Aladzha Monastery – One of the most famous and mysterious sights near Varna and Golden Sands, Bulgaria
Aladzha Monastery is the most famous rock monastery on the Bulgarian Black Sea coast, one of the numerous monks’ dwellings that functioned in the 13th and 14th centuries. It is located near Varna town and the nearby summer resorts Golden Sands, St. Konstantine & Helena and Kranevo. The Aladzha Monastery belongs to the large group of natural caves that formed in the soft limestone sediments on the soil of the former Sarmatian Sea, which covered the territory of South-Eastern Europe about 12 million years ago. The original Christian name of the monastery is unknown. The name “Aladzha” is of Persian-Turkish origin and means “colourful”.
The Story of Aladzha Monastery
The historical literature has established that its origin is linked to the occurrence and spread of Christianity – it is known that the cave is a fundamental symbol in the greatest mysteries of Christians – Christ’s Birth and resurrection. This explains the presence of cave dwellings in the activity of the hermits and the early Christian monastic communities of the 4th – 6th centuries and the rock monastery in the Middle Ages are just followers of this ancient tradition.
You can hear that the rock monastery near Varna was part of a huge complex of 500 monasteries in the northeast of Bulgaria. This is related to the spread of Hesychasm – in the 13th and 14th centuries in Byzantium and Bulgaria.
Aladzha Monastery is one of the few rocky monasteries in Bulgaria, where you can clearly distinguish the most important rooms – the monastery temple, the chapel, the church for the funeral prayer, the crypt, the kitchen, the dining room, the monk cells and economic areas. They lie on two levels in the nearly 40 m high limestone cliffs.
In the western part of the first level, next to the visitor’s stairs, is the monastery church. In the middle of the eastern wall, you can see a small altar. Like other Orthodox churches in the Middle Ages, it was decorated with murals, but it’s easy to access and logically determined its future. Some fragments have been preserved, but they are difficult to recognize on the walls.
In the middle part of the east wall (in the altar) is situated the figure of the Mother of God. There is a stone staircase on the floor of the church, which leads through a narrow corridor to the other rooms on the first level. At the end of the staircase begins another corridor where six monk cells have been preserved. They were separated from each other and from the corridor by wooden walls. In the walls, you will see small niches where the monks have held icons.
In the end, you enter a wide room with an irregular shape. In its north-western wall, a small semicircular niche has been hollowed out. The small openings in the centre of the ceiling show that a wooden partition had also been used here, dividing the space into two parts. In the western part (with the niche) was the kitchen, and in the east – the dining room. It contains a certain symbolism, which is due to the “Secret Dinner”. East of the dining room, through a short ramp you reach a small room, which main part is missing. The semi-circular obverse of the eastern wall, as well as the east-west orientation, attest that this was a small church.
The second level of the rock monastery represents only a larger niche, where the chapel is. This is the only preserved brick room in the monastery. About 800 meters northwest of the monastery, hidden in dense shrubbery, there is a group of caves, which is located on three levels. They are called “the catacombs”.
“The Legends of Aladzha Monastery”
In the middle of a beautiful wooded area, 14 km from Varna, the monastery tells its forgotten stories. The past and the strange facts from the history of the Aladzha Monastery can be found in the unique Audiovisual Spectacle “Legends of the Aladzha Monastery”, in memory of Karel and Hermengild Skorpil, the founders of Bulgarian archaeology.
The story begins like this: “The “golden” Black Sea coast of Bulgaria … the friendly sea and the warm, caressing sun … And only a few kilometres further the hectic wave play is replaced by the silence of a fabulous, mysterious world… The path disappears in the deep forest and suddenly high rocks appear in front of the astonished traveller, interspersed with a surprising network of stone. Behind it like the dark shadows of the past, are the ruins of the ancient Aladzha Monastery!”
The legend said that early in the morning when everything is still submerged in the white mist, a mysterious monk appears between the ruins. The local people called him Rim Papa. Every spring he comes out of the depths of the rock and tells the secrets of this holy place…
You will learn about the sequel during the show “Legends of the Aladzha Monastery”.