The shrine that first burned in the uprising
The establishment of the monastery "St. St. Theodore Tyrone and Theodore Stratilat ”connects the local historical memory with the famous Red Church from the IV - VII century. In the second half of the XVII and especially in the next century it is among the so-called. "Eight Plovdiv monasteries" - the most revered spiritual centers in the diocese. In the middle of the 19th century it was famous as a nice monastery complex with two-storey residential buildings for the monks and the guests of the holy monastery.
The Perushten Monastery “St. St. Theodore Tyrone and Theodore Stratilat ”, also called“ St. Teodorovtsi ”or“ St. Todor ”, is located 6-7 km south of Perushtitsa, in a deeper direction and higher in the slopes of the Rhodopes. The place is picturesque, surrounded in a semicircle with steep cliffs, there is a stream and a spring nearby. In the immediate vicinity are the remains of the fortress Peristitsa, built in the XI-XII century.
The local historical memory connects the creation of both the monastery and the fortress with the famous Red Church (IV - VII century). From the oral tradition, which has reached us through the Revival historiography, it is known that as a hermitage of this monastery, or as a summer building for the monks, the monastery "St. Todor ”above in the slopes of the Rhodopes. The Greek researcher of local history Mirtilos Apostolidis, born in Plovdiv, believes that the founding of the monastery "St. Todor ”should be dated between the VIII and XII century. The upper limit comes from an information in Anna Comnina's Alexiada about a large construction of monasteries at the foot of the Rhodopes, carried out by Emperor Alexius Comnenus (1081-1118) (Savov, 1960).
Field archaeological research on the remains of the monastery complex was made by archaeologist Dimitar Tsonchev in the early 40s of the twentieth century. A small part of the results fall in his published articles about the fortresses in the area, especially in the part about the fortress Peristitsa (Tsonchev , 1948). Tsonchev's notes, preserved in his archive, after nearly half a century were studied by Vladimir Balchev, who published the most important data on the outlines and dimensions of the individual buildings and the entire complex (Balchev 1999: 21-22).
The existence of the monastery in the XIII - XIV century is certain from the archeological materials on the site. But, by analogy with the fate of other monasteries in the Bulgarian lands, it is believed that "St. Todor ”was destroyed during the Ottoman invasion and was in desolation for some time. It is known that in the XVI-XVII century the holy monastery was restored and is again a center of spiritual life. The Perushtnik paterik is one of the earliest Slavic examples of the pateric genre, dating from approximately 1356-1375 (Stoyanov, Kodov 1964: 28-29). The place of its writing is not known, but from the records on it it is clear that it was the property of the monastery "St. Todor ”at the earliest from the first half of the 17th century. from the Perushtitsa monastery and six people from the village of Perushtitsa.
In the second half of the 17th century and especially in the next 18th century, the Perushtani “St. Theodore Tyrone and Theodore Stratilat ”was formed as one of the revered spiritual centers in the diocese, entering the number of the so-called Eight Plovdiv monasteries of special importance for the believers in the diocese are: Bachkovski "St. Bogoroditsa", Kuklenski "St. St. Bezsrebrenitsi ”, Vodenski“ St.St. Kirik and Yulita ”, Moldavski“ St. Petka ”, Belashtichki“ St. George ”, Perushtenski“ St. St. Teodorovtsi ”, and two Krichim -“ St. Bogoroditsa ”and“ St. St. Silversmiths ”(also called“ Holy Doctors ”). Wealthy and not very wealthy Christians from Plovdiv, Stanimaka, Krichim and other settlements in the district made bequests and donated funds and property to the Perushtenska monastery.
At the end of the 18th century the monastery had two convents - one in the village of Perushtitsa and the second in the Plovdiv Marash neighborhood (Snegarov, 1949). The convent in Perushtitsa had many properties, including its own mill. The leadership of the monastic life is carried out by an abbot, appointed by the Metropolitan of Plovdiv (Philippopolis, according to the authoritative terminology at the time). As a rule, the abbots of the monastery are Bulgarians by nationality. This is judged by their signatures in Church Slavonic on the preserved documents in the metropolitan kondika. They are a significant exception to the general practice, as the official language of the Plovdiv Metropolitanate (and in particular of its office) in this period is Greek and, accordingly, the documents are prepared in this language. Bulgarians also predominate among the fraternity.
Another governing institution for the monastery is the board of trustees (epitropia), which deals mainly with financial and economic issues. According to an old tradition, established probably in the period XVI - XVIII century, on the one hand the Perushtani princes take part in it, on the other hand the Plovdiv guilds are represented, among which the Abadjii one stands out the most. The Metropolitan of Philippopolis respected this practice, called the "ancient rule", and did not often interfere in the administration of the monastery (Snegarov, 1949: 199). The abbot, together with some of the brothers, not only served in the monastery church, but also performed services and performed services in Perushtitsa, Krichim and the surrounding villages. In a letter from 1857, the inhabitants of the high mountain village of Churen share that they have long relied on the holy monks from the Perushtenski monastery for baptisms and weddings (Balchev 1999: 24).
The area in which the monastery "St. Todor ”- the northern slopes of the Rhodopes, and especially the interior of the mountain, became a zone of intense Islamization. The hostility of fanatical Muslims against the Christian shrine led to several attacks and arson of the monastery. The first was in 1657, but soon after the fraternity recovered from the ruin. Between 1778 and 1795 the monastery was devastated by the Kurdzhali Mehmed Sinap. Perushtitsa, also devastated by the Kardzhali hordes, recovered with grief from the destruction until the beginning of the next XIX century, and the restoration of "St. Teodorovtsi ”has not had the strength and resources for a long time. In the work of the priest-butler Constantine from 1819 "Description of the Diocese of Philippopolis", published in Greek in Vienna, the Perushtitsa monastery is mentioned as a monastery that once existed, but for several decades was destroyed and turned into ashes by robbers (Savov 1960).
