Saint Dimitri the New (Basarabov)
Saint Dimitri the New (Basarabov) lived in the 13th century and little is known about his life. He was born in the village of Basarabov, located on the banks of the River Lom, near the town of Russe. A shepherd in his early years, it is said that St Dimitri had later became a monk, dedicating himself to fasting, prayers and vigils. For his humble life, God entrusted him with the power to work miracles. The pious Dimitri knew the moment of his death beforehand, and choose the place of his final rest between two stones that were gradually covered by the river. The place of his rest was unknown until a sick child had a revelation when the pious Dimitri appeared in her dream and said: “If your parents would take me out of the water, I will heal you!”
(1st Chant from the Kanon of St. Dimitri the New, Romanian)
A ray of light had appeared for quite some time at the site where the holy relics were found, leading people to initially believe that a treasure was hidden in that place.
Acting at the girl’s advice, they searched the place and found the relics of pious Dimitri, glittering as gold. The saint’ body was taken to the village of Basarabov. Between 1769 and 1774, during the Russian-Turkiss war, the relics were brought to Romania with the intention of being sent to Russia.
However, Metropolitan Grigorie (Gregory) of Walachia, insisted that they should be given to the Romanian people as a gift for the sufferance they endured during the war. The relics were taken in great procession to the Patriarchal Cathedral of Bucharest.
The saint’s right hand was sent to Kiev, where it has been preserved to this day. The Synod of the Romanian Orthodox Church, had great devotion to Saint Dimitri the New and starting with 1950, the saint was venerated nationwide and recognized as the patron saint of Romania’s capital city.
The Monastery of Saint Dimitri the New
The Monastery of Saint Dimitri Basarabov was founded over the cave where Saint Dimitri the New lived his ascetic life. The Monastery is located near the town of Basarabov, Bulgaria.
The village of Basarabov, initially located 3-4 km from the river Danube, was moved slightly to Ivanovo, near the cave where Saint Dimitri lived.
Located in the picturesque valley of the Lom river, the Basarabov Monastery, is the only monastery in Bulgaria carved in the rock and inhabited since its establishment.
Where river Lom meets the Danube, climbing to Ivanovo, the pilgrim will encounter more then 300 caves dug in the rocky side of river. Almost 40 of these caves were transformed into small churches where Divine Liturgy was served for several hundred years. Many wall frescoes of the original caves have lasted until today. The monastery and the caves of Ivanovo are part of UNESCO patrimony.
The Monastery of Saint Demetrius Basarabov — Brief History
The Monastery of St Dimitri the New was founded by the family of Basarabs and was initially under the care of John the Basarab, and first ruler of Romanian Country.
The present monastery of St. Demetrius was built in 1865. It consists of a church, built in the cave of St. Dimitri, and some cells carved in the rocks nearby.
The Monastery was burned down during the Russian-Turkish war. At that time more than 60 valuable icons from the church were stolen. The village of Basarabov was completely destroyed and the relics could not longer remained in the ravanged church.
The earliest historical evidence about this Monastery dates back to the XV century, in some of the tax records of the Ottoman Empire. An extensive description of the property owned at that time by Vlach leader Ivanko Basarab, the father of Tsar Ivan Alexander – is found in one of these registers, called “Timar” and it’s the oldest written record where the name of the town Basarbov is mentioned.
In 1911, a Committee of historical vestiges was established at the National Museum of Archeology in Sofia. The main task of this committee was to develop an archaeological map for the whole country of Bulgaria.
A Czech pilgrim who took several scientific trips to Bulgaria between 1887 and 1892, was called to be part of the committee. In 1912, Skorpil went on a trip on the river Lom, and at that time he would visit and describe the famous monastery of Basarbov.
Because of the Turkish rules in Bulgaria, it is unknown when the monastery was abandoned by the archaeologists.
The future bishop of Smolyan, Father Tikhon, took care of Basarabov monastery around 1919.
A new committee having the task of raising money to re-build the cells was established in 1937. The monastery cells were finished and blessed on May 14, 1937, but have survived only until 1940, when a flood destroyed the entire building.
Monk Chrysanthos, who settled here from 1937 until 1961, started to raise donations for the restoration of damaged cells. Thus, in less than one month, he gathered enough money to raise two cells near the church and were finished on August 30, 1940.
The new church will retain the iconostasis – carved in wood in 1941. A large icon of Saint Dimitri the New standing up, depicts his wonders. The icon bares an inscription in Cyrillic Greek and Romanian languages.
The monastery also bares the cell and burial place of father Chrysanthos, as well as the remains of other monks that struggled in this place.
Saint Dimitri the New (Basarabov)
Some researchers believe that the new Saint Dimitri of Basarabov have lived during the flourishing of hesychasm, while others believe that he lived in the XII century. Paisius of Hilandar recorded in his chronical that St. Dimitri is a recent saint of our times because he was still living in 1685. In a copy of the Slavo-Bulgarian chronic of monk Panteleimon from Russe, it is said that St. Dimitri lived in the eighteenth century and was buried in the Monastery of Basarabov.
The saint nationality is not clear, as in the eighteenth century many villages in tha region of Russe had mixed population.
According to Paisius of Hilandar and his famous book “the Slavo-Bulgarian History”, Saint Dimitri the New led the simple life of a layman/ peasant. In the notes of Nicholas Nemtov teacher (1898) in Basarabov, it is mentioned that Saint Dimitri attended the Church of St. John, every Sunday and holiday, and the rest of the days he was watching the village’ cows, receiving only bread and water, and only from the wealthy people of the village.
Saint Dimitri will later become a monk in the Monastery of Basarab founded in the outskirts of his village. Teacher Nemtov also describes how the relics of St. Dimitri Basarabov were discovered. It is said that a young maiden from the village of Cherven Voda lost her sight. One night, she was dreaming that she went to the monastery of Basarabov, was washing her face with water from the fountain of St. Dimitri, and regained her sight.
The young girl tells her parents about the dream and decided to go to Basarabov. Arriving at dawn, she remained overnight with her parents, wanting to wash with water from the fountain the next early morning. But at night, having great eye pain, the girl went to the fountain, washed and regained her sight. Looking over the river Lom – passing in front of the monastery, she saw several lit candles and torches, and in the water the holy relics of Saint Dimitri shining as gold.
The girl’s father is called, but he does not see anything. The next day, the body of the saint is found and removed from the river by the priests of Russe. The holy relics of St. Dimitri are taken first to the city of Russe, but the oxen pulling the cart with his relics stopped in front of his father’s house. A church will be built here baring the name of the saint.
The tradition also tells us how the Turks during an attack, in search for a treasure, unearth the saint relics. Finding the relics of St Dimitri, the turks threw then into the river Lom, where they remained hidden between the shore and the rocks, for 33 years until they were found by a pious Christian. They were taken to Basarbov village, where they have worked countless miracles.
In a miracle recorded before the relics were to be taken to the Metropolitan Cathedral in Bucharest, it is said how a Turk tried to steal a silver candle at night from the Church of St. Dimitri. Suddenly his legs became paralyzed and the turk will remained until the next morning in front of the shrine with the holy relics.
During the Russo-Turkish War (1768-1774), his holy relics were transported to Bucharest by General Peter Saltykov, and placed with great devotion and joy in St. Constantine and Helen’ Patriarchal Cathedral, where they are preserved until today.