Gorna Banya Monastery
St. St. Cyril and Methodius
The Gorna Banya monastery, also known as the Lyulin monastery (after the Lyulin mountain in which it nests) is named after the St Cyril and St Methodius. It is located 5-6km away from the Gorna Banya quarter of Sofia.
The monastery emerged in the 15th century around a small fortress church at the Malo Buchino pass. After the Byzantine capital Constantinople (Istanbul) was captured by the Ottoman Empire in 1453, which marked the final destruction of the Eastern Roman Empire, Sultan Mehmed II promised religious freedoms to the local Christian population and protection of the clergy. It was then that monks built the Gorna Banya monastery. Following the transfer of the relics of the Serbian king Stefan Urosh II Milutin here, the monastery became known among the population as the St King Monastery. The monastery was repeatedly set on fire and destroyed, and then – rebuilt. Five years after the last such destruction, in 1863 a committee of patriotic inhabitants of Gorna Banya, supported by the Russian consul in Istanbul, managed to obtain an “irade” – a official permission by the Great to reconstruct the monastery church under the name of St Cyril and St Methodius. With the help of donations by residents of Gorna Banya and neighbouring villages, as well as Sofia crafts’ associations, the construction of a grand two-storey residential building with porches, and a stone church was started. Yet following a secret visit to the monastery by the revolutionary Vassil Levski in the autumn of 1872, the construction was stopped, the father superior, Ananii, was sent forcefully away to the Kladnitsa monastery while two key donors and organizers of the construction - Tsone and Atanas Papazaliiski – were sent to Ruschuk (present-day Rousse) to Midhat Pasha to be sued and hanged. The two managed to escape the hanging, while shortly afterwards the construction of the monastery was unfrozen following explicit assurance by respected Bulgarians that the monastery will serve the religious needs of the Dragichevo and Kladnitsa villages. Thus, the new church was consecrated in 1876 by the Sofia metropolitan priest Mileti. Following the Liberation, the monastery grew wealthy and had significant properties - forests, fields, meadows, cattle. In the 50es of the 20th century, however, military men were accommodated there putting an end to the religious life. The properties were plundered, the farm was destroyed while the monks were chased away. Nowadays, the church is the only building preserved from the once-large monastery. There, behind the altar, one can still see well-kept parts of beautiful wall-paintings. The life story of the King Stefan Urosh II Milutin can be also read in the church even if his relics are no longer kept in the church (they were moved to the St Nedelya church in Sofia).
Food and accommodation are not offered here.
The church can be reached by car from the Gorna Banya quarter of Sofia. It is some 5-6 km away from there, by taking the Obzor street of the quarter and leaving Gorna Banya, passing through the Gorna Banya villa zone and following the main (left hand) road after the villa zone.