St Nikolay Mirlikiiski
The Kladnitsa monastery “St Nikolay Mirikliiski the Miracle-Worker” is situated 30km away from Sofia, on the Western slope of the Vitosha mountain. It rises a few kilometers above the village of Kladnitsa, built over a hill between two rivers some 1,200m above sea level. A marvelous view to the entire Pernik field is revealed from the yard of the monastery in western direction.
Two springs, the waters of which are believed to be curable, can be found in close proximity to the monastery. As Vitosha is a seismic area, one of the springs lost its waters some years ago. The other one can be found to the right of the road connecting the village of Kladnitsa with the monastery, right after it leaves the village. The area, in which the spring issues, is called Bogov Kladents, meaning God’s Well. According to legends, its waters cure eye diseases and headache. The remains of an ancient fortress that included the lands of the monastery during the Second Bulgarian State and that was headed by a local boyar can be seen just above the monastery. The fortress’ inner walls surrounded the Gradishteto peak, while the boyar’s properties included the present-day villages of Vladaya, Murchaevo, Kladnitsa, Srubski Samokov and Krupets. There were two churches inside the fortress – the St Nikola church that is now a part of the Kladnitsa monastery was situated in the lower part, while the St Petka church, the remains of which can still be seen, stood out in the upper part. During the seizure of the fortress by the Turks, all its inhabitants were killed, while the buildings, together with the two churches, were set on fire and destroyed. Nevertheless, local people later repaired the two churches and continued to come to the area and pray. Gradually, the two churches became a part of a bigger monastery complex. In 1830, an old man from the village of Murchaevo, called Spas Burnov, had a dream that he was chosen to renovate this monastery. Sent by local people as a part of a delegation to the sultan in Tsarigrad (present-day Istanbul) that was to present a petition for the removal of a burdensome tax, Spas Burnov succeeded to talk in the sultan and receive an official permission, ferman, for the monastery’s renewal. Reconstruction started in 1841 and ended in 1845. Funds for the repair works were raised from local people, while Spas himself sold his own cattle in order to support the enterprise. When everything was finished, Spas became the first father superior of the monastery and moved to live there. In the spring of 1848, however, Spas was killed by several Turks, sent by a local pasha, Osman, who some years earlier had seized lands of the monastery and now feared that he might lose those properties with the revival of the monastery. Despite the death of Spas, the monastery continued functioning until the nationalization process started by the communists who took power in 1944. The narthex was built much later – in 1885, according to an inscription over the frescoes. Over the original church icon placed just above the entrance one can read the signature of the Samokov citizen Kosta Gerov Antikarov, who at that time worked as a teacher in the nearby village of Popov. At the same time, the local church of the village, named after the Assumption of the Most Holy Mother of God, was also being constructed but this was later destroyed by the atheistic authorities. The Samokov-born icon-painter, Nikola Obrazopisov, worked on its iconostasis and it is not excluded that the iconostasis’ icons in the Kladnitsa monastery were also done by him. The icon-paintings feature primitivism and illustrative power. Unfortunately, a large part of these is damaged. Those painted on the ceiling have been partly washed away by rains, while the entire wall has lost its coverage at its lower part, at up to 1.5-1.8 metres above the threshold. Most of the frescoes are accompanied by lists of donors who paid for their painting. The iconostasis is made of carved wood, shaped with plaster and covered with gold foil and paintings. Its original icons, cleaned up and refreshed, are already in their places and rejoice worshippers with their fine and soft radiation. The process of nationalisation deprived the monastery of its properties, its economy gradually declined, while its religious functions – died out. In 1995, a brotherhood of monks settles in the monastery but left it in 2000. Nevertheless, in 2000-2001 the Kladnitsa local authorities undertook to restore the monastery. Gradually it recovered its properties, services were restored and the church started to receive visitors all around the week.
Food and accommodation are not offered. Yet the Selimitsa mountain chalet, where one can be put up for the night and have a meal, is situated nearby. The hut is reached down a 3km paved road that starts from the village of Kladnitsa. Its restaurant offers a diverse choice of food, and has a dining hall for 40 people and an open-air terrace. The chalet can accommodate up to 20 people in 6 rooms (a double, three triples, one for four persons and one – for five) and has a common bathroom. The Selimitsa mehana that can put up for the night 15 people and has a garden restaurant for 60 people is also to be found nearby.
The road to the monastery is paved and accessible throughout the whole year, since it is cleaned and covered with sand during the winter because of the proximity of the Selimitsa chalet (1-2km up the same road that leads to the monastery). Every hour around the week an itinerary taxi leaves from the city of Sofia (central railway station) and comes to the centre of the village of Kladnitsa by passing through the Sofia quarters of Knyazhevo, Vladaya and Rudartsi. A regular bus to the village can be also taken from the town of Pernik (N21) or from the bus station in the Sofia quarter of Ovcha Kupel.