Monastery of Saint Athanasius

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The Monastery of Saint Athanasius

The Monastery of Saint Athanasius (Bulgarian: манастир „Свети Атанасий“) is a Bulgarian Orthodox monastery located close to the village of Zlatna livada in Chirpan municipality, Stara Zagora Province. The patron saint's day of the church is 2 May, when several thousand people gather.

According to Bulgarian archaeological and historical research from 2004, it is the oldest active monastery in Europe. An expedition led by doctor and academician Rosen Milev was carried out on 18 January 2004, affirming that the monastery was founded by Athanasius of Alexandria in 344 while returning from the Council of Sardica in present-day Sofia. On the way back he stopped and slept in a Roman fortress, the remains of which are located close to today's monastery, deciding to found a monastery due to the strong influence of the Arians (see Ulfilas), whom he considered heretical, on the Goths living in the region of Beroe[citation needed] (modern Stara Zagora). After his death in 373, the monastery was named after him. This is regarded to be proven by the passional of Saint Athanasius and the annals of the Patriarchate of Alexandria, as well as further research in the Vatican Secret Archives.[citation needed]

The existence of the monastery during the Middle Ages is evidenced by archaeological material. It was also visited by Bulgarian revolutionary Vasil Levski during his trips throughout the country in the late 19th century. The present buildings of the Monastery of Saint Athanasius were constructed in the 1980s after an idea by Lyudmila Zhivkova. The Greek Patriarch of Alexandria, Peter VII, visited the monastery in 2003.

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