September 14, 2012

Krustova Gora: Holy Cross Forest in Bulgaria

Few Christian sites in Bulgaria attract as many visitors as Krustova Gora (Holy Cross Forest) does. The region gained significant popularity over the past 10 years.

Krustova Gora is situated in the very heart of the Rhodope Mountains. Dense pine forests surround the area. Its history began in the 17th century, when a small monastery complex was constructed there. Today the complex includes Pokrov na Sveta Bogoroditsa and Sveta Troitsa churches, as well as 15 chapels.

The region is located 60 km away from Plovdiv and six km away from the village of Borovo. The winding road will take you to an altitude of 1545 m, where the holy place is located.

A legend describes the creation of the monastery complex. In 1933, a man named Iordan Driankov arrived in Borovo. According to locals, he had visions. One of the visions involved a holy place, where a monastery used to exist.

The monastery preserved a major treasure, a part of the Holy Cross. The piece was initially preserved in the treasury of the Ottoman sultan. Russia’s tsar sent the sultan numerous gifts, in order to receive the Cross piece. The sultan decided to send the piece to the tsar. It was taken to the monastery and hidden in an underground treasury. This helped the holy relic survive an Ottoman assault that took place later on.

Bulgaria’s Tsar Boris III learned of Driankov’s visions. He ordered the positioning of a large cross on the peak, where the monastery was located. The cross, having weight of 33 kg, was set up there on May 1, 1936. During the ceremony, a white dove flew to a place where a spring flowed. Today, people believe that the water of the spring has healing power.

Years ago, the cross was stolen. A new one replaced it. Numerous stories describe the miracles related to the cross and to Krustova Gora.

Over the past years, the complex has become increasingly popular. The number of people praying in the churches and the chapels increased.

Pokrov Bogorodichen church is located near the entrance of the complex. A path leads to the cross at the peak. Twelve chapels are positioned alongside the path, each one honoring one of the apostles.

Krustova Gora attracts believers year-round. Its official holiday, however, is the most special occasion for visits. On the night of September 13, hundreds of followers gather together to attend a night-time liturgy. Many spend the night in prayer.

The ceremony ends when the first rays of the sun touch the cross at the peak.