Gorni Voden Monastery
St. St. Kirik and Yulita
The Gorni Voden monastery “St St Kirik and Yulita” lies about two kilometers to the southwest of Assenovgrad and about a kilometer to the south of the Gorni Voden quarter of the town. It is situated in the Chernatitsa part of the Western Rhodopi mountain.
The exact date of the monastery’s emergence is not known. Yet it is believed that the monastery was first constructed in the 14th century around a holy spring. It was destroyed during the forced conversion of Bulgarians from the Chepino area (Western Rhodopi) to Islam in the 17th century and their ensuing demolition of many churches and monasteries. In the late 17th century, however, the monastery was rebuilt in the same place and named after St Petka. Some years later, the old monastery “St St Kirik and Yulita” was also restored next to it. In 1810, the two monasteries was set on fire and destroyed by the so-called Kurdzhalii bands. The reconstruction of the present-day monastery started in 1816 and finished in 1835. The church was consecrated on October 15, 1850. The monastery was taken over by the Greek Church in the middle of the 19th century and was returned to the Bulgarian church only in 1930. It was seriously damaged during a fire in 1924 and an earthquake in 1928. During the 20es and 30es of the 20th century, “St St Kirik and Yulita” hosted a religious school. During the 1943-1944 period, it was converted into a concentration camp. After September 9, 1944 when the communist party came to power the monastery was abandoned and later on, transformed into an institution for mentally sick people. In 1981, the Union of Architects in Bulgaria received the authorities’ formal consent to restore and adapt the monastery for secular needs. In 1982, a team of architects and engineers headed by architect Lyubomir Shinkov elaborated a project on the restoration of the monastery and its adaptation as an international architectural academy. Between 1983 and 1987, the monastery was reconstructed under the engineering guidance of Hristo Radev and on September 25, 1987, it was reopened by the then-head of the Union of Architects in Bulgaria, Georgi Stoilov. Initially it served as a recreational and creative base of the Union. At present it represents a three-star hotel that is open to visitors. The monastery represents a complex of a church and massive two-storey residential buildings around it. The monastery church “St Petka” is a large, three-nave and single-domed pseudo-basilica with a narthex. The big Bulgarian painter Alexi Atanasov painted most of its frescoes. The entire iconostasis is still preserved, including icons painted by the great master Zahari Zograf. At the time of our visit in early 2007, the church was being restored and not open to visitors, however. The monastery’s well can be found just behind the church’s apse. About 500m to the southeast of the monastery one can see the monastery’s holy spring with its chapel dedicated to St St Kirik and Yulita. The chapel still keeps some fragments and frescoes.
The monastery currently operates as a 3-star hotel and offers accommodation with the price being 20 leva per bed (in March 2007). The complex avails of a restaurant, too.
A very good asphalt road leads from the town of Assenovgrad to the Gorni Voden quarter and then straight to the gates of the monastery.