The Dragalevski Monastery is an iconic landmark representing Bulgaria’s rich culture and heritage. Its name was first mentioned in the Vitosha golden seal of the Bulgarian king Ivan Shishman (1371-1393). The monastery was established during the reign of Ivan Alexander (1331-1371). It was part of a group of monasteries that emerged around Sofia in the 14th and 15th centuries. Unfortunately, the monastery was burned down and abandoned after the Turkish occupation of Sofia in 1382.
In the second half of the 15th century, the Dragalevski Monastery was rebuilt. In 1476, Radoslav Mavur donated resources that allowed the restoration and painting of the St. Virgin Mary church. The Dragalevski Monastery was a crucial literary center in Sofia, with its scriptorium and a monastic school. Some of the handwritten books and the names of the scribes who worked at this monastery are still known today. These include pop Nikola, who copied the Gospels in 1469; an unknown grammarian who copied the famous Dragalevski Gospel in 1534, decorated with a silver frame from 1648 and kept today at the Church Museum in Sofia; and the three brothers Daniel, Stoyan, and Vladko, who copied and decorated a psalter in 1598, later transferred to the Athonite Monastery of Iviron. In 1612, grammarian Yov Shishatovats inscribed the famous Boyan’s Calendar.
During the years of the Bulgarian National Revival, the Dragalevski Monastery was one of the most active centers of the liberation struggle, especially during the tenure of Igumen Hieromonk Gennady, former standard-bearer of Ilyo Voivoda’s squad and comrade-in-arms of Vasil Levski.
In its current form, the Dragalevski Monastery is a church and residential complex. Only the church remains from the old monastery complex, a single-nave building dating back to the 15th century. It is decorated with two layers of frescoes. Fragments of scenes such as The Trial of Pilate, Judas Returning the Silver, The Hanging of Judas, and The Denial of Peter, the images of St. Roman the Melodist, St. Peter, and others remain from the original paintings in the nave. In the narthex of the church, the original frescoes are entirely preserved. Old Testament scenes such as Avraam’s Hospitality, Avraam’s Sacrifice, and the Prophet Elijah in the Cave are depicted. The portraits of founders Radoslav Mavur and Vida and the younger Stahna and grammarian Nikola are also present.
The Dragalevski Monastery is an essential part of Bulgaria’s cultural heritage. Its rich history, literary importance, and architectural significance make it a must-see attraction for anyone interested in exploring Bulgarian history and culture.
The Dragalevski Monastery is easy to reach from Sofia by car (or public transport) and is a frequent weekend escape for people in the city. It is very nice to visit with the kids.