St. St. Apostles Peter and Paul
The Petropavlovski monastery, known also as Lyaskovets monastery, is one of the 14 monasteries built in the neighbourhood of the old capital of Bulgaria, Veliko Turnovo, during the Second Bulgarian State (12-14th century). The monastery, named after St Peter and St Paul, is one of the best preserved monasteries from that time, not least because of its hard-to-reach location. It perches over the high and inaccessible rocks of the Arbanasi plateau, 6km to the northeast of Veliko Turnovo. The monastery and particularly its 31-high belltower are well seen from the lows and according to many, it resembles a mysterious medieval castle. Once one climbs to it, its terrace reveals a glorious view over the Danube plain and the Balkan mountains.
It is believed that the Petropavlovski monastery was built during the rule of the Asenevtsi family but there is no written evidence to confirm it. After Bulgaria was included within the boundaries of the Ottoman Empire, it was several times set on fire and then rebuilt. In 1662, it became famous even outside the Ottoman Empire and Russia’s Peter the Great gifted it with a gold-plated Gospel. The monastery was among the most active participants in the struggle of the Bulgarian people against the Ottoman rule, which must be due to its inaccessibility and at the same time, proximity to the old capital. For instance, the famous uprising inspired and instigated by Turnovo’s widow Mara, and led by her son Stoyan and his friend Mircho was arranged in 1700 at the monastery and started from there with the monastery’s father Sofronnii also being one of the plotters. Similarly to other monasteries, The Petropavlovski one gave a shelter to prosecuted rebels, including the national hero, Vassil Levski, and also became a meeting place for him and other famous revolutionaries such as Matey Preobrazhenski Mitkaloto, Georgi Izmirliev, Ivan Panov Semerdzhiev and Bacho Kiro Petrov. Besides taking active part in the revolutionary movement of the Bulgarian people, in 1874 metropolitan Ilarion Makariopolski opened the first theological school in Bulgaria within the monastery, which continued functioning until 1885. Regretfully, the 1913 earthquake had its grave consequences for this monastery as well. It destroyed the monastery’s church, the east residential part and some other buildings. Nowadays, following a lengthy reconstruction, St Peter and Pavel welcome visitors from all parts of the world.
The monastery does not offer food or accommodation, but the nearby town of Veliko Turnovo has plenty of hotels and nice places for eating out.
It is easy to get to the monastery from the town of Veliko Turnovo; the road that leads straight to the gates is a good asphalt one.