St. Forty Martyrs
The Vrachesh monastery “St Forty Martyrs” is situated some 5km to the west of the village of Vrachesh, which in turn lies another 5km away from the town of Botevgrad.
The Vrachesh monastery was built during the Second Bulgarian State, after the victory of Tsar Ivan Asen the Second over the Epirian Despot Theodore Komnin at Klokotnitsa on the 9th of March, 1930. After the victory, which happened on the day on which the Orthodox Church celebrates St Forty Martyrs, Tsar Ivan Asen the Second decided to build several churches and monasteries dedicated to the forty saints, including the Vrachesh cloister. At the beginning, the monastery was established as a male brotherhood, but later it became a nunnery and has remained so until present day. Following the foundation of the monastery, its monks diligently copied religious books, some of which, dating back to the 16-17th c., are still preserved at the National Library “St. St. Cyril and Methodius”. In the 17th c. the monastery hosted a religious school, too. During the invasion of Ottoman troops in the 14th c. the monastery was partly set on fire. Yet later, during the plunders of Turkish bands of so-called Kurdzhalii, the monastery was completely ruined down and forgotten until 1890, when according to a legend, Virgin Mary appeared before a local lad, Atanas Yakimovski, while he was grazing his flock beneath the monastery pear-tree. Virgin Mary showed him the place of the destroyed monastery buildings and the cloister’s holy spring and ordered him to restore the monastery. After the lad shared his vision with the village priest, Father Petar Tsanov summoned his fellow men and carried out excavations, during which the foundations of the monastery church, bones of slaughtered monks, as well as parts of a wooden chandelier, incense-burner and an untouched icon of Virgin Mary were discovered. It is believed that the icon was painted in the 17th century. In 1891, the most renowned architect in the Botevgrad region of that time, Master Vuno Markov, built a small and modest church over the foundations of the former temple. The monastery gradually revived its functions as a male cloister, but since 1937 it has served as a nunnery. At present (July, 2007) the monastery is surrounded by a high brick wall, while strict order is observed inside. Most of the monastery buildings have been recently renovated and are in very good shape, while the rest, including the church, are still being reconstructed. This is the reason why guests of the monastery are currently allowed to enter only the narthex of the church. The monastery is exceptionally beautiful, which is particularly contributed to by its well-kept garden and abundance of flowers and plants in the entire complex. It would not be exaggerated to say that one could come across true achievements of the art of gardening in the yard.
Neither food nor accommodation are offered.
The monastery is reached down a decent asphalt road that starts from the town of Botevgrad and passes through the village of Vrachesh. Once at the monastery one can take a 20-30min walk down a path to the east that leads to the holy spring of the monastery, the water of which is believed to be curative.