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St. Petka and the stone bread

Original version
According to the legend there was a cave in which St. Petka tried to hide from infidels that were persectuing her. In that cave are still preserved foot and hand prints and a stone bread. The saint hid in the cave, lit a fire and baked a load of bread. At that time though her persecutors found the cave and got in. Luckily the smoke from the fire showed St. Petka that there is another way out of the cave and she ran away. When the persecutors reached out to the loaf of bread it turned into stone. This cave is now a stone church “St. Petka”. Inside it there are two steps cut out in the stone – remaining from the time when she managed to escape her persecutors. Inside the stone church stays also the stone bread – a large stone disk with a hole in the center.
Main characters
St. Petka, infidels persecuting her
Connected artistic / architectonic / historical heritage
the town of Tran; rock chapel “St. Petka”; natural phenomena, stone bread, stone footprints. The legend tells that for several years in the cave lived Sveta Petka - cruelly persecuted for her Christian faith. It is believed that St. Petka was born in Epiphani, today's Turkey, but grew up in a Bulgarian wealthy family. As a woman reaches the age of majority, the merciful woman donates all her property and begins to travel and preach. Pursued and forced to live for 40 years in the Asian desert, Petka decides to return to her hometown, where she begins to heal, but once again persecuted, seeks refuge in Thrace. He reached Tran and settled in the cave, but the troops managed to reach her in this high and secluded place. St. Paraskeva (Petka) is a particularly beloved and respected saint in many local churches. There are also many temples devoted to it. From 1238 until her fall under Ottoman rule her holy relics were resting in the church of St. Petka Turnovska in Veliko Tarnovo. After centuries of wanderings in 1641, they were laid in the cathedral in Iasi (northern Romania) and are now the place of pilgrims from all over the world.
Local traditions or historical connections
The stone bread also looks like a solar symbol and can be considered as a part of the megalithic temple of the Great mother goddess, where in her womb (the insides of the cave) her son is born – the god of sun. A rock arch facing northeast and situated next to the cave is considered as a symbol of the new birth. Ailing people go to the arch and pray facing to the east. They go through the arch for good health. Today, the locals say that if a person wishes something and touches the petrified bread, the footprint of St. Petka's footstep or palm, the desire will come true.
Didactical Relevance
Тhe didactic relevance of the legend comes from the fact that it tells about the life on Christian saint that is recognized in many countries. As it is pointed above the relics of the saint are still kept nowadays in Romania (Iasi). The legend is also connected historically with the cult of the Sun and the Mother Goddess, since "stone breads" are discovered in many caves around the country and scientists believe this is connected with the Mother Goddess who needed to give birth to the Sun. The St. Petka rock chapel has traces of life from the neolithic period, which in BG was among 7 and 4 thousands years B.C. The teachers can use the legend to discuss with students how ancient knowledge and cults to the Mother Goddess found their way through the legends of woman escaping from infidels with the help of the bread she baked. The stone chapel is also a natural formation, which can be studied in geography.
Didactical Activity
As a didactic activity teachers can organize an excursion to visit the place or to watch the video attached (EN subs are available) and discuss the main topics, which it talks about. Teachers can aslo organize a comparative analysis of legends of caves formation between countries and their use as sacred place by local people. Also teachers can investigate with students the local traditions connected with the place - ailing people go to the arch and pray facing to the east, then go through the arch for good health and see how these rituals forms, are there similar rituals in their countries.


The life of Saint Paraskeva (St. Petka in Bulgarian)


St. Petka rock chapel 3
St. Petka rock chapel 2

PDF version of the legend in national language