Kuklen Monastery

Kuklen Monastery dedicated to Sts Cosma and Damian, also known as “St Vrachi” (St. Healers”) lies on 15 km from Plovdiv and close to Assenovgrad /8 km/, about 2,5 km to the southwest of the village of Kuklen in the Chernatitsa part of the Western Rhodope Mountains. Situated in the heights above the village of Kuklen, to the right of the Plovdiv – Assenovgrad road, the St. Cosma and Damian monastery is famous ever since the reign of Tsar Ivan Alexander mainly for the literary school here and its cultural influence and the waters of the holy spring, curative for mental disorders. This monastery shares the fate of 33 monasteries and 218 churches devastated by the Christians turned Mohammedan in 1657, between Kstenetz and Stanimaka (the old name of Assenovgrad).

Reconstructed with the subsidies of the patriotic people from the Plovdiv region, the Kuklen Monastery turned into major cultural centre – a school, which gave education to grammarians, calligraphers and transcribers like priests Annanii, Krastju the Grammarian, and priest Syder. The Kuklen – Sofia psalm-book, written after the will of Tsar Ivan Alexander in 1337 as a panegyric of the king was preserved here for decades on end. During the Revival years, the Kuklen song-book kept the consciousness of the Bulgarian people suffering troubles from Plovdiv and Stanimaka. Many people found conciliation at the unique mural painting in the narthex in the antique monastery church, preserved until modern times. Most valuable is the church wall-painting, parts of which can be seen from the outside on the west wall of the first vestibule and in three of the outer gabled bays of the building. Best preserved is the image of Archangel Michael in the southern bay. His name is inscribed in fine white Church-Slavonic letters. The harmony of the soft muted colouring, the classic purity of the image and the refinement of its graceful construction bring it close to the best paragons of Bulgarian art of painting from the Middle Ages. It can be dated not later than 16th century. From about the same time dates also the symmetrically-situated image in the northern bay, Holy Mother of God, enthroned with the newborn child, unfortunately considerably damaged. The same mirthless doom have the images of the five saints in the other northern bay, most probably painted in the 17th century. The scene of The Doomsday on the west side of the old vestibule probably dates from 16th or 17th century.