The oldest monastery in Europe The Monastery of Saint Athanasius near the village of Zlatna livada
The Monastery of Saint Athanasius is located in the paradise nook of Thrace, close to the village of Zlatna livada in Chirpan municipality. It is considered to be the oldest monastery non only in Bulgaria but in Europe, too. The cloister was established in 344 AC. According to Saint Athanasius’s life he stopped and slept near to Beroe (nowadays Stara Zagora) and decided to found a monastery. The spot was chosen because of the its strategic location on the main road between Konstantinople and Serdika and close to an important fortress which remains can be seen above the monastery as well as close to a Thracian sanctuary below it. It is believed that Saint Athanasius himself had transformed the Thracian sanctuary into a Christian one.
Nowadays the monastery of Saint Athanasius is one of the cultural and historical landmarks of Bulgaria. Its uniqueness is complemented also by the local legends about healing water in the well of the monastery, connected with its establishment and patronage of Saint Athanasius, and by the hermitage in the rocks above the monastery – a miraculous hole, inhabited by the Saint and his followers in days of fasting, praying and secluding. Christians believe that passing through the hole gives them health and prosperity.
Guide-book: From Park Hotel Stara Zagora go westward toward Chirpan. Before reaching the town go south on the roundabout. At the first left road exit go toward village of Tsenovo. The next village is Zlatna livada. The monastery is immediately after the village.