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  • Writer's pictureStefan Ivanov

Church of the Assumption in Shiroka laka

Every time I visit this wonderful and holy place, I do not fail to stop by the temple, crouch by its doors and bow my head in humility.

Assumption Church in the village of Shiroka Laka
"To those who received Him, He gave the right to become children of God, that is, to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood, nor of the lust of the flesh, nor of the lust of men, but of God." The Holy Gospel of John 1:12-13

Dear friends, it is with incomparable pleasure and glorious trepidation that I present to you the exceptional Assumption Church in Shiroka laka.

Assumption Church in the village of Shiroka Laka
"For you are all children of God through faith in Jesus Christ." The Apostle Paul's Epistle to the Galatians 3:26

The Assumption was consecrated in 1835 by Metropolitan Nikifor Lesbiets of Philippopolis (Nikifor Plovdivski), a native of the island of Lesbos, with the secular family Kandanadakis - great archdeacon of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and great proto-single.

Assumption Church in the village of Shiroka Laka
"Look at what love the Father has given us - to call ourselves God's children, and so we are! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him.” The First Epistle of John 3:1

The temple remains forever in history as a fiery symbol of the unbreakable and true Christian faith of the Bulgarian woman, unbroken during the long and dark years of slavery.

Assumption Church in the village of Shiroka Laka
"And because you are sons, God has sent into your hearts the Spirit of His Son, who cries: 'Abba, Father!' Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if you are a son, then you are an heir of God through Christ." The message of the Apostle Paul to Galatians 4:6-7

It so happened that after the end of the Russo-Turkish war of 1828-1829, also known as the war of the Adrianople Peace, Sultan Mahmud II (the 30th Sultan of the Ottoman Empire) managed to introduce a series of reforms in the administration of the empire.

His reformist and revolutionary for Oriental ideas and perceptions rule marked the beginning of the end of the Ottoman Empire and dynasty.

According to the clauses of the Peace Treaty of Edirne, signed after the victory of the Ottoman Empire in the war with Russia, the Sultan granted some religious freedom to the enslaved population within the borders of the state and gave his permission to Christians far more freely to profess their faith, build churches and build schools.

Cell school "St. Pantaleimon" in the courtyard of the Church of the Assumption in the village of Shiroka Laka
Cell school "St. Pantaleimon" in the church yard

The residents of Shiroka Laka were quick to take advantage of the new reforms and in 1833 they sent messengers with the task of asking for permission to build a new Christian church in their village. The delegation, headed by Kostadin Vassilev - Shoko, a budding young man from the village of Yugovo, went to Constantinople to beg permission from the High Gate.

Assumption Church in the village of Shiroka Laka
"And if we are children, then we are also heirs, heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ." The Apostle Paul's letter to the Romans 8:17

And here is the happy news - the petitioners receive permission to build their own prayer house, entered in a Sultan's firman from 1834!

There was a condition - the temple had to be built on the old church (klise-eri), because otherwise the issued permission would be violated.

Assumption Church in the village of Shiroka Laka
The doors to the temple

The chosen place, where even today we find the "Assumption" temple, was right opposite the guesthouse of an Ottoman ruler in Shiroka Luka - Smail aga, and if you see the new temple, it would overshadow it in beauty.

Assumption Church in the village of Shiroka Laka
The murals

There was another condition - that the temple be erected in forty days!

Assumption Church in the village of Shiroka Laka
The church

This wonderful church shrine is the work of an entire village, which in 38 days built it under the expert guidance of Todor Palamarchev for the honor, glory and immortality of the village and the people!

Assumption Church in the village of Shiroka Laka
The cross on top of the bell tower

And so the whole village arose - the men, women and their close offspring, young and old worked tirelessly with fervor, filled with great joy and with much love, to complete in the appointed time the most dreamed of and the most desired - their own Christian A house of God where they can find comfort, support and closeness to God.

The materials for the construction were brought from the Rupski Kamak area, which is located about two kilometers from the construction site. The people made a living chain and the stones were passed from hand to hand.

The memory of the strong girl named Tina, who carried a stone weighing 120 oki (equivalent to 150 kilograms) on her back, remains vivid in the people's memory.

Some dug the ground for the foundations, others prepared stones by chipping them, others cut the wooden beams, others prepared sand and lime.

The main organizers of the construction are Todor Posrev and Damyan Karov - both from the village. They were probably leaders of the local construction group, organized into a carpenter's association (guild).

The master builder was Mityu Kiryakov from Chepelare, a well-known builder of churches in the White Sea and Middle Rhodopes. His name can be seen carved in large letters in the middle of the front of the balcony's wooden railing.

Assumption Church in the village of Shiroka Laka
The bell tower

It was not without obstacles!

When they were laying the foundation stone of the temple, Smail Aga himself came to the construction site. The Ottoman raised his rifle at the people and immediately ordered them to stop working, but one of the broadcasters, called by name and nickname Todor Shturiat, shouted at him: This village can be raised, this stone will not be raised!

At these words, the Ottoman nobles became enraged and began by all means to prevent people from fulfilling their dream.

Assumption Church in the village of Shiroka Laka
The tiles on the roof

The villagers from Shiroka Laka escorted a person straight to Plovdiv and complained about the insolent behavior of the local nobles.

From there, in response, they sent a new Seimenin with an order to soften the temper of the local Ottomans. He said to them: You do not respect the royal firman! Not only will you be humbled, but you will also be helping your neighbors build their church!

There was no way for the nobles to grumble against the king's firman: If there is a king's firman, we will obey the king's words! and no longer hindered the construction.

The temple has an internal length of seventeen meters and a width of almost ten meters.

Eight are the columns supporting its massive roof, lined with large stone tiles.

The height of the building is eight meters, and the thickness of the walls is one meter.

The doors of the temple are solid, framed with a solid metal plate.

The entire yard is surrounded by a stone wall, in places up to ten meters high.

The iconostasis of the Assumption Church is unique in its style. It is assumed that it was painted by master Zahari Zograf and his brother Dimitar - representatives of the Samokov art school or by their students. There is a hypothesis that they painted the church themselves.

Even today, near the northern part of the high stone wall, the waters of the Lja river flow.

I walk humbly on the stone slabs that pave the wide yard, and the green grass soothes my gaze. Flowers adorn everything around, which are well taken care of even today by hardworking and good hands with constant and tireless love.

Assumption Church in the village of Shiroka Laka
Flowers and smiles

The wind plays with the green leaves of the trees in the yard.

I sit on a bench. Sun rays flash from behind the white clouds in the blue sky.

Peace, love and well-being - feelings pressing in my heart.

Today "Assumption" is the only completely restored church in the Smolyan region and one of the few restored churches from the 19th century in Bulgaria.

The temple is still active today with a priest and regular services.

"For they that are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery, so that you would be afraid again, but you received a spirit of adoption, through which we cry: "Abba, Father!" So the Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children.

The Epistle of the Apostle Paul to the Romans 8:14-16

How do you get to the Assumption Church in Shiroka Laka?

I wish you a charming walk!

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