The village of Bozhentsi is located at an altitude of 750m in the central part of the Stara Planina Range, very close to the Shipka pass. It lies 16 km east of Gabrovo, 201 km from Sofia, 25 km from Varna, 116 km from Plovdiv and 207 km from Burgas.
The village has a temperate continental climate influenced by the surrounding mountains. They are a barrier to the cold northerly and the warm southerly winds. The average rainfall here is higher than the country’s average. Snow stays 100-101 days during the year.
The permanent population of Bozhentsi is 33 inhabitants (January 1, 2007 census).
The houses are beautifully situated on the hilly banks of Bozhanka River whose sources are not very far from the village. Bozhentsi is a place where everyone can find peace and calm.
The village was founded after the Ottoman invasion of Turnovo in 1393. Many Bulgarians fled from the then capital of Bulgaria and settled in the Balkan Mountains. Legend has it that among them was the young Boyar woman Bozhana. She and her nine sons found shelter and security amidst the century-old forests. They built a village that still bears the noblewoman’s name. Her sons introduced crafts and trade and in this way the village grew to become an important commercial center during the National Revival period.
Near the village ran the Roman road linking Nicopolis ad Istrum, Augusta Trajana and Constantinople. The road facilitated trade with Bucharest, Vienna, Brashov, Edirne, Istanbul, Alexandria and Ismail. The socio-economic changes in Bulgaria during the second half of the 17th century had a positive impact on Bozhentsi. Many new houses were built. The main occupation of the population was trade and crafts. The Bozhentsi merchants traded in wool, furs, wax, honey and artifacts made by the local blacksmiths, weavers and tailors. The village continued to prosper during the 18th century when two small schools and a reading club were opened.
The heyday period in the history of Bozhentsi was in the late 19th century when its population reached 500 inhabitants living in 110 beautiful houses. It became an important administrative, commercial, cultural and spiritual center.
After the liberation from Ottoman domination at the end of the 19th century, the inhabitants of Bozhentsi migrated to larger towns in Bulgaria.
Bozhenti is a unique authentic village with 100 houses some of which are over a hundred and even two hundred years old. In 1964 it was declared an architectural and historic preserve. Bozhentsi is on the list of the UNESCO World Heritage.
In the middle of the 20th century it was a favorite place for artists and writers who were charmed by its atmosphere. Every year Bozhentsi it hosts children’s plein-air competitions. It is an attractive tourist destination.
Places to visit
What makes the typical and unforgettable view of Bozhentsi are the high stone walls with heavy oak gates, the narrow cobble-stone streets with stone fountains, the old shops and the stone bridges over the Bozhanka River. The inhabitants of Bozhentsi were well-to-do Bulgarians and most of their houses were two or even three-storied. Worth seeing are the homes of Priest Doncho, Baba (Grandma) Raina and Peko Kozhuharov. Another place of interest is the museum house of the famous merchant Ivan Karadimitrov who sponsored the building of the first school in 1872.
There are also two house museums of the 18th and the first half of the 19th century dispalying authentic objects from that period as well as a permanent bazaar exhibition.
The three-nave basilica of the Prophet Elijah is yet another monument of the National Revival architecture. Built in 1835, it has solid stonewalls, vaults and cupolas hidden under the slanting roof. An interesting detail is the slightly bent floor in front of the altar decorated with a wooden iconostasis. The influential inhabitants of Bozhentsi succeeded in receiving a permission to build a bell tower – something forbidden by the Turkish authorities in those days. The bell, still preserved, was brought from the remote Russian town of Tula. At the lower end of the churchyard was a small school built in 1872. Today it houses an exhibition of lithographs.