Transfiguration Monastery – Samovodene, Bulgaria - Atlas Obscura

Transfiguration Monastery

Outstanding, eerie frescoes and decorations fill this 19th-century monastery.  


Colorful frescoes fill the interior of this 19th-century monastery. Though their colors are bright and inviting, the subjects they portray are rather dark and foreboding.

The first monastery building in this area was established in medieval times and gained autonomy in the 14th century. Over the years, it was attacked many times by Ottoman conquerors until it was completely destroyed and later abandoned.

The current monastery was reestablished in 1825. Over the next decades, a new monastery church was built and adorned with gorgeous paintings created by Zahari Zograf. Admire the artwork, and you’ll see intriguing scenes like the Wheel of Life and images of the Devil attacking and torturing sinners.

The 19th-century complex has stood strong in this place despite years of difficulties, particularly in the years when the Soviet-minded government did not look favorably on the religion. Natural forces strained the monastery, too. In 1991, a huge boulder fell from the cliff and caused some damage. The rocky ground where the monastery stands has also been strengthened with huge bolts to hopefully prevent the building from falling down after a possible landslide.

Know Before You Go

The monastery is located about four miles (seven kilometers) north of Veliko Tarnovo. It is best visited with your own transport. The monastery is not opened all the time. A member of the monastery can come and open it to allow you to get a look inside.

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