St. Archangel Michael
The Chekotinski monastery “St Archangel Michael” is located 20km to the northeast of the town of Botevgrad and 10km away from the town of Pravets, on the bank of the Malak iskar river in the skirts of the Balkan mountain.
It is believed that the monastery was built in the end of the 12th c. or the first half of the 13th c. Its existence is connected with the so-called Bozhenski Urvich fortress that was situated 4km away from it. Excavations at the medieval fortress led to the conclusion that a church complex existed beneath it, and the two religious centres – the Chekotinski monastery and the fortress’s church complex - once maintained close ties. At the time the Bozhenski Urvich was subordinated by the Ottoman troops at the end of the 14th c., the monastery was destroyed. The monastery’s semi-ruined church was rediscovered in the 17th c. when it was rebuilt. Unfortunately, this period of the existence of the Chekotinski monastery proved to be short, as it was destroyed shortly afterwards, most probably by so-called bands of “Kurdzhalii”. The next partial reconstruction of the church happened towards the middle of the 19th century with the efforts of the local population from the village of Osikovitsa, the town of Teteven and other nearby settlements. This restoration is testified to by an inscription on a stone at the church’s southern window that reads the year 1847. In fact, the church represents the only building of the medieval complex that has partly survived to date. The church has the typical architecture of Christian churches of the 12-13th c., and represents a one-nave basilica with a narthex, apse and a cylindrical entrance. Its ventilation openings at its four sides make a particular impression on visitors. Two opposite niches jut out on the northern and southern walls of the church, with the northern one hiding a secret door that led to an underground tunnel connecting the church with one of the residential buildings that perched on a rock next to the church. This secret passage was used including by the famous Bulgarian revolutionary Vassil Levski, who was hiding in the monastery. The entrance to the church is low and arch-shaped, moulded with ashlars. A cross is cut just above the entrance while to the left one can see the moon, and to the right – the sun with two stylised stars. One of the rare wall-paintings of the church is that of God himself, who is depicted as an old man with a white mantle at his full height with a triangle halo, surrounded by stars against a celestial background. An icon of St Mina, painted by Hadzhi Ivancho from the town of Gabrovo, as well the church’s carved wooden iconostasis with rich decorations, including stylized vine leaves and grapes, made by masters of the Tryavna school, also are of interest. A large three-storey building with an underground floor, foreseen for a cellar and a storeroom for food products can be seen just next to the church. The monastery’s kitchen was once found to the east of the church, but it existed only until the 30es of the 20th century. A school for children from the 1st to the 4th grade was built just above the kitchen (so-called “magernitsa”) in the 19th century. Yet both the kitchen and the school were destroyed later on in order to give way to the construction of a two-storey residential building that however caught fire and was destroyed in 1991. The entire monastery complex is surrounded by an imposing wall. A chapel, dedicated to St Genadii of Tsarigrad, has been functioning for several years now on the second floor of the residential building. The chapel is painted in bright, warm colours in 1999 and often hosts church services on different occasions. The monastery has been the only gasified monastery complex in Bulgaria since 2000.
The monastery avails of 25 guest rooms that have their own bathrooms (the price per person being BGN 10 at the time we visited the monastery in July 2007).
The monastery is reached down a good asphalt road that starts from the Hemus highway (connecting Sofia and Varna) and is well-signed. One needs to step down from the highway once Pravets is reached and take the road to the town of Roman.