Rozhen Monastery is the biggest sanctuary in the Pirin Mountain region. It lies only 1 km away from the village of Rozhen, at the distance of 6km north-east of Bulgaria’s smallest town, Melnik, and 16km away from the town of Sandanski.
The exact date of the establishment of Rozhen Monastery is not known, but according to annals, the name of the monastery was mentioned for the first time in a Greek manuscript which dated back to the 13th century. At that time Melnik region was ruled by despot Slav, a nephew of Bulgarian king Caloyan (1197-1297). This is the reason why it is believed that Rozhen Monastery was built despot Slav during 12th or 13th century. It is the only monastery in Bulgaria which was restored in the first centuries of Ottoman rule and has survived to the present day.
Rozhen Monastery was mentioned again in a manuscript of the abbot Cosma in 1551. The original monastery’s complex had been destroyed by fire and plundered several times, so the present day appearance of this old holy cloister dates back to 16th century. The main church, the dining room and several residential buildings date back to the same period as well.
Rozhen Monastery was rebuilt in the beginning of 18th century while the main church was renovated in 1732. The heyday of the monastery was in 19th century when it was served as a regional spiritual centre and had possessed numerous lands in the surrounding area.
In the middle of 19th century, Rozhen Monastery has become a shelter for revolutionary activists from the regions. Later on, the monastery has given refuge to the renowned Macedonian revolutionary Qne Sandanski who was buried nearby.
At present, Rozhen Monastery is functional, well-maintained and opened for visitors all-year round. The monastery has an irregular 6-angle shape, as residential buildings encircle a beautiful yard in the centre of which is lying the monastery’s church. The temple dates back to 16th century, but it was renovated in 1732. 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 majority of murals in the church dated back to the 18th century.
Rozhen Monastery owes its fame above all to its carved iconostases and incredible frescoes. The narthex of the main church is enriched with frescoes from the earliest period (16th century) and the majority of them depict scenes which illustrate the life of Christ Pantocrator after the Resurrection. . According to one inscription, the image of Christ Pantocrator together with the twelve apostles above the entrance gate of the Holy Virgin main church, was painted in 1597.
The mural paintings of the Rozhen Monastery are exceptionally valuable monuments of Bulgarian pictorial arts. The visitor of the church of Rozhen cloister may be admired at the picturesque woodcarving of the altar iconostasis and the lectern.