VILLAGE WHOSE CHURCH STAYS OPEN

by Dimana Trankova; photography by Anthony Georgieff

Dlagnya, in Stara Planina, is rare example of rural community revived

dlagnya church.jpg

The villages in Bulgaria that are abuzz with life are generally located around cities in the plains, like those surrounding Plovdiv. Their houses were mostly built after the 1960s, so more often than not they do not offer much for the curious visitor to see, besides the ubiquitous memorial to some local Communist and a few stalls with fresh homegrown produce.

The villages that charm with their traditional architecture and atmosphere are the complete opposite: they are located in the mountains and are now depopulated. Their houses are crumbling, their gardens full of weeds, their churches locked, their cemeteries abandoned. The extent of these villages and the presence of large communal buildings, such as churches and community centres, suggest that once they teemed with life. That came to an end with the emigration to larger cities that followed the forced industrialisation under Communism, and the continued emigration to larger cities and abroad, fuelled the hardships that followed the transition to democracy.

Dlagnya is a village that defies the general rule.

It has fewer than 30 permanent residents and is located on the northern slopes of the Stara Planina, near Dryanovo. The area is liberally scattered with small villages and hamlets that once were home to thousands of people but are now mostly empty.

Dlagnya village

St Dimitar is an example for a village church that does not open for funerals only

 

 

Dlagnya, however, looks in good shape. The houses in the centre are well maintained and the main place of interest, the 1842 St Dimitar Church, has been sensitively restored and is now open for the major Orthodox holidays. When this happens, the visitors in and around the church by far outnumber those who live in Dlagnya.

Until 2002, Dlagnya was the same as the other villages around: quiet, with a locked church. Then, however, the locals organised themselves, and gathered enough money to restore St Dimitar. A young and active priest from Veliko Tarnovo started visiting. Believers and curious locals from the region began to gather, attracted by the tranquility of the place, the genuine feel of community, and the beautiful natural surroundings.

At important Christian feasts now dozens of Bulgarians and expats living in the region attend mass at St Dimitar, listen to classical concerts performed in the church, and share meals at the restored 1867 village school in the churchyard.

Outside these events, however, Dlagnya returns to the quietness of a mountain village abandoned by most of its former inhabitants. 

Dlagnya village

The classical concert at the Dlagnya church after Christmas mass has become a local tradition

 

America for Bulgaria FoundationHigh Beam is a series of articles, initiated by Vagabond Magazine, with the generous support of the America for Bulgaria Foundation, that aims to provide details and background of places, cultural entities, events, personalities and facts of life that are sometimes difficult to understand for the outsider in the Balkans. The ultimate aim is the preservation of Bulgaria's cultural heritage – including but not limited to archaeological, cultural and ethnic diversity. The statements and opinionsexpressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the America for Bulgaria Foundation and its partners.

  • COMMENTING RULES

    Commenting on www.vagabond.bg

    Vagabond Media Ltd requires you to submit a valid email to comment on www.vagabond.bg to secure that you are not a bot or a spammer. Learn more on how the company manages your personal information on our Privacy Policy. By filling the comment form you declare that you will not use www.vagabond.bg for the purpose of violating the laws of the Republic of Bulgaria. When commenting on www.vagabond.bg please observe some simple rules. You must avoid sexually explicit language and racist, vulgar, religiously intolerant or obscene comments aiming to insult Vagabond Media Ltd, other companies, countries, nationalities, confessions or authors of postings and/or other comments. Do not post spam. Write in English. Unsolicited commercial messages, obscene postings and personal attacks will be removed without notice. The comments will be moderated and may take some time to appear on www.vagabond.bg.

Add new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.

Restricted HTML

  • Allowed HTML tags: <a href hreflang> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote cite> <code> <ul type> <ol start type> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd> <h2 id> <h3 id> <h4 id> <h5 id> <h6 id>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • Web page addresses and email addresses turn into links automatically.

Discover More

WHO WAS LYUDMILA ZHIVKOVA?
Her father's daughter who imposed her own mediocrity on Bulgaria's culture? Or a forbearing politician who revived interest in Bulgaria's past and placed the country on the world map? Or a quirky mystic? Or a benefactor to the arts?

CATHOLIC BULGARIA
In 1199, Pope Innocent III wrote a letter to Bulgarian King Kaloyan to offer an union.

RHODOPE IN FULL BLOSSOM
The Rhodope mountains have an aura of an enchanted place no matter whether you visit in summer, autumn or winter. But in springtime there is something in the Bulgarian south that makes you feel more relaxed, almost above the ground.

BIZARRE BULGARIA
There are many ways to categorise and promote Bulgaria's heritage: traditional towns and villages, Thracian rock sanctuaries, nature, sun and fun on the seaside, and so on and so forth.

KARLOVO
Karlovo is one of those places where size does not equal importance.

SILENCE OF SHARDS
Pavlikeni, a town in north-central Bulgaria, is hardly famous for its attractions, and yet this small, quiet place is the home of one of the most interesting ancient Roman sites in Bulgaria: a villa rustica, or a rural villa, with an incredibly well-preserv

BULGARIAN EASTER
How to celebrate like locals without getting lost in complex traditions

BULGARIA'S TOP 10 SMALL TOWNS
Small-town Bulgaria is a diverse place. Some of the towns are well known to tourists while others are largely neglected by outsiders.

BORDER ZONE VILLAGE
Of the many villages in Bulgaria that can be labeled "a hidden treasure," few can compete with Matochina. Its old houses are scattered on the rolling hills of Bulgaria's southeast, overlooked by a mediaeval fortress.

WHO WAS GEO MILEV?
Poet who lost an eye in the Great War, changed Bulgarian literature - and was assassinated for his beliefs

SEEING DEVIL IN DEVIL'S BRIDGE
In previous times, when information signs of who had built what were yet to appear on buildings of interest, people liberally filled the gaps with their imagination.

URBEX BG, PART 2
If anything defines the modern Bulgarian landscape, it is the abundance of recent ruins left from the time when Communism collapsed and the free market filled the void left by planned economy.