The Region

A trip from Tryavna to the Transfiguration Monastery for a day

May 9, 2023

If you are looking for a pleasant and peaceful place for a walk near Tryavna, we no doubt recommend the Transfiguration monastery “Transfiguration of the Holy Lord”. Tucked away in a wooded gorge on the banks of the Yantra River, the monastery is located only 47 km from Kalina Palace Hotel, Tryavna and 7 km from Veliko Tarnovo. It is the largest monastery in the region and the fourth largest in Bulgaria, so it has definitely something to impress you with! The holy abode is best known for its frescoes, the work of Zachary Zograf, as well as the miracles that still happen to this day here. It is a great destination for a one day trip in which to see and learn something new and interesting! A great idea for a trip when visiting Tryavna!

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The history of the Transfiguration Monastery

The Transfiguration Monastery was founded in the 11th century as a convent of the Vathophed Monastery in Athos. It became autonomous around 1360, with Queen Theodora-Sara and her son Tsar Ivan Shishman taking the main credit for this. They donated a lot of funds for large-scale repair and reconstruction of the holy monastery, which is why it is often called “Sarin” or “Shishmanov” monastery. The building you will see today was erected in 1825 by the Rila monk Father Zotic. The construction of the main church in the Transfiguration (Preobrazhenski in Bulgarian) Monastery began around ten years later, under the direction of Dimitar Sofialiata. After his hanging, the church and the monastery were completed by the most famous Bulgarian Master builder Kolyu Ficheto.

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The Paintings of Zahari Zograf

The frescoes are some of the most interesting and mysterious elements in the monastery. They were painted by Zahari Zograf himself from 1849 to 1851. The most impressive one of them all is the “Wheel of time” that illustrates the transience of the earthly life and all of the stages the human life goes through. Another impressive mural of Zahari Zograf, which you will see in the monastery, is the “Doomsday”, as well as the frescoes “Nativity of the Virgin Mary”, “Ascension of the Holy Virgin” and “The Last Supper”. Pay attention also to the lush wooden iconostasis in the main church, which is the work of Tryavna masters.

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The Monastery- a sanctuary, an enlightenment centre and a hospital

Strange as it may sound, the Transfiguration Monastery was used as a refuge for the fighters for religious and national independence. It was also a cultural and educational centre and a hideout for revolutionaries. During the Russian-Turkish War of Liberation (1877-1878), part of its premises was converted into a military hospital. Evidence of all this can be found in the library and museum exhibition in the monastery. During the Ottoman rule, the monasteries were one of the places where our Bulgarian identity was preserved, which is why they are so interesting to visit from a historical point of view.

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The miracles in the Transfiguration Monastery

As soon as you enter the courtyard of Transfiguration Monastery, you can’t help but notice the huge rock chunks next to the church and the bell tower. It was a miracle that when they fell they passed only a few meters from the temple, leaving it intact. In fact, the miracle happened on July 6, 1991. Then a huge chunk of rock fell from the cliffs above the monastery.

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It rolled right up against the church and would have destroyed it. Fortunately, however, the chunk of rock smashed into the then clock tower and split in two. Thus, as if by magic, it passed on either side of the temple. The monks’ cells are destroyed but, fortunately, there are no casualties.

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It is as if some invisible force protects the Transfiguration Monastery. Over the ages it has experienced several landslides and earthquakes, including the great Gornooryakhovo earthquake in 1913. To this day, the holy monastery stands the test of time and preserves part of our Bulgarian memory and history. If you want to know more about the secrets of the Transfiguration Monastery, ask one of the abbots, they will gladly tell you wonderful stories!

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Author: Boryana Krasteva, head editor of

Boryana was a dear guest of ours in the autumn of 2019, when together with a few other travel bloggers we toured around our beautiful city and tried to introduce them to a small part of the Tryavna culture and customs. 


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