St. Archangel Michael
The Shuma monastery “St Archangel Michail”, also known as the Lopushna monastery, is situated in the adjacent lands of the Shuma village, some 40km to the west of the capital city of Sofia. The monastery lies in the northern skirts of the Chepun mountain, a part of the Western ridge of the Balkan mountain, and in close proximity to Lopushna (Reketo) – one of the neighbourhoods of Shuma. The monastery is about 6km away from the town of Godech and 1km away from the village of Shuma.
The Shuma monastery was established in the 11th c. After its destruction, it was rebuilt in the 19th c. thanks to the vision of a local boy. At first, his fellow men did not believe him, but some officials from the Turkish administration decided to check it out and after having found remains of an old monastery, gave a green light to its reconstruction. Today’s church was erected over the foundations of an older and much bigger temple. Construction works started in 1861 and continued until 1863, while the church was consecrated in 1864. The monastery consists of a church, residential and farm buildings. The church represents a small, one-nave and one-apse building. At present, the Shuma monastery is functioning as a monastery without monks. It is being kept by Father Ivan, who has lived at “St Archangel Michail” since 1997 and is currently preparing to become a monk. “All feats in monkhood and men’s history are made by strong believers and patriots”, Father Ivan tells his guests. Unfortunately, the monastery is currently in the process of dilapidation, while funds for its recovery are not being allocated. A commission from the National Institute for Monuments and Culture (NIMC) has determined the needed repair works back in 2001, but concluded that the frescoes are not of national significance and do not have artistic value. The monastery is declared as a monument of local significance and hence no government funds for its restoration are being envisaged. There are views that there may be older layers of frescoes under the visible layer, but no studies that may prove or deny that have been carried out. The foundations of an older medieval church have been discovered during the repair of the pavement in front of the church, but archeological excavations have not being made either. Up in the mountain above the Shuma monastery there is a 12th-century rock monastery that is also falling apart. Father Ivan tells the story that some time ago, he found scattered bones there, most probably of monks buried in the rock monastery’s graveyard but dug out by treasure-hunters.
At present, there are no conditions for accommodation at the Shuma monastery, but there is plan for construction of a residential building for guests, an alcove and a chapel for which donations are being raised. During the summer, guests can prepare barbecue and other food in the yard of the monastery.
Setting off from Sofia, the road to the monastery passes through the town of Kostinbrod, Buchin Prohod (i.e. Buchin Pass) and the left-hand offroad at the crossroads just before one reaches Petrohan – the direction being the town of Godech and the village of Shuma. Right after the end of the village of Shuma there is an asphalt road that leads to the Lopushna neighbourhood (also known as Reketo). There is a dirty road that starts in the centre of Lopushna, to the right-hand side of the bus stop (by the fountain). That road leads north and down to the skirts of the mountain, where the monastery lies. There are hand-made signs that show the way.