The Monastery of Saint Jovan Bigorski is dedicated to St. John the Baptist. One of its most valuable treasures is the iconostasis, created by Petre Filipovski, and considered one of the finest examples of wood-carved iconostases.
According to its 1833 chronicle, the monastery was built in 1020 by Ivan I Debranin. The Ottomans destroyed the monastery in the 16th century, but it was restored in 1743 by the monk Ilarion, who also constructed a number of cells for monks. The archimandrite Arsenius further expanded the monastery between 1812 and 1825. The historical record also mentions a monk Iov, recognized by some researchers as the future educator Yoakim Karchovski.
Most of the old monastery complex was destroyed by a fire in 2009, while the new sections of the complex and church were saved. Reconstruction of the old sections began in May 2010 with the goal of restoring the buildings as closely as possible to their original style.
The monastery has a large collection of holy relics including John the Baptist, Clement of Ohrid, Lazarus of Bethany, Saint Stephen, Saint Nicholas, Saint Barbara, Paraskevi of Rome, Tryphon, Respicius, and Nympha, and part of the Holy Cross.
Another valuable monastery treasure is an icon dating from 1020 with supposedly miraculous healing power.References:
The Abbey of Saint-Etienne, also known as Abbaye aux Hommes ('Men"s Abbey'), is a former monastery dedicated to Saint Stephen (Saint Étienne). It is considered, along with the neighbouring Abbaye aux Dames ('Ladies" Abbey'), to be one of the most notable Romanesque buildings in Normandy. Like all the major abbeys in Normandy, it was Benedictine.
Lanfranc, before being an Archbishop of Canterbury, was abbot of Saint-Etienne. Built in Caen stone during the 11th century, the two semi-completed churches stood for many decades in competition. An important feature added to both churches in about 1120 was the ribbed vault, used for the first time in France. The two abbey churches are considered forerunners of the Gothic architecture. The original Romanesque apse was replaced in 1166 by an early Gothic chevet, complete with rosette windows and flying buttresses. Nine towers and spires were added in the 13th century. The interior vaulting shows a similar progression, beginning with early sexpartite vaulting (using circular ribs) in the nave and progressing to quadipartite vaults (using pointed ribs) in the sanctuary.
The two monasteries were finally donated by William the Conqueror and his wife, Matilda of Flanders, as penalty for their marriage against the Pope"s ruling. William was buried here; Matilda was buried in the Abbaye aux Dames. Unfortunately William"s original tombstone of black marble, the same kind as Matilda"s in the Abbaye aux Dames, was destroyed by the Calvinist iconoclasts in the 16th century and his bones scattered.
As a consequence of the Wars of Religion, the high lantern tower in the middle of the church collapsed and was never rebuilt. The Benedictine abbey was suppressed during the French Revolution and the abbey church became a parish church. From 1804 to 1961, the abbey buildings accommodated a prestigious high school, the Lycée Malherbe. During the Normandy Landings in 1944, inhabitants of Caen found refuge in the church; on the rooftop there was a red cross, made with blood on a sheet, to show that it was a hospital (to avoid bombings).