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  • Writer's pictureStefan Ivanov

The village of Golyamo Belovo and the trail to the Belovo Basilica

Updated: Jan 19, 2023

Where the Rhodopes mountain and Rila mountain meet Sredna Gora mountain, there, under the shadow of Belmeken peak, there, on the road Belovo - Yundola, in the beautiful gorge along the river Yadenitsa, which separates the Rhodopes from Rila, there, in the mountains, there is a beautiful village. It proudly bears the name Golyamo Belovo.

The village of Golyamo Belovo, Pazardzhik area, Bulgaria

How do you get here?

The village of Golyamo Belovo is located very close to the town of Belovo, on the road Belovo - Yundola, in the beautiful gorge along the river Yadenitsa.

Golyamo Belovo is an old village steeped with an ancient history.

The first traces of human life around Golyamo Belovo date back to the Neolithic. Several settlements from the VI - III millennium BC, fortresses and remains of dozens of settlements from different historical epochs have been discovered, as the archeological sites prove the rich historical past of the whole area. A Thracian tomb was found, built of hewn stones, which rose in a dome with a diameter of 5.30 meters. The oldest known population of the Belovo region is the Thracian tribe Bessi.

The village of Golyamo Belovo, Pazardzhik area, Bulgaria

Legends link the name of Orpheus with the Belovo region.

In the VI century in this area settled part of the Slavic tribe Dragoviti.

In late antiquity and the Middle Ages, the largest settlement in the area was the town of Levke, whose name translated from ancient Greek means "white" and is located on an area of 80 acres on St. Spas peak.

The ruins of the ancient city-fortress of Levke
Levke ruins

In 813, during the reign of Khan Krum, the Belovo region was included in the Bulgarian state.

The village of Golyamo Belovo was established during the Slavic-Bulgarian era with the Slavic name Belovo, in the sense of a beautiful and fertile place.

When the monastery was built, the village received its Greek name Levke. This name was used only during the Byzantine rule, while in Turkish and to present days remains only the Bulgarian Belovo.

Throughout the Middle Ages, the district was the center of a heroic struggle to defend the Bulgarian nation and state independence. The most striking example in this struggle is the heroic resistance of the Rakovitsa fortress, whose defense against the Ottoman invasion was artistically recreated by the writer Lyudmil Stoyanov in his drama The Death of Rakovitsa. These events took place during the Turkish invasion of the Hague Daut Pasha in 1378.

The remains of the medieval Bulgarian fortress Rakovitsa can still be found on the northern slopes of Rila, near the old road Golyamo Belovo - Sestrimo.

During the difficult centuries of slavery, the Belovo region, with its inaccessible mountains and forests, was formed as one of the centers of the haidouk movement. Especially after the mass conversion to Islam of the Bulgarians in the Rhodopes (1666 ÷ 1669), the detachments of the legendary Sekul voivoda, Strahil voivoda and Sirma voivoda fought here.

The famous Belovo Chronicle originates from the village, testifying to the violence during the conversion of Christians to Islam in the Rhodopes.

During the Revival era, Golyamo Belovo as an economic and spiritual center, gave birth to prominent participants in the national liberation struggle. From 1873 to 1875 the telegraph operator and chief of Belovo station was the apostle of Bulgarian freedom Todor Kableshkov. In 1874 he founded the Chitalishte Iskra in Golyamo Belovo and prepared the people of Belovo for the future revolution.

The population of the Belovo region has been actively participating in the April Epic of 1876.

In Belovo, more than twenty people joined Benkovski's detachment. Among them are Marin Tachkov (Matsko) - the youngest insurgent and Maria Sutic - the only woman in the detachment. During the uprising, the Belovo fortified post suffered several dozen casualties.

Golyamo Belyovo was liberated from Ottoman slavery on January 14, 1878.

At the outbreak of the Balkan War in 1912, six residents of Golyamo Belyovo were volunteers in the Macedonian-Edirne militia.

In Golyamo Belovo is one of the oldest churches in Pazardzhik region - "St. George”, which is 200 years old and is now almost completely renovated. The church "St. George” was built in the period 1806-1813.

In the village there is another church built during the Renaissance - "St. Nicholas".

Other Christian sites in and around the village are several chapels.

Golyamo Belovo is one of the oldest educational centers in our lands - there were a number of class schools here.

Until 1966 the village was named Golyamo Belyovo. This is how the local natives know it.

One of the landmarks of the village is Alabashka Polyana. A monument is preserved on it.

It was visited by Ivan Vazov and Aleko Konstantinov.

There used to be houses with bay windows on both sides of the road and the river, there were more than fifteen pubs and many slaughterhouses, and over the river are still preserved old houses 200 years old.

The village of Golyamo Belovo, Pazardzhik area, Bulgaria
More than 50 houses in the village have been declared cultural monuments

There is a house in Golyamo Belovo where Stoyan Mihajlovski has spent a short part of his life.

It was painted in 1844 by Petraki Kostović from Samokov.

An exceptional work of the Revival era woodcarving is the iconostasis, made by masters from the Bansko-Razlog woodcarving school. Some of the icons from the royal order of the iconostasis were painted by Hristo Dimitrov - father of Zahari Zograf.

Above the village, on the peak of St. Spas (the people of Belovo call it Spasovitsa) you will find the Belovo Basilica. It is one of the best preserved early Christian churches in Bulgaria.

The church dates from the IV ÷ V century and was part of the ruined late antique and medieval city-fortress of Levke. The basilica was three-aisled and in the Byzantine architectural style.

