One of the 9 places in Bulgaria on the UNESCO heritage list are the breathtaking rock hewn churches next to the village Ivanovo. They are located in the nature reserve Russenski Lom, in the northeastern part of Bulgaria, around 22 km south from the city of Russe.
The Ivanovo Rock Churches represent a network of about 20 small rock churches, chapels and individual cells dug at a different height in the rocks of the Russenski Lom Canyon. Narrow paths of rock ladders and staircases link these premises. In the past the number of these churches was over 40, while the cells were more than 300, inhabited by monks many of whom were grammarians and men of letters. Christians in those days used to go there on something like a pilgrimage. The first hermits dug their cells in the rocks in the 12th century. The 14th century wall paintings (on the picture above and below) are a proof of the highly developed mastery characteristic of the painting school of Bulgaria’s Medieval capital of Veliko Tarnovo.
Nowadays one may visit only one church: the church of Virgin Mary. This complex has been dug into the rock at an altitude of 38 meters from the base. It is entirely covered by frescoes of biblical and scenes and images. The Last Supper is one of them, as well as the Entrance in Jerusalem, St. John the Baptist, the Passions of Christ, the portraits of the Apostles; other saints and pictures of their lives. These world-renowned wall paintings from the 14th century are some of the top achievements of Medieval Bulgarian and Balkan art. Donors to the rock monasteries were Bulgarian kings Ivan Assen II /1218-1241/, Ivan Alexander /1331-1371/ and other families of the nobility, whose portraits have been painted on the church walls and are preserved to this day. A reason while its is so well preserved is the fact that it has been discovered not so long ago, in 1937 by an Austrian archeologist.
The area around the rock cells and churches offers a very relaxing and green background for a pleasant walk in the nature too:-)