The New Altar in the Latin Catholic Chapel of Yambol


This past May 24 the new altar of the Latin-rite Catholic chapel of Yambol was consecrated.

This was a very important event for the Catholic Church of Bulgaria. Its significance was underlined by the presence of Bishops Gheorghi Iovtchev and Christo Proicov, bishops respectively of the Latin Catholic diocese of Sofia-Plovdiv and of the Catholic Exarchate of the Byzantine rite.

May 24 is a national holiday in Bulgaria, commemorating Bulgarian culture and writing; and, of course, at the same time, Saints Cyril and Methodius are remembered since they were at the origins of both. In this country, culture and religion are inseparable. Saints Cyril and Methodius, the first evangelizers of the Slavic peoples, are the most prestigious examples of Bulgarian national and cultural identity.

St. Cyril, in particular, was the one who contributed decisively to the elaboration and the diffusion of the alphabet which still to this day bears his name and is used in several countries of Eastern Europe.

Yambol certainly holds an important place in the Assumptionist history in Eastern Europe. The newly consecrated altar is located in a chapel built by our fathers at the beginning of our mission in Eastern Europe, a few years after the opening of the renowned St. Augustine College in Philippopolis (Plovdiv today). Actually, the foundation of the Assumption in Yambol was undertaken by the Oblate Sisters in 1888 and shortly thereafter they invited the fathers to join them, because there were no Catholic priests. When the fathers first arrived, in the entire town, which numbered some 14,000 residents, there was only one Latin rite Catholic!

The account of Fr. Barthélemy Schichkov in1908 recounts the very interesting early history of the Assumptionists in these lands (see account of Fr. Barthélemy Schichkov).

Fr. Joseph Schichkov, one of our three Bulgarian martyrs, served as the first superior of Saints Cyril and Methodius Minor Seminary in Yambol until 1937. He was also pastor of the Latin-rite parish and chaplain to the Oblate Sisters.

It was also here in 1952, during the Communist regime, that Bishop Methodius Stratiev was arrested. The last Assumptionist to be pastor of the Catholic parish in Yambol was Fr. Gorazd Kurtev who assumed this duty for twenty-five years before being named, in 1993, pastor of the Byzantine-rite parish of the Ascension of the Lord in Plovdiv, while also becoming the superior of the Assumptionist community, which had re-opened.

As at the other sites of Assumptionist foundations, there were at Yambol two chapels for worship: one for the Latin Rite and one for the Byzantine Rite. This latter was the one used more as is the case today.

Today the parish is served by the Salesian Fathers. Father Anton, a Salesian of Slovak origin, is the new pastor and celebrates Mass daily in the Byzantine Rite and once a month in the Latin Rite.

This past May 24 Assumption was well represented with Fathers Daniel and Claudio and Sisters Ana and Daniela. It was pleasant to see in the renovated chapel an icon in memory of our three martyrs and of the Passionist bishop, Most Rev. Bossilkov. Filling the small chapel completely, a hundred or so faithful witnessed the consecration of the new altar.

Today from the old building complex there remains only two chapels and the minor seminary building; the sisters’ house has been demolished and the land sold.

Together with Fr. Blagovest, vicar general of the Byzantine Catholic diocese, who had been the pastor of the Catholic parish in Yambol from 1993 to 1995, we visited the village cemetery where many Assumptionists and Oblates are buried.

That sunny, warm afternoon we were plunged into the history of our beginnings here. For a long time Yambol was an “Assumptionist town” and maintains even to this day many souvenirs of our fathers’ presence.

In this town one has the impression of breathing better than elsewhere; one has the impression of breathing truly with both lungs of the Church.


Transaltion of  John Frank  AA

célébration du 24 mai   Chapelle pour le rite latine icône à la mémoire de nos trois pères martyrs
Chapelle pour le rite byzantin   Chapelle pour le rite byzantin l'exteriéur du batiment

l'exteriéur du batiment


au cimetière de Yambol

au cimetière de Yambol