In the 17th century, during the great forced conversion of the Christian population of the villages in the region to Islam, the church was destroyed by the Ottomans.

Nowadays, in the immediate vicinity of the remains of the old basilica is built the church "St. Mother of God”.

The ruins of the Belovo basilica (Belovska basilica)
The beautiful ruins of the Belovo basilica

From Golyamo Belovo is Bai Dimitar, who is known among all Belovo residents as Pantata.

He personally marked the trail leading to the St. Spas hill.

The trail to the Belovo Basilica

I arrived in Golyamo Belovo in the early Saturday morning of February.

Even though it was February, the day promised to be warm and sunny, with no wind, in short, a day for a great adventure in the mountains. And so it happened!

Arriving in Golyamo Belovo it was only 7 degrees, but very soon the temperatures get higher.

I found a parking space near the yard of Bai Dimitar, who so kindly offered me to leave my car right next to the lush and roaring Yadenitsa River.

Pantata is a charismatic golyamo-belovo man who grew up here and knows the history of the village very well. We met quite by accident.

He told me about life in the village, shared fond memories of the time when he was a child and directed me to Spasovitsa, explicitly pointing out where and what to watch out for along the way.

Yadenitsa river and the bridge in the village of Golyamo Belovo, Pazardzhik area, Bulgaria
Yadenitsa River and the bridge over it

It is interesting that the river is the conditional border that separates the Rhodopes from Rila, ie. I can conclude that I parked in the most northwestern part of the Rhodope Mountains. From the opposite bank of the river, the proud slopes of Rila welcomed me.

Belmeken peak was still covered in snow, and that only reminded me that it was still February and winter was really in full swing.

But the sun was already rising high above the mountain and I, perfectly oriented and informed by this exceptional guide - Mr. Dimitar, went to the new Saturday (springfully, but in the winter) adventure in the Rhodopes.

On the way you will find a sign called "Vazov trail", which you can turn left if you come from Belovo.

Why "Vazov"?

Because the trail leads to Alabashka Polyana, which is also visited by Vazov.

At the end of the street you will find a house with two signs on its walls: "Vazov trail ALABAK" of the BTS and "This house was visited by Ivan Vazov - 1882 and Aleko Konstantinov - 1897."

The first sign is in the shape of an arrow and instructs you to turn right and past the house.

Continue along the street and slowly leave the village.

The road is already slightly muddy, but wide enough and very good all the time.

You will soon arrive at the first interesting places to visit, namely "Hadji Nikolova fountain", built in the summer of 2010, which in itself is a famous landmark and an excellent site for visiting and relaxing.

And here is the moment to share with you that with my first step in Golyamo Belovo I fell in love with this village!

It's incredibly beautiful!

The air is crystal clear and you can breathe with full breasts!

The river was raging and I couldn't yelling it!

The village of Golyamo Belovo, Pazardzhik area, Bulgaria

I enjoyed the majestic rocks that towered over the village and on which the tricolor fluttered!

The nearby hill, on which a huge cross was erected, looked magnificent!

The village of Golyamo Belovo, Pazardzhik area, Bulgaria
The church “St. Georgi”, whitening opposite!

Clear, cold mountain water for thirsty throats gushed from the Hadji Nikolova Fountain.

Here is a beautifully arranged shed, with barbecue, wooden tables and benches and beautiful scenery hanging on the walls.

The village of Golyamo Belovo, Pazardzhik area, Bulgaria

Immediately after the fountain there is a large sign. On it is depicted the place of the fountain and the road winding to the very top of St. Spas peak.

Going forward.

Even in winter, the birds greet the warm sun and sing merry songs that guide my footsteps and I walk brightly forward and upward.

The trail to the Belovska basilica

The road is wide, muddy in places and leads to the mountain. Put on your feet well, take enough water with you and prepare for a journey that will take you more, which is time consuming. You will climb almost to the cherished goal, so it is up to you when and where to take breaks.

I covered the route in about two and a half hours and with a serious amount of breaks. The distance in one direction is about 1.5 km.

The marking

You can't go wrong!

The trail is well marked, for which we thank Bai Dimitar - Pantata and his countrymen!

Great job, friends!

The trail to the Belovska basilica

At each turn or fork there is an arrow or sign indicating the correct direction - both on the way out and back.

Benches have been set up on the sides of the road for relaxation.

There were logs in many places along the road, on which he also rested very pleasantly.

Where with more breaks, where with less, you will arrive in the middle of our adventure - Shabanska niva, which is depicted on the large sign, which was mentioned recently.

I keep going up.

The trail to the Belovska basilica

There comes a time when the signs will make you leave the main road and go through the forest.

I set off on a narrow path, winding through the trees through the forest. Again, everything is perfectly marked and marked - every turn, both in one direction and in the other (however, let's think about the way back).

The trail to the Belovska basilica

At one point, the path became even steeper and at the same time thick with fallen oak leaves, between which large and round stones were found, apparently remnants of an ancient and ancient path.

Don't forget the rests! The climb will be easier if you just rest from time to time.

The trail will take you out of the forest, while you will see in front of you a number of sheds lined with wooden benches, a large fireplace, a fountain with gushing cold mountain water for thirsty throats and in the distance - a church.

This is the place! I have arrived!

St. Bogorodista church in the Spasovitsa area
The newly built church "St. Mother of God ”
The fountain next to the St. Bogorodista church

To the newly built church I find another, smaller fountain.

The ruins of the Belovska basilica

On the left I see the majestic ruins of the Belovo Basilica!

I wish you an exceptional and impressive walk!

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