Arbanassi Monasteries

    The village of Arbanassi was established during the period between the end of the XV and the beginning of the XVI century. During the subsequent century the social group of citizens of this region had a special statute, which contributed to the development of the trade and handicrafts. The settlers professed the Christian faith and as time goes by they built Orthodox temples with preserved up to this day mural paintings and icons.
    During the XVII-XVIII century in the region of Arbanassi village the yards of some churches widened, there were constructed additional buildings and the functions of the spiritual cloisters changed. These places turned into monasteries by the special ordinances of the Bishop's residence in Tarnovo.
    The first monastery “Assumption of the Holly Mother” is situated on the north-west part of Arbanassi. It is not known when exactly the old temple turned from parish into monastery church, but according to some sources the monastic communities had already been built in 1716. The temple “Assumption of the Holly Mother” is one of the oldest in the village. Probably it was built within the XVI and XVII century. Mural paintings have preserved dating back to different periods. On the west wall, in the narthex is depicted the composition “Day of Judgement” which dates back to XVII century. In spite of the ages there are preserved mural paintings dating back to two periods, the first - to the beginning of the XVI century and the second - to the year 1688. On the vault and on the north and south walls are arranged scenes of the Great Holidays and also a separate register for detailed display of The Christ suffering.
    The old iconostasis in the church is also preserved. There can be seen icons remained from the XVIII century such as: “Christ Pantocrator”, “The Virgin Mary with Jesus” and “St. John the Baptist”. The chapel “The Trinity”, built on the north, has the same length as the naos of the church and thus this represents an overall architectural complex. In 1703 – 1704 icon-painters from the town of Tryavna painted the chapel with pictures from the Bible, and at the end of their work they left their names on the patronal bay: Krastyo, Tsoyo and Georgi.
    There is a collection of icons in the monastery “Assumption of the Holly Mother”. One of the most famous of them is “The Holy Virgin Troerouchitsa.”. The numerous visitors of the temple make a bow to the holy picture of the Mother of God, sharing the faith in her wonder-working skills.
The second monastery “St. Nikola” is situated on the south part of the village of Arbanassi. The main church had been plundered and burnt down by the Turks at the end of XVIII century and had been restored in 1808. During the thirties of XIX century the monastery had been transformed into a convent and this was connected with the activity of the ecclesiastic of the Bulgarian national revival called Zotik, an abbot of the Preobrazhenski Monastery.
The main temple was built later, but it has many similarities with the plans of the rest monuments in Arbanassi. It is consists of an altar, a long naos (renovated with arch girdle and raised a vault later), narthex and a chapel pressed against it, devoted to The Holy Prophet Elijah. The mural paintings in the narthex are the oldest, dated back to 1705. Probably during this period the carved iconostasis in the naos was disjoined and moved to the narthex, for that reason the oldest icons of the temple are placed there. In the chapel of the monastery there are also preserved icons (from XIX century) covered with gold and painted with tempera paints.
The whole decoration of each room attracts the visitors with its variety and spiritual beauty. The delicate shades of the vines, falling down over the stone flooring, the cleanness of the yard, as well as the very interior, are excellent places for relaxation.

Doctor Plamen Sabev – a curator in Christian Art department
Regional Hystorical Museum of Veliko Tarnovo