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  • Writer's pictureStefan Ivanov

Church of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul in Svezhen

Updated: Jun 10, 2023

This is my first visit to Sarnena Sredna Gora and I didn't even imagine how beautiful it is!

I am traveling to the village of Svezhen on the road through Domlyan and Mrachenik. The road is in very good condition.

The forest that surrounds me everywhere is dense, old and it exudes legends about brave heroes, faithful comrades and cohesive companies.

I notice that my phone is not covered here. As far as I understand later from the network, a single operator allows connection throughout the region.

I'm in Svezhen soon.

Shattered stone houses line the two banks of the Svezhenska River.

The village is located at about 750 meters above sea level. Above it rises Mount Kadrafil with its 882 meters.

Winters here are long, cold, quite snowy and severe.

Church of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul

Until 1934 the village was named Adjar.

Adjar will say "hard" as well as "stone" translated from Turkish, and according to some sources the name has Arabic origins and means "khanjar", i.e. "dagger" as well as "knife", with the time "k", "h" and "n" disappear.

There is a rather curious and not so well-known legend related to Adjar and the Deacon, according to which, in order to cover up his revolutionary work, Vasil Levski arranges a fictitious engagement to a local girl.

Did you know that Hadji Dimitar's place of death is nearby?

The story goes that he was seriously wounded in a battle near Buzludzha peak in the summer of 1868, supported by his comrades, he is transffered here. Local shepherds have helped him during a month.

The hero lies, and in heaven

the sun stops burning angrily;

reaper sings somewhere in the field,

and the blood flows even harder!

The harvest is now ... Sing, slaves,

these sad songs! Shine and you, sun,

in this slave land! Will die

and this hero ... But shut up, heart!

From "Hadji Dimitar" by Hristo Botev

Grandfather Hristo from Svezhen still keeps the water container with which his grandfather quenched the thirst of the hero.

I park in the center of the village, and in front of me rises an old century-old walnut tree, under which I can see the dignified posture of the temple.

I find this plaque in front of the majestic Church of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, and now I will tell you his cruel story, which was previously unknown to Svezhen.

The construction of the Church of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul began in 1864 and two years later was completed and consecrated.

Four years later, a marble plaque with a double-headed eagle was placed in the temple in gratitude to the people who raised funds for its construction, as well as to the Ecumenical Patriarch, who managed to obtain such an important permission from the Ottoman government.

The main task for the construction of the church during the difficult years of slavery was the special committee organized in 1860, whose member was also Peter Pop Stoyanov.

Sakelarius (church treasurer) Peter Pop Stoyanov was born in 1798 and ordained a priest in Adjar in 1847. And as I mentioned, he is the main guardian of Christ's faith and spirit, and Bulgarianness.

And so it happened that quite by chance a team of researchers now found in the temple near the altar a wooden frame and an inscription placed on it in ink.

The inscription reads:

"This church of St. Apostles Peter and Paul was built from its foundations in 1866 and in the uprising of 1877, when 700 to 800 houses were burned in our village and 850 to 900 people were killed, the church was devastated and renovated in 1880 and worship is performed.

At that time the priest was the priest Sakelarius.

Town of Adjar 1880 June 24 This day. "

Apart from a few specific dates regarding the erection and subsequent renovation of the temple, the scale of the atrocities committed during the Russian-Turkish war of liberation in the village in 1877, just before the Liberation, is surprisingly clear.

The historical sources describing the bloodshed after the end of the April Epic of 1876 are definite about the massacres in Batak, Klisura and Perushtitsa, but for Svezhen so far at least the existing information has been about relatively small amounts of ferocious barbarism.

Sakelarius Pop Stoyanov inscribed the frame after the restoration of the church in the years after the events that took place after that memorable April summer of 1876.

Peter Pop Stoyanov died at the beginning of 1896 and was buried here - under the old century-old walnut tree.

The old stone steps leading to the old bell tower, which has long since ceased to echo the nearby slopes of Sarnena Sredna Gora with its sonorous echo, as it did in its youth, are overgrown with grass and are slowly and inexorably disappearing over time.

The bell tower is collapsing!

On the square in front of the Church of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul today stands a monument to Colonel Vladimir Serafimov (1860 - 1934), commander of the Twenty-first Sredna Gora Regiment during the Balkan War (the year is 1912), who remained with the glorious his military exploits in the golden annals of history as the "Liberator of the Rhodopes".

"An old man, but with the cheerfulness of a young man…

Carried in his arms with a powerful "Hurray" of thousands of throats, he was left in front of the battle flag.

Who is this lucky guy? - whispers in the crowd…

The whitened old man kisses for a long time the sacred emblem of duty to the Fatherland…

Tears stream down his still-fresh face.

His eyes sparkled, and with his hat down he walked past the lined-up company, greeting it as he had hastily greeted his heroic 21st Regiment at the same place. "

According to the memoirs of Lieutenant Colonel Nikola Popnoev Kisov, an ally and comrade of Serafimov, at the time platoon commander in the ranks of 21 infantry regiments of Sredna Gora, shared during the construction of the monument erected on Kavgadzhik peak, in memory of those events that took place on the same this place in 19, 20 and 21 October 1912.

"To give way? No! Never! I will not give way to the enemy in the villages where I was greeted yesterday as a liberator! No! Not even look back! To the newly liberated slave, I will not return slavery again! regiment! I have to go through my corpse, then! ... "

These are the words of the "Liberator of the Rhodopes", with which he refuses to carry out the order to withdraw.

"Rhodope Shipka" - this is how history seals forever the glorious and marked triumph of Serafimov's regiment, which restrains the pressure on the Turkish pursuits of Yaver Pasha near the village of Alami Dere south of Smolyan and on the way to Rudozem.

"In front of us - the soldier, in the back - shame, above - rain."

The fiercest battles were fought near Kavgadzhik Peak (later renamed Srednogorets). During the long and cold October nights, our heroes repel five consecutive Turkish attacks.

Colonel Serafimov is on the battlefield among his faithful comrades all the time.

Years later, eyewitnesses recalled that the Turks managed to kill two of the horses the colonel was riding, but that never stopped him from fighting alongside his soldiers. All this has a purely psychological effect on the enemies, who begin to call the colonel "Satan".

That is why in 1934 the village of Alami Dere was renamed Colonel Serafimovo.

The native house of the colonel in Svezhen, intact for 300 years and preserved today in its authentic form, near which lie the remains of the old church "St. George", where in the XVII-XIX century the Adjara literary school flourished, today it has been turned into a museum.

"Let Colonel Serafimov remain, as the people know and love me, unlike all those generals that the people have never heard of."

Colonel Vladimir Serafimov also took an active part in the Great War, which later became known as the First World War, as commander of the First Brigade of the Eighth Tundzha Division. He testified heroically during the fighting near the village of Chegan.

Due to the non-fulfillment of the order of withdrawal given to him in the Rhodopes, he was never promoted to the rank of general.

Near the monument to the colonel you will see two memorial plaques - to Captain I rank Rashko Serafimov - the first Bulgarian submarine officer, commander of the Navy of the Kingdom of Bulgaria in 1919 and Captain Doychin Boyadzhiev - first class military pilot, navigator of the squadron, a patriot and vigilant citizen who died in 1992 in the line of duty.

How to get to the Church of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul in Svezhen?

My dear friends, in case you are traveling through this beautiful region of Bulgaria, be sure to visit the dignified church "Holy Apostles Peter and Paul" in Svezhen.

I wish you an exceptional and impressive walk!

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