The “St Trinity” monastery is situated at the foot of the Black Peak of the Balkan mountains (not to be confused with the more pupular Black Peak of the Vitosha mountain), about 5km east of the town of Etropole. It is built over a lime rock, wherefrom its nickname of ‘Varovitets’ (Lime Monastery) must come. The surrounding area is perfect for an enjoyable holiday in the open air and a good rest.
The Etropole monastery has its roots down into the years of the second Bulgarian state. According to the legend, St John of Rila settled in a nearby cave in the area of Varovitets in search of peace and solitude. However, shortly afterwards, the proximity to the town of Etropole convinces him to leave the cave and move to the Rila mountain, far away from laymen’s vanity. Nevertheless, the local people of Etropole declared the place holy and laid the foundations of the present-day monastery. During the time of the Ottoman rule in Bulgarian lands, the cloister was abandoned by its monks and left uninhabited for centuries. Yet by the end of the 16th century, it was restored and monks again settled in to transform it into one of the biggest cultural centres of the Bulgarian people. To a large degree, the monastery’s prosperity was due to the softer regime of control the town of Etropole was subjected to during Ottoman times, due to its role of a strategic mining centre. The monastery’s church “St Trinity” has retained its present-day look since 1858 and currently is considered a remarkable monument of Bulgarian architecture from the time of the Renaissance. It was built by Ivan Boyanin from the Bratsigovo architecture school and represents an imposing cross-like building with five domes. The church’s wall paintings were made later, in 1907. Unfortunately, the most precious relics of the church have not survived until present days – one of these is a silver monstrance from 1692 and two silver (later covered with gold) crosses from the 15th and 16th centuries. It is only the old icon of the Old Testament Trinity (16th century) that is still preserved, though in the Church’s historical and archeological museum in Sofia.
Rhe Etropole monastery offers ideal conditions for a rest within its complex. Prices of accommodation in rooms with own bathrooms is 6 levs per might per person while 5 levs is the cost of a bed in a room with a common bathroom. Monastery-made food is also offered to larger groups upon agreement with the hosts.
The “St Trinity “ is easiest to reach by following the signs to the town of Etropole off the Hemus highway. The offroad to the monastery comes shortly after one gets out of town – this final section is a relatively bad asphalt road.