities. The main source of income is tourism.
Getting there / transportation
There's no train running in this part of the country. But there are numerous buses and microbuses running between the bus terminal in →Plovdiv (near the train station) direction Rodopi. Almost all buses running to →Smolyan and other cities in the south stop in Asenovgrad. From there, microbuses run to Bachkovo. The fare is less than 2 Leva, the whole trip takes around 40 minutes only.
All in all there are three churches inside the monastery. The main church (see the picture below, on the right) was built in 1604. There's a famous ikon inside the church, showing the Holy Godmother - with three hands. Some people say that this ikon has miraculous powers of healing. Another church is called Svetli Archangeli (Church of the Archangel). This structure was built in the 12th century and mostly used as an ossuary. The Church of the Archangel marks the oldest part of the monastery. The third church is the Sv. Nikola (Holy Nicholas) chapel.
|The main part of Bachkovo Monastery|
Bachkovo is Bulgaria's second biggest monastery, only to be outdone by →Rila Monastery. Same as Rila, it offers marvellous frescoes, some of them created during the 12th and 13th century. Highly interesting are the frescoes inside the richly decorated dining hall. Around the year 1700, famous fresco painters from Samokov came to Bachkovo to depict some stories from the bible. The most famous painter, he was also active in Rila, was Sacharij Sograph (1810-1853). He could be seen on 100 Leva bills issued before 1999 (haven't seen the new 100 Leva bill).
|Newly restored, colourful frescoes inside Bachkovo monastery|
Today, everyone can visit the monastery and it's even possible to move around on your own. Inside and outside the monastery, there are a couple of souvenir kiosks, food stalls and people selling drinks. To say it with other words, you don't need to worry about the food.
Not far from the monastery, the remainings of Assen fortress can be found on the top of a mountain. The entire area is a paradise for hikers. The further you get to the south, the higher the mountains will be. It's definitely worth the effort to go as far as Pampovo or →Smolyan in the heart of Rodopi range.
There's a campsite incl. some rentable huts in the vicinity. Furthermore it's possible to stay inside Bachkovo monastery. Anyway, it's a pleasant day trip from →Plovdiv, so it's also possible to stay in Plovdiv.
- www.bulgarianmonastery.com/bachkovo_monastery.html Detailed page with pictures about Bachkovo monastery (actually about all Bulgarian monasteries). English.
Do you have or do you know a good website about Bachkovo? Don't hesitate, let me know! After checking it, I would love to add it to the link list. You can submit a link by using the →contact form. Note that commercial websites will be treated differently.