This is the oldest European monastery and it was founded in 344 A.D. by Saint Athanasius himself. Some of the oldest monasteries in Europe were founded afterwards, the Candida Casa (Scotland) in 260 A.D. and two cloisters in 373-375 A.D. in France, respectively.
The saint was one of the most zealous and dedicated defenders of the purity of the Christian faith and in particular of Trinitarianism against the newly formed heresy, Arianism (which renounces the divine equality of Jesus Christ to God the Father). Upon his return from Serdica to Alexandria after the Council of 343-344 A.D., which convened to address this issue, Saint Athanasius made a stop close to Beroe and founded a monastery.
He chose this location for its proximity to the main road connecting Constantinople and Serdica ('Via Diagonalis'), the important strategic fortress towering above it and the Thracian sanctuary, whose remains are visible today. A small cave (a niche) is carved into the rocks, a mere 100 m away from the monastery, beyond a small river. It served as a secluded place for the saint and his followers.
This monastery is unique also for its holy water well. The water is reputed for its healing qualities and it draws to the place hundreds of ailing people. It is believed that many have been healed of their different ailments.
The Chirpan monastery has been destroyed multiple times and has been rebuilt again. Several attempts to raise it to the ground have been made during the Ottoman Empire. The monastery was rebuilt in 1844 and has acquired its current outlook after several renovations.
According to the legend, Vassil Levski and other participants in the struggle for National Liberation used the monastery as a hiding place.
A copy of the Reims Gospel is a treasured relic, which is kept in the monastery. It is believed that this Gospel has an old Bulgarian origin. 32 of its pages are written in Cyrillic and 62 are written in Glagotic script. The original Gospel is kept in Reims (France) and it has been used for the oaths of the French kings during their coronation ceremonies.
One of the most impressive acquisitions of the monastery is an Egyptian icon of Saint Athanasius, which was gifted in 2003 during the visit of Petros VII, the Patriarch of Alexandria.
This location is a metaphor for Bulgarian Orthodox religion, it is a rare gem hidden deep into the beautiful recesses of History and Nature, away from the frenetic highway of today's accelerated pace of life. You just have to veer off the main road and take the narrow but bountiful paths, and you will find it easily.
Seek and you will find...