Uspensky Cave Monastery

Bakhchisaray Cave Monastery

Useful Information

Location: Near Starosel'ye, Bakhchisarai.
Classification: SubterraneaCave Church Speleologyerosional cave
Guided tours:  
Address: Uspensky Cave Monastery, Tel: +380-, Fax: +380-,
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
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8th cty monastery founded.
9th cty monastery first mentioned.
14?? monastery abandoned after the fall of Byzantium.
15th cty current buildings erected.
1924 monastery closed by the Soviet government.
199? after the collapse of the Soviet Union the abandoned monastery was renovated and opened to the public.


The Uspensky Cave Monastery is located in a steep valley right south of the town Bakhchisaray on the Crimea peninsula. The buildings were erected along the steep limestone cliffs and partly in caves. The cliff face was used as back wall for several buildings, others were built completely inside a cave, some are just facades which close the cave portal. The monastery was originally founded in the 8th century, but there are no documents from this time as it was completely destroyed after the fall of Byzantium. The current monastery was erected on the same place during the 15th century. Because of its location near Bakhchisaray the monastery is also known asBakhchisaray Cave Monastery, another name is Assumption Monastery of the Caves or simply Holy Assumption Monastery.

According to legend the monastery is the result of a miracle. One day a shepherd found an icon of Mary the mother of Jesus illuminated by a candle on the cliffs. The local prince heard this and the icon was brought to his palace. But the next morning the icon had returned to its former place on the cliff. Again the icon was brought to the palace of the prince, but again it vanished miraculously to return to its old place. The people realized that they were meant to leave it where it appeared. They built a chapel at the place, located about 20 m up in the cliffs, and a flight of steps to reach it, and placed the icon in the chapel.

Another legend, which is much older, goes like this. Once a huge snake or dragon appeared in the valley, preying on both cattle and people. At this early times the area was inhabited by Greek and Genoese inhabitants, who were Christians. They prayed to Virgin Mary to free them from the dragon. One night they saw a candle burning high up on the cliff and went to look. They found steps hewn in the rock leading to the candle, which illuminated an image of Virgin Mary. Close to it was the dead body of the dragon. The people cut the corpse into pieces and burned it. But the place where the image of Virgin Mary appeared was transformed into a holy shrine.

The valley around Bakhchisaray has numerous steep limestone cliffs. The river cutting into the rocks created caves and overhangs in the cliff face. There are several monasteries using those cave, up the valley is the more famous monastery Chufut Kale. The mnastery here is less fortified but also much esasier to reach and thus more popular. The monastery is easy to find, as huge portions of the cliff face were evened and then painted with Christian idols during the 19th century.

The monastery was abandoned during the Soviet era, as the new ideology did not allow any religion. But as soon as it collapsed in the early 1990s, the monks returned and started to restore the monastery. The buildings were re-erected, the icons on the cliff face were repainted.