The SS Kozma and Damyan monastery is coming back to life
Except the inhabitants of neighbouring villages, few are those who know that in the Cherna Gora Mountain, there’s since centuries an Eastern-Orthodox monastery. It was once a centre of the orthodox faith and of literature. Today, it’s the only functioning monastery on the Pernik Province’s territory.
The site of the SS Kozma and Damyan Bezsrebarnitsi [SS Cosmas and Damian Unmercenary] monastery, a.k.a. Giginski or Chernogorski, is 60 km west of Sofia. It’s located at the foot of the Kitka Peak of the Cherna Gora Mountain, near the villages Gigintsi, Elovdol, and Breznik.
As its history started close to 10 centuries ago, the monastery has gone through all kinds of changes of fortune. Almost fully destroyed in the 20th century, it’s coming back to life today, thanks to monks and sponsors.
The knowledge about its past is fairly scarce, for all its chronicles have been destroyed. It’s known that it existed during the Second Bulgarian Empire and was decorated with paintings from local masters.
During the Ottoman yoke, the sanctuary was destroyed twice. In early 19th century, the monastery was restored by Mount Athos monks from the Hilendar Monastery in its current location, close to a spring with medicinal water. The monks opened a one-room school inside the sanctuary, where kids from the nearby villages learned faith, reading, and writing.
With the advent of communist rule in Bulgaria, hard times came again: the monks were ousted and the monastery was used as concentration camp, scouts compound, and stable. After the downfall of Communism, monks came to restore spiritual life here. Thanks to their efforts today, after a five-year hiatus, the monastery is again functioning year-round. Its bicentenary building is, however, in a lamentable state of decay and the monks are counting onto donors. They need financing for the restoration of the old wing, the completion of the new construction, the landscaping of adjacent areas, and the construction of dedicated buildings for new functions, such as eating places and lodging premises for tourists outside the monastery.
Lately, SS Kozma and Damyan became popular with the Monastir wines, too. The red wines of this series are made from varieties of grape originating from a single vineyard in the Struma River valley – in the territory of the Dolno Spanchevo village.
The monastery rents the vineyard and the monks are contributing with consulting on the technology of vine growing, drawing experience from their Mount Athos colleagues. Every year, they consecrate the vineyard at the time it’s pruned – on February 14, the vine grower’s and winemaker’s holiday, Trifon Zarezan.
The vineyard is on a north-western slope at the foot of the Pirin Mountain, south of the town of Melnik – a real oasis of vine growing climate. Sun exposure here is record-breaking – up to 229 days per annum. As a whole, this is a region for magnificent red dry wines, rich in extracts, alcohol, and fresh aromas.
The grapevines are imported from France and include the varieties Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Sauvignon, Syrah, Grenache, Caladoc, and Petit Verdot. The wines are manufactured and bottled in the St Vrach wine cellar in Sandanski.