The Bulgarian people have expressed a special devotion to the Virgin since an early date, but in a manner somewhat mixed with paganism. Saint Epiphanius, in his letter "Adversus Antidicomarianitas" wrote that Thrace was the first region to publically honor the Virgin Mary.
Sofia had a Saint Sophia Church, dedicated to Christ, the uncreated and incarnate Wisdom, and to Mary, Seat of Wisdom.
When King Boris was baptized in the year 864, all his subjects were made Christians (as dictated the custom of the time: subjects took on the religion of their princes).
In 1396, the Bulgarians were entirely subject to the Muslim Ottoman Empire but the Orthodox Church always resisted the new rulers: it preserved the Christian traditions and opened the monasteries to the insurgents. Some Turks settled in eastern Bulgaria, and a few even converted to Christianity (Gôk-Oguzes). The insurrection of April 1876 freed Bulgaria from the Muslim yoke.
During the two World Wars of the 20th century, Bulgaria found itself in the camp of the losing side. In 1946, it entered into the sphere of influence of the USSR. The Soviet domination ended in 1990.
Bulgaria has been part of the European Union since January 1, 2007.
Tradition has it that when a village celebrates a Marian feast, it invites the neighboring villages; everyone walks in a procession and then shares a common meal. Those whose shrines are in ruins gather at the ruins or a nearby spring.
Plovdiv: Saint Mary's Cathedral.
Varna: Saint Mary's Cathedral.
Tir novo: Saint Mary's Cathedral.
Church of the "Neopalima Kapina" (i.e. the Burning Bush).
Rila: Monastery dedicated to the Virgin Protectress (Ossenovitza).
This monastery was founded in the 10th century by the hermit Saint John Rilski da Rila, in a mountainous region near the road joining Sofia and Thessaloniki in Greece.
There, an icon of the 12th century is venerated, of the Hodigitria type (she who shows the way: Christ).
The monastery was confiscated in 1961 and became a national museum. But it remains today a center of spiritual life and pilgrimage.
It welcomes 300,000 visitors each year.
Batchkovo: Monastery of the Holy Virgin of Petritch.
This monastery, built in the honor of Mary's Assumption, was founded in the 11th century. Situated on the left bank of the Zaya river, it looks like a medieval fortress. Its library is incredibly well-stocked and its treasures famous. It was burned down by the Turks in the 16th century and later rebuilt with valuable frescoes.
The fresco of the Deisis Virgin represents the mother of Jesus and Saint John the Baptist addressing their prayer to Christ at the Last Judgment.
Our Lady of the Two Archangels belongs to a large fresco representing paradise. The Virgin Mary is seated in prayer, surrounded by two archangels. Her gentleness and kindness bring peace to the pilgrim.
Feast day: August 15, with a candle light procession the night before.
The monastery, on the bank of the river Osam, in a beautiful forest, had its heyday in the 17th and 18th century. There the Theotokos Trocroutchitza, Our Lady of the Three Hands, is venerated (a Greek icon from Mount Athos).
Attilio GALLI, Madre della Chiesa dei Cinque continenti, Ed. Segno, Udine, 1997, p. 51-57