God's Mother Assumption
The Cherepish monastery, named “The Assumption of Virgin Mary”, is to be found 29km to the southeast of the town of Vratza, in the Iskar defile of the Balkan mountain – the latter widely known for its unique richness of natural forms and sights.
The origin of the Cherepish monastery dates to the Second Bulgarian State. It was built during the rule of Tsar Ivan Shishman (1371-1393), if judging from a document, preserved in the Sofia church, historical and archeological museum. During the time of the Ottoman domination, the cloister was ruined and set on fire more than once. At the end of the 16th century, it was reconstructed by St Pimen of Sofia. During the times of the Bulgarian Renaissance, the monastery grew into a cultural and educational centre. It hosted a monastery school, while books, saints’ biographies and gospels were written and rewritten there. Relics such as the Cherepish Gospel, enclosed in golden bindings in 1512 and decorated with scenes from the bible, as well as the Gospel of Monk Danail and the Book of the Apostles of Jacob, all date to that period. St Sofronii of Vratza seeks and finds shelter in the monastery in 1797. Between 1872 and 1876, the monastery is visited by the Vratza revolutionary committee, plotting against the Turks, and the central revolutionary committee. The Rashov Dol place, where the last battle of Botev’s detachment of rebels against the Turks, led by Georgi Apostolov, lies in the neighbourhood of the Cherepish monastery. In addition, the cloister was visited by the famous Bulgarian writer Ivan Vazov in 1889 and 1907, while in 1897 another renowned author, Aleko Konstantinov, dropped by here during his tour of the region. Following his visit to the monastery, Konstantinov publishes one of his popular travel notes, Bulgarian Switzerland. Old Christian churches have been found in the area surrounding the monastery. A large part of the cloister was renovated and restored in recent times. A monastery school has been open for year at the monastery, the theological institute and the Sofia orthodox seminary. The numerous picturesque buildings of the cloister, most of which were build leave a strong impression on visitors around 1836 by father Yosif. The St George’s church which keeps its original design and a part of its frescoes (painted in the 19th century by a priest, Yoanikii) despite repeated reconstructions, together with the bone-vault, which perches from a steep rock over one of the buildings, stands out among the buildings in the complex. The church represents a one-nave building with a spacious entrance, an open gallery and a pointed dome. An iconostasis with fine woodcarvings and a representation of the burial of Christ, embroidered in 1844, are some of the impressive items of the interior. The Cherepish monastery is a declared monument of culture of national significance.
Following a thorough renovation in the summer of 2006, the Cherepish monastery already offers food and accommodation. The monastery’s dining hall, the so-called magernitsa, is open to guests and can accommodate up to 35 people. It offers traditional monastery meals and Bulgarian cuisine. The hotel part of the monastery, in turn, can host up to 30 people in rooms for 3, 4 or 6 people with bathrooms. The price per bed (as of November, 2006) is 10 leva (approx. 5 euro) per night. Children up to 5 years of age are accommodated free of charge while those up to 12 years use 50% discount. Tourist groups can negotiate prices directly with the monastery’s staff.
The Cherepish monastery is easy to reach by car if one sets off from Sofia, following the road to Mezdra, which goes down the Iskar river’s defile. A small asphalt offroad, which leads to the gates of the monastery starts about 15km before one enters Mezdra.