Discover Georgia
Georgian Abbey in Bulgaria called Petritsoni
11 September, 2018
There are many sites of cultural heritage with the Georgian roots in other countries. They were built in the past, some of them in the medieval ages, but there are still remained evidence of the Georgian heritage. On of such places is located in Bulgaria, Bachkovo.

The Abbey of Petritsoni, or Bachkovo, is the second largest in Bulgaria after the Riley Monastery. It was built in the village of Bachkovo (previously, known as Petra) which is situated in the Asenograd district,
28 kilometers from Plovdiv, on the right bank of the river Asenitsa (Chepelare), in the Rodop gorge.

The founder and builder of the Petritsoni Abbey was Grigol, Bakurianisdze, from Tao (the historical part of Georgia), who lived in the 11th-century. He was a Commander in the Western Army of the Byzantine Caesar - Alexios Komnenos. In 1083, whilst there was relative peace in Byzantium, Grigol decided to use his own wealth in developing the spiritual life. He chose his own village, Petritsoni for the building of an abbey, as this place was rich in spirituality. His brother Abba, also helped with the construction work in 1083. In 1084 he even established a Typikon (a Liturgical book) for the abbey. This latter consisted of 36 articles, which described the requirements for living within the monastery.
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Petritsoni Abbey in Bulgaria, Photo courtesy: www.umurgulia82.blogspot.com

The Typikon was written in two languages - Georgian and Greek. In Georgian, because Georgian monks read it several times a year, and in Greek, as it was at the time the official state language by law.

Petritsoni's Abbey was constructed at a time when Georgians in the Byzantine-Georgian monasteries, especially at the Athos mountaines, were continually being harassed by the Greeks. Grigol was well aware of this fact and dedicated the monastery exclusively to Georgians. It was specifically written in the Typikon that the monastery could never allow Greek monks to enter or stay there. In the monastery only one Greek was allowed on the premises and that was, the Regulator of Monastery Affairs.

In the 17th century, the Abbey of Petritsoni was under the control of the Constantinople Patriarchate, which promoted Greeks in Petritsi. Unfortunately, the Greeks completely took over at Petritsoni. And so Grigol’s fear was justified. The monastery was thereafter renovated, and the new leadership changed the name of the monastery and called it the Bachkovo monastery, because the village of Petri was also called Bachkov. Petritsoni's Typikon remained as a document describing history, because from time to time honoured guests would record events or other matters in it.
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Petritsoni Abbey in Bulgaria, Photo courtesy: www.umurgulia82.blogspot.com

The Typikon, which is currently kept in the National Library of Sofia, is a copy. It was rewritten by a Georgian monk from Akhaltsikhe, Ioane Markozashvili in 1702.
Later on, a Greek researcher Georgi Mousseus was so interested in the Petritsoni's Typikon, that he learnt the complete text in 1782 and re-published it in 1888. The French scholar Louis Pitt also became interested in the Typikon.

There were three churches in the Petritsoni monastery complex: one large cathedral - named after the Virgin Mary and two smaller churches – John the Baptist and St. George. Historically, the monastery buildings have suffered badly from the actions of invaders. After fires in the 15th century only the Archangel’s Church survived, which supposedly was built after the death of Grigol.

The current situation is that the Monastery is surrounded by residential buildings and is divided into two parts – at the northern end, are located the churches of the Holy Virgin (18th c.) and the Archangel (12th c.)At the southern end of the garden, you can see the church of St. Nikoloz (1834-1836). The monks’ rooms are located in the residential buildings.

Petritsoni’s Crypt

Apart from the churches, located within the Abbey, there is a two-storey crypt on the hill. Grigol is buried there. This is the only building that has not changed since its construction. The Crypt is painted by the Georgian painter Ioane Iveropulos. According to some commentators , he was invited by Grigol himself from Georgia to carry out this work.

Petritsoni’s Abbey is surrounded by a high fence and completely covered in green foliage .It looks like a fortress from the outside. 50 Georgians were invited to help with the construction and painting of the temple. The Abbey still has the original iron gate from the time of Grigol, which still astonishes visitors.

Archangel’s Church

There is evidence to suggest that the Church of the Archangels was built after the death of the founder of the Monastery, during the reign of Emperor Alexios I Komnennos. The temple was painted in 1846 by Ioan Moskh. The Church is currently in a state of disrepair but what remains is somewhat indicative of the old Georgian temple architecture.


The Holy Virgin Cathedral

In the middle of the yard, the church of the Holy Virgin stands on the foundations of the old church. By the time this cathedral was constructed, in 1604, it was the only major cathedral in Bulgaria.
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Petritsoni Abbey in Bulgaria, Photo courtesy: www.patriarchate.ge

Temple of Nicolas

Special attention should be given to the Temple of Nicholas, which included a theological seminary. The boys here, studied theology in Georgian and prepared to become priests, often staying in Petritsoni as priests. A scientific academy was established within the Petritsoni's complex after its first rector was appointed -the famous Georgian philosopher Ioane, later named after the village of “Petritsi”.

The seminary within the monastery was a preparatory stage for the continuing scientific work within the academy. Students were taught grammar, rhetoric, dialectics, music, drawing, philosophy, the binding of books (book binding, assembling) and more.

The Abbey had its own library, but most of its orginal literatary contents were stolen. The Abbey also had a museum where objects and gifts were kept. According to Grigol’s Typikon, there was within the collection a cross of silver, a precious icon of transfiguration, several dozen wooden icons, and many other ecclesiastical items.

First photo courtesy: www.karibche.ambebi.ge

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