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Personalities from Bansko: Saint Paisius of Hilendar (1722 – 1773)

Paisius of Hilendar is one of the most prominent personalities born in Bulgaria. He is the man who laid the foundations of the Revival period in our country, he is the man who managed only by writing a thin book called “Slavonic-Bulgarian History” to awaken the consciousness of his contemporaries and restore their confidence that they are a people with a glorious and ancient past who gave a lot to the world.

Paisius of Hilendar

The „SlavonicBulgarian History”is being studied in all schools today and there is hardly anyone who is not familiar with the texts contained in it, but very little is known about the life of its author.

Personalities from Bansko: Saint Paisius of Hilendar (1722 – 1773)

In „SlavonicBulgarian History” Paisius wrote that he was born in the Samokov district, without specifying in which settlement, but according to historians, he was born in Bansko in 1722 in the family of Mihail Hadzhivulchev. It is also believed that the secular name of Paisius was either Peter or Penko and he had two brothers – Laurentius Hilendarski and Hadzhi Valcho. One brother, Laurentius, was abbot at the Hilendar Monastery, and Hadzhi Valcho was a wealthy merchant and generous donor who devoted considerable funds to the construction and maintenance of churches and monasteries.

In the times when Paisius was born and raised, the only way to get a good education was to enroll in a monastery, and this is probably why in 1745 the 23-year-old young man became a monk and joined his brother in the Hilendar Monastery.

During the first years behind the monastery walls, the young monk trained hard and turned from a man who “did not know neither grammar nor secular sciences” into an educated and spiritually elevated man. People in the monastery noticed his thirst for knowledge and his willingness to work for the monastery and entrusted him with the difficult task of a taxidote (monastery messanger).

Thus Paisius of Hilendar began to travel all over the country to collect aid for the monastery and to attract pilgrims. During his wanderings and meetings with the ordinary and hardworking Bulgarian families, Paisius realized that the Bulgarian people needed someone to bring back their confidence and show that the nation was formed bypeople with a glorious past.

And over time, a desire was formed in him: “so that the Bulgarians can find out that they are not a people without history“. This desire became even stronger when he went to Mount Athos and was surprised by the rude and arrogant behavior of the Atonic monks, who regarded the Bulgarians as “simple andclumsy people of lower class”.

In order to try to change things, when he returned from Mount Athos, Paisius of Hilendarbegan to search and gather information about the history of Bulgaria, which happened before the onset of the Ottoman rule. The task was not easy at all, since there was almost nothing left to say about who we were and where we came from. So Paisius armed himself with great patience, and started searching through our history and gained inormation frommonastic files, letters, stories of monks, chroniclers, donation documents, etc., etc.

Having collected few documents and assembled part of the historical mosaic, Paisius did not stop there, but expanded his search through monasteries in other countries. Thus, in 1761, he reached the Sremski Karlovci Monastery in Austria, where he came across the works of Caesar Barony and Abbot MavroOrbini, from which he obtained very important information about the history of Bulgaria.

In 1761, he returned to the Hilendar Monastery and began intensive, almost night and day work on the Slavonic-Bulgarian history, but due to a misunderstanding with the other monks, he had to leave the Hilendar Monastery and move to the Zograf Monastery, where in 1762 he finished the greatest work of his life.

Having just finished writing the Slavonic-Bulgarian history, Paisius undertook an even more difficult task, namely to spread the book all over the country, so that more people could read it, so that they would know what a proud, rebellious people are Bulgarian people.

Thus, with a thin handwritten book about the history of Bulgaria, Paisiusof Hilendar started walking on the dusty roads of the country and:

● Stopped in every settlement on his way

● Read to the illiterate

● told stories about our brave kings

● talk about fierce battles

● talked about our victories over huge armies

about the great work of the brothers Constantine – Cyril and Methodius, who gave a read and a letter to all Slavic peoples

Over time, the rumor that a monk goes around villages and palanquins and tells that Bulgarians have a much more ancient history than many other peoples, spread andattracted the interest of people who wanted to transcribe and spread the Slavonic-Bulgarian history.

