Preobrazhenski Monastery (the Monastery of the Transfiguration — Preobrazhenie) is the biggest of the monasteries around Veliko Turnovo and the fourth largest in the country. It lies at a distance of 7 km from Veliko
Turnovo in the wooded gorge of Derventa, below the caves in the cliffs which surround the Belyakovo Plateau. It was founded in the 11th century as a branch of the Vatopedi Monastery, but became autonomous about 1360 when Tsaritsa Theodora-Sarah (the Jewess whom Ivan Alexander married as his second wife) and her son Tsar Ivan Shishman gave a lot of money for its reconstruction and redevelopment. That is why it is also called Sarah's or Shishman's monastery. It was built on the present site in 1825 by Father Zotik, a monk from Rila Monastery. Its buildings rise around a rectangular paved court, shaded by old pergolas. The principal Church of the Transfiguration of Our Lord was begun in 1834 by Master Builder Dimiter Sofialiyata, who took part in Velcho's Conspiracy (1835), and after he was hung it was completed by Master Kolyu Ficheto who continued the work of building the monastery.
In 1857 he finished the south-eastern wing with a small parlour and built the main entrance with a colonnade. In 1861 he built the belfry with a clock. The small Church of the Annunciation was built in 1863, above the underground chapel of the Holy Apostle Andrew, built by Dimiter Sofialiyata in 1834. The work of building the monastery continued after the Liberation from Ottoman bondage. The cemetery Chapel of the Resurrection of Lazarus was completed in 1891.
The mural paintings in the Church of the Transfiguration of Our Lord were painted by Zachari Zograph, the Samokov icon painter, in 1849 — 1851. He also painted the large icons of the iconostasis. He left his signature in the lower righthand corner of the church icons of The Transfiguration, and painted his self-portrait in the north-western angle of the women's section, next to those of SS. Cyril and Methodius. "The wheel of life" is one of the most popular murals and it is painted on the outside of the church.The open-work carving of the royal altar gates is particularly beautiful.
During the Russo-Turkish War of Liberation (1877— 1878) an army hospital was quartered in the Monastery. In gratitude for its hospitality after the Liberation the Russian troops presented bells, chandeliers and liturgical books for the church to the Monastery. The Monastery possesses valuable icons, painted by the Tryavna Iconpainter Papa Vitan the Younger, and Stanislav Dospevski, the Samokov icon painter, who had studied abroad at academies and was Zachari Zograph's nephew.
In 1991, a gigantic boulder fell from the cliff above and broke into smaller pieces before crushing a few monastic cells. One large chunk split in two and the pieces miraculously ended up on either side of the central church. Fortunately, no one was hurt.