HISTORY:Description 2

Another legend says : “Once upon a time, a prince had a shepherd called Mikhaïl, who led his flock of sheep to the valley of the Dormition and saw on the rock, at a height of 10 metres, the icon of the Theotokos and a candle burning in front of it. Astonished by this miracle he brought the tidings to his superiors and, when this came to the attention of the prince, he ordered that the icon be taken away and transferred to a house in the neighbouring mountains. Despite the veneration he accorded the icon, it disappeared from the house the following day and regained its place on the rock. The same thing happened every time the icon was removed from its setting on the rock. Finally it became apparent that the Theotokos would not accept to leave the place where her image had appeared for the first time. Without further delay, it was decided to build a small chapel in the rock at the place where the holy icon had appeared. A cavern was carved into the rock with steps leading to it. In this cavern the newly-appeared icon was placed.”
The apparition of the holy icon occurred on the 15th of August and the new chapel was consecrated to the Dormition of the Mother of God. This miraculous apparition of the icon of the Theotokos and the foundation of the Dormition Church date back to the mid 15th century, but traces remain of the existence of a Salatchik monastery on the same site at the end of the 16th century. At that time the monastery sent an envoy to Moscow in order to ask the tsar Fiodor Ioanovich for alms.
In the early 17th century, the embassy sources inform us of the existence of the Dormition church in the cavern, and quoting a letter of prince Prozorovski to Roumiantsev-Zadounaiski dated 31 of May 1777: “From ancient times, not far from Bakhchisaray, there has been a small Greek church carved into the mountain which, despite restoration, is falling into decay, and the bishop, after meeting the prince, has made known his decision to build a new and more convenient one.”
The miraculous apparition of the holy icon brought Divine Grace and the protection of the Theotokos herself upon the Christians. The fight was renewed for the profession of the holy faith with the fervent belief that the Holy Theotokos would cover them with her protection. The temple carved into the rock where the icon had appeared for the first time became a sanctuary of prayer: it strengthened their spirit in the face of terrible torture and in this temple they felt as members of one family of the Heavenly Father, protected by Divine Providence. The high spiritual significance of the temple decided many Christians to settle in the neighbourhood and to consecrate themselves entirely to God. This was the origin of the Monastery of Bakhchisaray. It united the Christians and helped to strengthen their faith in the face of opposition from the surrounding Islam communities. It even became a metropolitan seat. Without knowing exactly when the seat was transferred there, the fact that the last Metropolitan, Ignatie, lived at Bakhchisaray proof that the transfer had been made before his time.
The Monastery of Bakhchisaray thus became the centre of spiritual life for the Christians of the Crimean khanate and served as a guide for their spiritual improvement. But for the Tartar domination, it would have become an imposing and well-equipped monastery, but the Muslims forbade the Christians even to erect crosses on the church towers and forced them into back-breaking labour. All trace of the ancient Greek culture and civilisation disappeared as most of the inhabitants assimilated Tartar language and customs. Temples and palaces replaced huts and caverns. When tensions in Greek-Tartar relations reached a climax, the Greeks sought help from Russia. Having lived under Tartar rule themselves, the Russians had always had sympathy with their Greek fellow-Christians. The Greeks had been receiving aid from Moscow for a long time. They realised that only the Russians were in a position to defend them (war between Russia and Turkey had just broken out). In 1778, having expressed his desire to meet Metropolitan Ignatie, the commanding officer of the Russian army, Mr Roumiantsev, was introduced to the revered head of the Crimean Christians, and suggested that he and all the Christians of Crimea should move to Russian territory.

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