The first transcript of Paisius Hilendarski’s “History” was made by another great Bulgarian and revivalist – Sofronius Vrachanski, who Paisius met during one of his travels. After Sofronius, more than 60 Bulgarians made copiesof it, who transcribed Paisius’ work by hand.

Thanks to their hard work, Slavonic-Bulgarian history, written by a tireless monk, began to live its own life and became the “thing” that a whole nation needed to wake up and desire to take its place among other nations.

Paisius of Hilendar died in 1773 in the village of Ambelino, on the way to Sveta Gora. The cause of his death is not clear, and this divides historians into two camps. One camp believes that Paisius of Hilendar was attacked by robbers and killed while the other camp claims he died of malnutrition and exhaustion.

Father Paisius was canonized as a saint of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church on June 26, 1962, and since then, every year on June 19, all of Bulgaria honors the memory and work of the great person born in Bansko.

Why the „Slavonic-Bulgarian history” is such an important work for our country?

Paisius of Hilendar

If we had the good fortune of other European countries not to fall under the 5-century Ottoman rule, our country’s history would not be erased and forgotten, and we would remember our roots and be proud of being Bulgarians. Unfortunately, several centuries of slavery has made our entire nation forget where it comes from and what it can do, and this has destroyed the confidence of generations of Bulgarians.

During his tours of the country Paisius of Hilendar was confronted with people without hopewho seemed to accept that they were a “second quality” nation, with no history and no future. He encountered a nation that had forgotten so much where it came from, that it readily accepted foreign language, faith, and traditions. He encountered a nation so tired and humiliated that it preferred to worship foreigners instead of fighting to keep the flames of the Bulgarianroots.

What Paisius saw heralded the end of an ancient nation, and the only way he could fix things was to try to awaken the self-esteem of Bulgarians and make them, knowing their history, believe that they were not just “slaves.” And he succeeded! By writing the Slavonic-Bulgarian history, Paisius managed not only to bring hope for the enslaved Bulgaria, but also to awaken the people’s consciousness and restore their self-confidence as Bulgarians because they come from an ancient and great people, so they will not let any other nation punish them without consequences.

Thanks to Paisius and his small book, one of the most important historical periods began in our country – the Bulgarian Revival Period, which marked the beginning of the end of the Ottoman rule. Written in simple words, “Slavonic – Bulgarian history” even with its introduction “hits” right in the heart…

Oh… foolish fools! Because of that, you are ashamed to be called a Bulgarian and do not speak or read your own language. Or did the Bulgarians have no kingdom and state? They have reigned for so many years and have been glorious and famous all over the earth. ”…

After this extremely influential introduction, Paisius tells the history of the establishment of the Bulgarian state, speaks about our kings, highlights our greatest victories in the battles with the Byzantine Empire and ends with the fall of Bulgaria under Ottoman rule. One whole chapter Paisius dedicates to the holy brothers Cyril and Methodius and the work of their life – the creation of the Slavonic alphabet.

There is no other book that has been of such great importance in preserving our national history and memory! That is why there should not be any Bulgarian who has not read “Slavonic-Bulgarian history” and who did not pay homage to its author.

Where we can pay tribute to one of the greatest personalities from Bansko and Bulgaria – Paisius of Hildendar?

Almost in the very center of Bansko there is a monument of Father Paisius and every one of us who visits the town should spend some time to put one flower on this monument. We must not forget for a moment that thanks to Paisius today we know and remember the history of our nation!

Paisius of Hilendar

Apart from the monument, we can also visit the Spiritual and historical centerPaisius of Hildendar, which opened doors in Bansko in 2002. The spiritual and historical center was built on the site of the birth house of Paisius of Hilendarand there is an exposition in which we can see a copy of the monastic cell in the Hilendar Monastery, in which Paisius wrote most of the Slavonic-Bulgarian history.

In addition to the copy of the cell, in the Spiritual and Historical center we can also see the copy of the chapel “St. Ivan Rilski“, in which Paisius often prayed, as well as we can see soil from Mount Athos, and many documents and pictures of the famous people who once lived in Bansko, which left a bright trace not only in the history of Bansko, but in the history of the entire country.