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Holly Forest

Mysteries and dramatic stories hover above the temples 30 minutes away from the capital of Bulgaria

The icon if Mary Magdalene
The icon if Mary Magdalene

Lets imagine taking the place of the old piligrims, whose journey was a test for their spirits and bodies. In times when religion was an irreplaceable part of the bulgarian view
of life, going on a pilgrimage to a holy place was the supreme spiritual experience. It was like going through fire and water, testing your own stamina because you had to reach the place on foot. However, passing the pilgrims path wasn't only to overcome the distance but it was also a passage to a unity with the devineness. The preparation includes forbearance, observing a fast and praying to (the) Lord. This was a way to unite the mind and the body for a meeting with God. Hundreds of people had been setting of for such purifying journeys. Now, we too.

Our first station is the monastery of Buhovo - Saint Mary Magdalene. Notlong ago the monastery was literally invisible – overgrown bushes had hidden the old temple making it
almost impossible to see. Thanks to some enthusiasts from the Municipality of Sofia, led by their manager Veska Georgieva, and their partners from the „Credo Bonum" foundation the monastery has finaly found an owner - the 82 years old „bai" Georgi Stamenov. The tough old gentleman, who was working in the local uranium mines, is telling us some old stories and legends concerning this holy place. Here, above Buhovo, emperor Constantine The Great had built a residence in which he rested on his way to his beloved town of Serdica. While visiting him, his mother, queen Helena, got sick. Than she drank from a spring nearby the mostery and she recoverd. On this same place, the grateful queen ordered a huge church to be built, which replaced the little holy temple.
This is just one of the many versions of the legend. According to others there was a pegan council with a healing spring where roman soldiers had brought their horses to drink from the water and recover. That's why they built a roman bath with pools.

Later in this same location a monastery emerged. There was also a church, but it was destroyed by the ottomans. In this version of the legend there is also a a massacre, many people died inside the temple. There is a hovering and misterous source of energy in the air and at night there is a shining on the same place where the innocent people where killed. The tempel vanished into the void. Time had passed but a youg lady had dreamt of the old monastery. People of the village started to dig on the place the young girl had pointed out. And they found it – it was full of mice that's way they called it the Monastery of Mice. In 1881 the people of Buhovo , who remembered the story of the great massacre in the temple, rebuilt the whole small spiritual complex, including the wooden steeple. The famous fortune teller, Vanga, had visions about this particular monstery and adviced to honor this sacred place and everyone who visits it must take a little stone with. Apparently the legend has many versions because we asked different people and everyone had a different story.

One of the most fascinating stories we heard came from the manager of the Sofia Inspectorate, the engineer Veska Georgieva. In one of Dan Browns books, which she read in french, were mentioned some old documents, kept safe in the village of Buhovo. The documents expose the idea that in these lands, during the early ages of christianity, there was a cult worshiping the personality of Mary Magdalene as an apostle and companion of Jesus Christ.

read more in the full article from 1/2013 yr. of Magazine Ossem

We continue our journey on the pilgrims route to the monastery of Kremikovci „St. George the Martyr" . It was founded during the reign of Ivan Alexander, which was also
burned to the groud during the ottoman conquest and rebuilt by a boyar named Radivoy. A touching story lies behind this act. In 1492 there was a devastating plague which killed the children of the boyar – Theodor and Dragana. In memory of his children he pays to
build and embellish a new christian temple. On the northern wall of the entrance is a picture of Radivoy and his family, all of them dressed in expensive boyar clothes, and the
bishop of Sofia Kalevit offered the model of the church to it's patron St. George. There are also paintings from the 15th century describing the wonders and suffering of the saint. There is a leaned commemorative slab next to the temples' door. This slab is evidence that between the 3rd and 9th of June Dimitar Stefanov the Kazak, who is the second standard-bearer of Botevs partisan detachment, and his comrades were hidden in basements of the temple. The Kazak dies not far away from the monastery, where his
grave stands even today.

read more in the full article from 1/2013 yr. of Magazine Ossem


In the beginning of the 20th century in it's garden a new big temple was built – „Pokrov na presveta Bogorodica". It is notable for its wood carvings and the miraculous icon of Mother Mary. During the 50's of the last century the nuns were driven away by the military. The damage from their presence is clearly visible – after 20 years of their absence, the nuns returned to the ruins. One of them had been looking after the place for 6 decades till her death in 1993. The monastery is now open for visitors and is the most popular one in the northern catenary of the Sofiiskata Sveta Gora. Despite the cold weather and the weekday we met 3 groups of tourists with little kids. The atmosphere in
the temple is strange – whether it is because of the tragedy of Radivoy or just the strong spiritual energy that surrounds everything all around, we do not know. No matter what is it but you instinctively lower your voice when you are there. The temple is dark but when you leave it you feel enlightened. It could also be the clean air you breathe that makes your soul lighter. But it's likely that this feeling comes from the spirits of the hundreds piligrims who set off to the temples of Sveta Gora of Sofia, centuries ago.

What do the science says about the legends? Read the interview with the archeologist Snejana Goryanova in 1/2013 yr of Magazine Ossem