Monasteries and churches in Samokov

From 1557 to 1907 the city was a center of the Samokov eparchy. To this very day there are a number of monasteries in this region:

“Shroud of Holy Mary”
The “Shroud of Holy Mary” Nunnery in Samokov traces its history from 1772 when it started as a small monastic nun’s hostel. It was founded by grandmother Fota, who gave away her estates to the Rila monastery and turned her own house into a small nun community. There were already more than a hundred nuns and apprentices by the middle of the XIX century. Ever since its establishment the nunnery has been a center for spirituality and enlightenment. A three-nave church was built during 1837 to 1839, along with other expansions to the nunnery. The convent was fenced with a high wall. Besides that church there is also a monastery kitchen. Gradually a whole complex was formed with residential and commercial wings. The church is made of stone and is separated with two rows of columns connected by arches. The altar has three conches – a very typical representation of the church architecture standard during the Renaissance. The way it’s built makes its architecture more similar to the style from Trevnya and Dryanovo, rather than Samokov. This temple was influenced by the works or could maybe even have been the work of Tryavna-master Dimitar Sergiov. However, the gilded carvings of the iconostasis, the canopy over the holy throne and other church furniture are undoubtedly the work of craftsmen from Samokov. Particular virtuosity was put in building the iconostasis Royal gates.

According to some the iconostasis icons are the work of Samokov painter Hristo Dimitrov. Here, along with the images of the Virgin Mary and Jesus Christ, are also depicted those of the first teachers Saints Cyril and Methodius. Other interesting icons from the Samokov School are kept in the church. Icons of: St. Nicholas, St. John Chrysostom, the Three Saints and etc. The arch of the church shows signs of Renaissance paintings - the work of artists from Samokov

The “Saint Nicholas” Chruch
The church was built in the period of 1859-1860, when the Christians received, thanks to the ongoing reforms, some religious freedoms. They believed that there was a church in this place before the town fell under Turkish rule. After the completion of the iconostasis and the icons, the temple was sanctified officially on October 26, 1861. After the completion of the iconostasis and the icons, the temple was sanctified officially on October 26, 1861, by Archimandrite Hrisant Doychinov and the local priests in order to bring together all the patriotism of Samokov to fight against the Greek clergy. It was during those days that the Greek bishop Matthew of Samokov was expelled from the town and the church services were restored back into Bulgarian language. The quick construction of the church "St. Nicholas" shows the determination to reject the Greek bishops, but also the irresistible yearning for a national liberation. Church "St. Nicholas" seems to be the apotheosis of the national spiritual liberation. The church’s icons were created by iconographers from Samokov, however they have no murals. "St. Nicholas" is a burial church. A number of famous Samokov people were buried in there, such as: Zahari Hadzhigyurov, Zahari Zograf and etc. During the 50’s the cemetery was turned into a construction ground and the tombstones of these people have been moved to the History Museum.

“Blessed Virgin” Church
The church was completed in 1835. The building has three naves, with a semi-cylindrical vault held by two rows of painted wooden columns. In it are stored icons made by famous artists from Samokov. It is the smallest of the existing churches in town. It was built more sparingly, as this part of town had fewer laymen. Today, it brings no less historic value than other temples. Around 1855 the Samokov Jewish community conceived the construction of a large representative synagogue and started funding it. Construction began three years later and was completed in 1860. During that time there were around 130 Jewish families in town. The new synagogue was built according to the plans of Beth-Amikdasha. The building was decorated with a richly carved ceiling, individual fields which were associated with painted ornamental friezes. The oval panels of flowers and the landscape in the prayer niche stand as evidence of the common artistic tastes in Samokov during those days. Masters iconographers from town worked on the western inner wall of the prayer hall and the niche on the eastern oval panels with flowers in them. Above the door of the synagogue there is a carved marble piece with it the following inscription “This is the gate of the Lord ...” This synagogue is a building in which people will be blessed in the name of the Lord and will bloom in the city of Arie, Ieuda and Gabriel. It is a monument of national cultural importance.

The Metropolitan Church, built in 18-19 century has unique wooden carvings.
In 1793 in Samokov began construction of the Metropolitan church, which stands in place of a smaller church from XVII century, with the funds of patriotic Samokov citizens. Half hidden in the ground, the church was also surrounded by a ring of high stone wall. In 1805 began the reconstruction of the church in order to transform it from a single to a triple-nave, taller and more spacious. A quarter of a century was required for the builders to complete the new temple. The new prayer hall had thick stone walls. Two rows of columns divide it into three parts. Strainer bars and wooden walls stand on the west of a chapel and a staircase atrium. From the east was added an altar apse that goes beyond the rectangular prayer hall. The icons placed in the iconostasis are the works of Hristo Dimitrov.  The very same iconostasis is the first monument to represent the birth of the Samokov arts school. Along with the construction expansion of the Metropolitan church, the iconostasis also had to be expanded. That was done by the Thessaloniki master artist Atanas Teladur. In 1833 he finished the two new side wings of the iconostasis by architectonics of articulation. Thus the carvings on the altar wall turned into a complete vertical wall with a plinth row, row of large icons, architrave, cornice and vine, row of small icons and rich openwork crown head. Thus a monument of woodcarving was created that gave birth to a school for master wood carvers in Samokov.

“Belyova” Church
“Belyova” Church is a late-medieval church (XV-XVII century) situated 2km away from the town of Samokov, on the left of the road to Borovets. It’s a single-nave and single-apse church with a semi-cylindrical vault, half-hidden in the ground. The current church was built in the XV-XVII century atop the foundations of a previous Christian temple from earlier years.
Bairakli mosque or The Old Mosque. It is a museum and can be visited by tourists.

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