Situated among a lush meadow near the mining town of Pirdop, the Elenska Basilica is an imposing red-brick ruin with three apses and vaults rising for up to 9 m. Some say it was built as early as the 4th Century, but construction in the late 5th or the beginning of the 6th centuries is more probable. The basilica was the heart of the monastic community of St Elijah, and was protected with a strong wall against the attacks of the Barbarians, which by that time had become regular. Nearby was a small settlement. 

Elenska Basilica

The monastery held its own for several centuries and survived the Ottoman conquest of the late 14th Century. Over the next three centuries the monks of St Elijah were guardians of Bulgarian culture because of their industrious work in the local scriptorium. But in 1700 the monastery was attacked by an Ottoman commander and was destroyed. 

It's unclear why the locals renamed the church of St Elijah to Elenska Basilica. According to one legend, St Helena, the mother of Emperor Constantine, stopped here on her return from the Holy Land carrying the True Cross. Her visit made a deep impression on the local people and when they later built the basilica, they named it after the emperor's mother. 

Elenska Basilica

Despite its current ruinous state, the Elenska Basilica has a place in the local religious life. An old cross-shaped tombstone, probably from the 19th Century, stands where the altar used to be. There is someone who always places flowers and lights candles on it. 


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