Rozhdestvo Bogorodichno – Kilifarevo Monastery (of the Nativity of the Holy Virgin) and around Twenty kilometres south of Veliko Turnovo, Kilifarevo Monastery was a favourite retreat for the tsars of the Second Kingdom.
It was also the site of the famous college established by Teodosii Turnovski in 1350, which translated literary works trom Greek and Hebrew in to Slavonic script, making them legible to scholars far beyond Bulgaria.
As many as 800 monks and novices from all over the Slav world were based hereat any onetime, and the School of Kilifarevo might have achieved parity with the great European universities had it not been burned by the Turks in 1393.
Teodosii’s successor Patriarch Eftimii was imprisoned by the Ottoman conquerors, but his right-handman, Grigorii Tsamblak, fled to Russia where he was able to carry on the Kilifarevo traditio n, becom in gbishop of Moscow and a saint of the Russian Orthodox Church. Now a nunnery, Kilifarevo was rebuilt during the nineteen thcentury around a principal church – dedicated to St Demetrius of Salonika — designed by Kolyo Ficheto.
Themain body of the church contains an iconostasis by Tryavna crafts-men, and am esmerizing icon (on the opposite wall as you enter) of St John of Rila, painted by Ficheto s contem porary Krustyu Zahariev.
Outside, look out for a small but delicate relief of the Archangels Michael and Gabriel over the yoked south portal. Ficheto’s church is tacked on to two older sixteenth- century structures which lie to the rear, the chapels o f Sveti Teodosii and Sveto Rozhdestvo Bogorodichno (Birth of the Virgin). Both contain valuable frescoes from the period.
The monastery lies just of the main Veliko Turnovo—Stara Zagora road, about 5km south of the village of Kilifarevo.
The access road to the monastery is badly signed – look out for the truck stop used by TIR drivers just opposite. Some of the six daily Veliko Tarnovo—Kilifarevo buses serve isolated villages south of Kilifarevo, and may take you near the monastery; otherwise, you’ll have to walk from Kilifarevo village, saving yourself a dull and potentially hazardous trudge along the main road by turning left into the village of Natsovtsi after 3km , and following the river upstream to the monastery.