St. Dimitrii of Basarbovo Monastery is the only active carved in rock monastery in Bulgaria. It is located in the valley of Rusenski Lom river, just 10 kilometers away from Rousse (Ruse). If you are transiting between Romania and Bulgaria, this is a sight that is totally worth a small detour.
First impression of the St. Dimitrii of Basarbovo Monastery
I visited St. Dimitrii of Basarbovo Monastery last year, while I was travelling from Bucharest to Veliko Tarnovo, but I remember clearly how I was struck by the first sight of it. A steep cliff was standing tall before my eyes, piercing the sky with its peak.
The mountain looked massive and unreachable, until I saw gouges that looked like caves, around halfway down the rock wall.
What’s the history behind it?
The caves were originally carved by Hesychast monks, sometime during the Second Bulgarian Empire (1185-1396), but the monastery has been mentioned for the first time in 1431 in an Ottoman Tax Register.
The name comes from the one that made this place famous: St. Dimitrii Basarbovski. He was born in 1685 in Basarbovo, a nearby village, but he lived his whole life in the monastery, in solitude and prayer. He died in 1685 and his name remained almost forgotten until 1762, when the clergyman Saint Paisius of Hilendar wrote its monumental work Istoriya Slavyanobolgarskaya (Slavonic-Bulgarian History), where he spoke about Dimitrii’s life.
In 1774, during the Russian-Turkish War, the Russian General Petar Saltikov heard about St. Dimitrii Basarbovo and wished to worship the saint’s relics, requesting permission to take them to Russia. He obtained the assent, but the relics never made it there, but ended up in Bucharest instead. There is even a legend linked to that event. During that time, in Romania people were dying from the plague in large numbers. They say that from the moment the relics entered Bucharest, the epidemic disappeared and people suddenly started to get better. Therefore, they asked the general to leave the saint in their city. In the present, over 200 years later, the remains are still in Bucharest and can be seen in the Romanian Patriarchal Cathedral, also known as The Metropolitan Church. For a long period of time, the monastery remained inhabited, but in the 20th century this religious place was brought to life by the monk Hrisant, taking care of its renovation.
How to get there?
You can easily take a day trip to St. Dimitrii of Basarbovo Monastery from Bucharest or from Sofia. You can choose either going on your own, or with a travel agency. If you’re staying in Ruse, many hotels provide tours to the monastery. Also, there is also a bus that will take you to the monastery or you can simply take a taxi.
Once you’re there, you can reach the mountain after passing through an archway gate that leads to a nice garden, with a well that was dug by Saint Dimitrii himself. To reach the monastery’s shelters you must climb 48 stairs, but once you reach the caves, you will forget about the tiredness. Take a moment to enjoy the view from up high and then you can explore the rooms, one by one. Even though it’s small, St. Dimitrii of Basarbovo Monastery impressed me with it’s unusual location. Just looking at the shelters makes you appreciate the monks that lived by choice in such harsh and ascetic conditions. You can visit everything in about 1 hour, but you can also add some extra time to relax in the monastery’s garden or in a picnic area.
Other useful information:
- There is no alternative option for reaching the monastery for people with physical disabilities.
- The monastery does not provide accommodation units for tourists.
- It is advisable to bring your own food here because there aren’t many dining places around.
- The entrance fee is only 3 leva (approximately 1.5 euro), but for Bulgarians and Romanians it is free of charge.
- If you look closely at the rocks, you can see fossils of seashells, which proves that millions of years ago, this place was sunken at the bottom of the sea.
- The patronage of the church is celebrated on October 26th.
- Very close from Dimitrii of Basarbovo Monastery you can also visit the Ivanovo Rock Churches (UNESCO site), the Cherven Fortress and the Orlova Chuka Cave.
What are your thoughts on St. Dimitrii of Basarbovo Monastery? Did you find it interesting? Have you ever been here or would you consider visiting it? Share what you think in the comments section below!