Monastery of the St Mother of God Spileotissa
Monastery of the St Mother of God Spileotissa or "St Zona" (in Bulgarian - manastir "Sveta Bogoroditsa Spileotisa or "Sveta Zona") is one of the valuable cultural and historical monuments of the town Melnik. The monastery was built at the beginning of the 13-th century by despot Alexius Slav’s order. This is one of the earliest examples of a typical monastery construction of the beginning of the 13-th century. It was built on an inaccessible place. It was a part of Slav’s fortress and was a second-level fortification of a defence system. The ruins indicate that the monastery had a classical canonical structure of medeival monasteries - monastic cells, a refectory, a hall for guests, a library and a defensive tower. There were two churches situated on the territory of the monastery - "St Mother of God Spileotissa " and "St Zona", as well as a cemetery chapel.
The monastery is known for the famous charter issued by Despot Alexius Slav in 1220. It was donating a feudal possession to the monastery. In this charter the monastery is mentioned as "the despot’s and tsar’s one". Currently there are no other monasteries known with the similar status, and this reinforces its national and historical importance.
Monastery of the St Mother of God Spileotissa experienced many vicissitudes of fate. Since the second half of the 14-th century to the beginning of the 20-th century the monastery was metochion of the Monastery of Vatopedi on Mount Athos. It was three times destroyed and rebuilt again. Since the middle of the 19-th century it starts to fall into decay and eventually stops functioning during the First World War. Currently the monastery is partly functioning. During the 40-ies on the ruins of its main temple the chapel "St Zona" was built, the only restored chapel of Melnik’s monasteries. Despite the fact that there are only ruins left from the monastery, it is still esteemed as a holy place.
Monastery of the St Mother of God Spileotissa is situated among beautiful landscapes in the eastern hills of St Nicholas, to the south from the town Melnik.