Big trip to the Rhodopes, Bulgaria
Tomorrow morning we leave for the Big Road Trip in the Rhodopes.(The Rhodope Mountains, mountains on the Balkan Peninsula, in Bulgaria and Greece. Their length is about 240 km, height up to 2191 m (Golyam-Perelik). The mountains are named after the Rhodope River, which flows in their western part. And the hydronym is explained as rudh-upa ‘red river’ ore – ore – red).
The first, and perhaps the most important goal of our trip – Cross Mountain. From Nessebar where we are 360km, about 100km on the mountain roads. The weather is fine, +18 in the afternoon, it is cloudy. We leave in the morning so we can see the holy place and stay overnight on the top of it, according to the old Bulgarian tradition.
Cross Mountain is located at 1545 above sea level. It is located in the Middle Rhodope Mountains above the village of Borovo. Cross Mountain is also known as the Rhodope Jerusalem. The first monastery of St. Trinity was built in 1002. The symbol of the Cross Mountain is the miraculous cross.
According to legend, on September 14, 362, St. Helena and her son, St. Emperor Constantine (the first emperor to recognize the Christian faith) unveiled the Holy Cross on Calvary! On this day the Exaltation of the Cross of the Lord was performed. Since that day every year on September 14 (27) the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross is celebrated! By the order of St. Helen, the Cross of the Lord was brought to Constantinople (Tsarigrad). Today it is the city of Istanbul (Turkey). St. Constantine divided the shrine into 3 parts. One part he returned to Jerusalem. The second part was sent to Rome, but he left the third part in Constantinople. This particle was placed in the ark of gold and transferred to the diocese of Constantinople. About 1000 years later Constantinople is conquered by the Ottoman Empire! All the values of Constantinople fall into the hands of the Turkish sultan, and among them is a golden ark with a part of the Holy Cross. According to legend and tradition, there was a large monastery on Christ’s Mountain in which a part of the Holy Cross was kept. Before the monastery, this particle was kept in Istanbul (Constantinople) in the sultan’s treasury. But the Russian Tsar (whose name is not mentioned in the chronicles), learning about this relic, sent messengers with rich gifts and with the instruction: – When the sultan wants to give me gifts, tell him that the Russian Tsar only wants to receive a gift part of the wooden cross from your treasury. The envoys carried out the Russian Tsar’s orders and the Sultan freely gave them this sacred piece. But the mother of the sultan, on learning of this, said to her son: – What have you done! Do you know that on this particle of the cross your power was fastened. (Historically speaking, many of the wives of the Turkish sultans were Christians or knew a lot about Christianity. So it is not surprising that the sultan’s mother knew about the power of the cross). The sultan sent his men, but they failed to capture the Russians. In the middle of the Rhodope Mountains, the Turks almost caught up with the Russian Tsar’s envoys and they were forced to hand over the shrine to the monks for safekeeping. With the thought that they would return later for this particle, they went to Russia. The monks hid this particle of the Lord’s cross in the area of the Cross. Soon the Turks came to the monastery and not finding the particle they destroyed it to the ground. The monks were put to death. On the mountain of Christ they martyred over 300 monks by truncating their heads. All of them refused to show the place where a part of the Holy Cross was hidden! For this they receive glory and eternal memory! Various sources indicate that the monks buried or hid this particle in the secrets of the monastery of the Holy Trinity. Until the middle of the 17th century, Christianity flourished in the middle part of the Rhodope Mountains. There were many churches and monasteries. There was a theological school, which trained priests and monks. In the second half of the XVII century came the most difficult period in the history of the Rhodope Christians (named after the mountains “Rodopi”). Many priests were put to death for their faith in Christ. Almost all monasteries and churches were destroyed. Priests and monks went into hiding, wearing Turkish clothes and posing as ordinary people. For Christians there was a time of spiritual gloom and constant persecution by Muslims. For more than 100 years the Christian world in Bulgaria had felt an acute shortage of monks and priests. It was not until the beginning of the 19th century that monks and priests appeared in the Rhodope Mountains. Among them was Hieromonk Grigoriy, who opened colleges for future priests and teachers in almost all populated areas. In these localities he was called the “Rhodopean Paisii.