Rozhen Monastery

Situated far to the south in the Pirin area, 6 km from Melnik, the Rozhen monastery is one of the few medieval Bulgarian monasteries well preserved until today. The present-day appearance of this old cloister (originally built in the 12th century) dates back to the beginning of the 18th century when it was reconstructed after a fire. According to one inscription, the fresco of Christ Pantocrator together with the twelve apostles above the entrance gate of the main church, was painted in 1597. Valuable monuments of 17th century painting include the murals on the external southern wall of the church – Doomsday, and Jacob's Ladder – dated from 1611, as well as the scenes from the life of John the Baptist painted in 1622 in the ossuary. The inside walls in the naos, the narthex and chapel of the main church were painted in 1732, with a strong inclination for narration, as a result of which more than 150 subject-matters were illustrated. The abundance of figures of monks and hermits unknown anywhere else – probably historic personages, contemporaries of the unknown painter – is also typical.
Rozhen Monastery owes its fame above all to its carved iconostases and lecterns. Some of them are extremely complicated compositions, both in intent and in actual execution, in which Biblical themes have given full scope to boundless imagination which reached the peaks of decorativeness. Rozhen Monastery has left us with a treasure in yet another art - that of calligraphy. A unique work of the calligraphic school, which existed here as early as in the 14th century, is the manuscript "Interpretation of Jonah", taken in 1674 from the Constantinople Patriarch Dositheusm, and kept today in the Holy Grave Church in Jerusalem.