March 11, 2011

'Oldest Cyrillic Writings in the Balkans' Vandalised

Nick Iliev
January 26 2011
The Sophia Echo

A medieval rock monastery near the village of Krepcha has been vandalised systematically over the past four years, since it opened to tourists, the Bulgarian National Television (BNT) reported on January 26 2011.

The site was made famous because it holds the oldest Cyrillic inscription in the Balkans, dating back to 921 CE since the reign of Tsar Simeon the Great, according to Professor Kazimir Popkonstantinov. The monastery is at risk of being destroyed if adequate measures for its protection are not implemented immediately, Popkonstantinov said.

The rock monastery consists of monastic cells, a church and a tomb, and is only two km from the village of Krepcha in northeastern Bulgaria. Vandals have been climbing into the monastery, setting fires, scribbling graffiti on the walls and destroying medieval drawings, the report said.

The individual compartments of the monastery are easily accessible, and the climb up the hill and to the monastery itself is facilitated by a metal staircase.

"There are people who would scribble their own names on the wall of the monastery, and they have no idea what they are destroying" Popkonstantinov told the BNT.

"For many years I have been opposed to this free public access," he added.

The inscriptions in Cyrillic were discovered for the first time in 1972 by Popkonstantinov, who claims that they are the oldest Cyrillic writings on the Balkan Peninsula. The professor has said that they were written by Father Anthony, a predecessor of the most famous medieval hermit, St. Yvan Rilski.

"This monastery is a good indicator that there were monks here as early as the late ninth century and early 10th century, which is a good illustration of the literacy among the population at the time," he said.

The monastery is under the jurisdiction and care of the Krepcha municipality, but they have no funds to protect the monument, the BNT reported.

In August 2010, Popkonstantinov was in the headlines in Bulgaria, for claiming that relics belonging to Saint John the Baptist had ben unearthed at the St Ivan island off the Bulgarian coast. The discoveries were announced on August 1 2010 following the excavation on the island near the seaside town of Sozopol.

Supposedly, the discovered artifacts and exquisite marble reliquary incorporated into the church’s altar contained an urn that had small bones from the arm and leg of the saint, archaeologists told Bulgarian media.