Dryanovo monastery is situated in the Andaka River valley on the road between Veliko Tarnovo and Gabrovo. It is dedicated to the Archangel Michael who’s feast day is celebrated annually on the 8th October.
Indeed, like most monasteries throughout Bulgaria they have a great and interesting story to tell.
Dryanovo monastery was built during the second Bulgarian Empire in the 12th century during the reign of King Kaloyan. Since then it has been burned to the ground and demolished several times. However, each time it has been rebuilt by the faithful and resilient Bulgarian Orthodox Christian people.
FIRST DRYANOVO MONASTERY
The first monastery was built about 2 kms North of where the present day complex is standing. Named ‘The small St Archangel’. It was opposite the cave ‘Andaka.’ As a matter of fact, these caves had been inhabited by prehistoric settlers thousands of years ago.
During the period 1197-1207, A procession of monks were carrying the relics of St Michael from a place called Potuka to Tarnovgrad. They sheltered the night in the caves and according to the Christian canon law a monastery was built near to where they had rested with the relics.
Indeed for two hundred years the first Dryanovo monastery flourished but in 1393 the Ottoman Empire and its army, after besieging the town of Veliko Tarnovo, destroyed the monastery and killed anyone who opposed them.
THE SECOND DRYANOVO MONASTERY
During the 16th century the resilient Bulgarians rebuilt the monastery on the opposite side of the river of the gorge. But unfortunately this was to suffer the same fate.
THE THIRD DRYANOVO MONASTERY
During the 17th century the sacred monastery was again rebuilt, this time in its present location.
Undoubtedly, the monastery became one of the most important centres for cultural and clerical life in the Balkans. It housed about 500 monks. Eventually, the fame of its success spread across the lands but a band of Ottoman bandits burned it to the ground for the third time.
Now any lesser man like me would have given up long ago, but not these guys. No sooner had the embers cooled then they rebuilt again. This time more people from the region flocked to help in the face of adversity. Completed in 1845, the monastery incorporated two churches five other buildings as well as a large library.
In April 1876 Dryanovo monastery played an important role in the rebellion which has become know as ‘The April uprising. ‘This insurrection was organised by Bulgarian freedom fighters against the Ottoman Empire.
The Abbot of the monastery alongside notorious freedom fighters such as Pop Hariton, Bacho Kiro and 200 other brave rebels. Defended the monastery for nine days. Being vastly outnumbered by 5000 Turkish soldiers, they were defeated. Only 47 of the rebel fighters escaped, the rest were slaughtered.
As a result of the uprising Dryanovo monastery was again completely demolished.
Some historians reveal the rebellion was a failure. However, I disagree. The indirect consequences of the actions of all those that stood against the overwhelming odds and persevered in their actions, eventually resulted in the liberation and re-establishment of Bulgaria from Ottoman rule in 1878
Visiting Dryanovo Monastery
Eventually by 3rd April 1877, the monastery was partially rebuilt. and a memorial service was held for the first time for the revolutionaries who had been killed in the fight for Bulgaria’s freedom.
The present monastery still bears the scars of the uprising with bullet marked walls. It is undoubtedly one of the most preferred sanctuaries of the Bulgarian Orthodox church and a national monument of culture.
Moreover, Dryanovo monastery is set in a an area of beautiful countryside and many walks can be found in the area.
PLACES TO EAT AND STAY NEAR DRYANOVO MONASTERY
There are two nice restaurants at the Monastery. One at the front near the car park entrance and one at the rear of the monastery next to the river. Both have a good choice on the menu.
Accomodation. If wishing to stay near Dryanovo here is a list of nearest accommodation.
BACHO KIRO CAVES
As well as the monastery to visit, you can take a short walk along the river and past the lovely waterfalls behind the monastery. Eventually the path brings you to the first electrified lit cave in Bulgaria.
The caves are named after Bacho Kiro one of the hero’s at the battle at Dryanovo monastery.
Despite the caves being nearly 4kms in length the visitor’s route only exceeds about 700m into the cooler temperatures of the cave.
The cave is one of the 100 national tourists sites in Bulgaria.
In my opinion, the caves are worth a visit. The ‘electrified lights’ allow us to view the wonderful forms of stalactites and stalagmites that make up this labyrinth. Pop Hariton, the elephant, the caves ear, the throne, the reception hall are some of the wonderful formations inside.
In 1937 an English expedition led by an American lady Dorothy Garret, found the skeleton of a bear 3metres in height. The jaws of this creature can now be seen in the British Museum. London.