The new erection of the monastery began in 1821-1822 on the initiative and with the zeal of the Perushtani chorbadji Ilia Pomakoolu, a settler from the village of Churen. The building permit was obtained with the help of the Muslim leader Kul Hassan from the nearby village of Ustina (Savov 1960: 5). The next - more than 20! - years are associated with many debts and financial difficulties for the abbots, the fraternity and the trustees. Lenders, mainly influential Turks from Tatar-Pazardzhik, are putting a lot of pressure. In the Kondika of the Plovdiv metropolitanate there are many data about the alarming economic condition of the monastery after its restoration. Until the last documents inscribed in the kondika in 1841, the debt of the Perushtna monastic fraternity continued to be a serious problem for the diocese (Snegarov 1949). In addition to working personally, some Perushtians even separate bricks and tiles from their own houses to support the construction.
Eventually, by the middle of the 19th century, “St. St. Theodore Tyrone and Theodore Stratilat ”is already a nice, albeit relatively small monastery complex with two-storey residential buildings for monks and guests of the monastery with special rooms for the representatives of the Plovdiv guilds and Perushtitsa. The yard is rectangular with dimensions 50 x 55 m and two the entrance - west main and east - to the stream and the spring. There is a fountain on the water source. A cobblestone road is laid along the winding mountain road from Perushtitsa to the monastery. In place of the old, already narrow monastery church, the construction of a new church measuring 16x8.5 m began (Balchev 1999: 22). The local people even tried to write a history of the monastery by the Perushtian teacher Dimitar Lachkov, but the manuscript burned during the destruction of the settlement in 1876. Information about the contents of the manuscript was given to Konstantin Irechek by the author's widow.
The feast of St. Todor's Day, held in the monastery, was remembered as a moment of peace and joy for all Christians in the area (Galabov 1965: 10-12). Spas Galabov from Perushtitsa, a witness to these turbulent times and the terrible fire that followed on April 27, 1876, has always shed tears at the memory of these fairs and other holidays near the monastery, as his son, the German philologist and historian, Prof. Konstantin Galabov. Father Leontiy (Valchev), the last survivor of the fraternity, said that there was a lack of strict control by the abbots, and the Metropolitan of Philippopolis cared primarily for their financial income from the bishop's tax. A monk became "famous" for supernatural "miracles", which in the patriarchal literature can be defined as a state of spiritual charm (Galabov 1965: 302). On the other hand, the names of individual monks or the monastery as a whole appear more than once as subscribers or sponsors of Revival publications - the fraternity was an active readership.
Between 1868-1869, Bishop Parthenius Nishavsky (one of the hierarchs-leaders of the Bulgarian church affairs) found a place here both close enough to the dynamic center of the struggle Plovdiv and far enough away from the influential Greek church circles. In "St. Teodorovtsi ”he began to ordain priests for the already separated from the Patriarchate, but still with an unconfirmed status, Bulgarian church organization (Maxim 1930: 12-13).
Again in the Perushtenski monastery some proponents of the Bulgarian liberation found refuge, albeit for a short time, such as the famous Stoil Voivoda, who, together with his associate Golyu Stankov, jumped over the monastery fence at night to spend the night. The monk who shelters them is Father Leontius, an active supporter of the idea of spiritual and national liberation. Here, on the eve of the April Uprising (1876), the insurgent committee of the people of Perushtitsa met (Savov 1960: 5).
The new monastery church was ready at the beginning of 1876. But as soon as the Perushtians revolted on April 27, 1876, the horde of bashibozuk from the Muslim villages in the Rhodopes looted, destroyed and burned the Christian shrine on April 28 / May 10. The black smoke from the fire can be seen in the distance - "a scary and at the same time majestic view, as if a volcano had erupted in the mountains." (Galabov 1965: 122) became a gloomy omen for the forthcoming fate of Perushitsa.
The monastery "St. St. Theodore Tyrone and Theodore Stratilat ”is no longer recovering. The last monk of the monastery, Father Leontius, remained to serve as a parish priest after the Liberation in the only surviving church in Perushtitsa "St. Athanasius ”. At the end of his life he moved to another monastery, and the monastery properties were donated to the Perushtitsa municipality to serve for the economic recovery of the settlement. Part of the liturgical books turned out to be preserved, because even before the outbreak of the uprising it was taken out of the monastery to a safe place. A century later - in the 60s of the twentieth century - the twelve monastic mines still serve the priests in the Perushtani church "St. Athanasius ”(Savov 1960: 6). Again in the same church is kept an unusual icon - of St. silversmiths and doctors Kozma and Damyan. The miracle with it is that, shortly after the pogrom, as they went to clear the place of the destroyed monastery, several people from Perushtitsa found it there, whole and unharmed among the ashes, which they accepted as a sign for the future of the city.
The inhabitants of Perushtitsa continue to worship the place where the remains of the monastery stand for the next decades. Photographs taken in the 1920s and 1930s show the still clear silhouette of the monastery church, with preserved foundations and part of the walls. In the second half of the twentieth century, the area of Eristica, including the remains of the monastery complex and the medieval fortress, received a protected status.