God or the devil? Whose mystical eyes follow visitors through the Bulgarian Prohodna Cave?

Top image: "The Eyes" in the Prohodna Cave near Karlukovo, Bulgaria.

Prohodna Cave is a natural cave located in North Central Bulgaria. This cave is a popular tourist attraction due to a certain natural feature in the cave, i.e. two eye-shaped holes in its central chamber. The pair of holes has been dubbed by locals as the ‘Eyes of God’, or ‘Oknata’ in Bulgarian. Sometimes, this feature is called the ‘Devil’s Eyes’ instead.

In 1962, Prohodna Cave was granted the status of a natural landmark. In addition, the cave was featured in a Bulgarian film entitled Time of Violence , which was released in 1988. In one scene in the film, the ‘Eyes of God’ was used as a backdrop.

Traversing Prohodna Cave

The word ‘prohodna’ may be translated to mean ‘walkable’, ‘passage’ or ‘thoroughfare’. The designation of this name to the cave is a rather apt description of the site. Prohodna Cave may be accessed via one of two entrances.

The larger of these is known as the ‘Big Entrance’, and has a height of 45 meters (147.64 ft.), while the smaller one, measuring at a height of 35 meters (114.83 ft.), is known as the ‘Small Entrance’. The size of the two entrances makes Prohodna Cave the largest passage cave in Bulgaria. In addition, owing to the height of the Big Entrance, Prohodna Cave has become an attractive destination for bungee jumping.

Prohodna Cave, Bulgaria.Prohodna Cave, Bulgaria.

The Big Entrance and the Small Entrance are opposite each other, and are separated by a short distance of just 262 meters (859.58 ft.). Sometimes, the cave is described as being a natural rock bridge instead. One could easily walk from one end of this bridge to the other. Since people can traverse the entire cave from one end to the other with ease, it has been given the name ‘prohodna’.

This cave has also been inhabited by human beings in the past, as archaeological remains from the Neolithic and Chalcolithic periods have been found there.

Eyes that Cry and Glow

Prohodna Cave is situated in the Iskar Gorge, about 2 km (1.24 miles) from the village of Karlukovo, and 112 km (69.59 miles) from the Bulgarian capital of Sofia. This part of the country lies in one of Bulgaria’s largest karst regions, and hence Prohodna Cave is classified as a karst cave.

Karst is a type of landscape formed when soluble rocks (including dolomite, gypsum, and limestone) which form the bedrock of an area are dissolved by weak acids naturally present in rain and soil water. As a result of this dissolution, features such as sinkholes and springs are formed. Prohodna Cave is also a good spot for speleology (the study and exploration of caves) thanks to this natural feature of the land.

Prohodna Cave, Bulgaria.Prohodna Cave, Bulgaria.

In the case of Prohodna Cave, the dissolution of the rocks occurred in such a way that two holes were formed on the ceiling of the cave’s central chamber. These holes, which are almond-shaped and symmetrical, are reckoned to resemble the eyes of a human being. Thus, the holes have been commonly referred to as the ‘Eyes of God’ .

"The Eyes" in the Prohodna Cave, Karlukovo, Bulgaria.

Eyes of God…or the Devil?

Human imagination may go several steps further with regards to the ‘Eyes of God’. For example, when it rains, water seeps through the holes. Viewed from certain angles in the cave, it is not too difficult to imagine that the rain water trickling down the walls of the cave are tears, and that the eyes are ‘crying’. Over time, the trickling of the rain water has formed lines on the walls of the cave. One could envision these lines as forming the beard of an elderly man.

‘The Eyes’ in Prohodna Cave with remnants of rain water trickling down the walls.‘The Eyes’ in Prohodna Cave with remnants of rain water trickling down the walls.

At other times, light enters the cave from the ‘eyes’, forming pools on the ground. This is visible from the entrances and one might have the impression that the holes are glowing eyes looking out from the darkness of the cave .

With these two perspectives (and an active imagination) it is easy to see why visitors to Prohodna Cave feel they are being watched by either God…or the Devil .

Glowing “eyes” look out from the darkness of the Prohodna Cave.Glowing “eyes” look out from the darkness of the Prohodna Cave.


By Dhwty / Ancient Origins Writer

I’m a university student doing a BA degree in Archaeology. My interests range from ‘conventional’ to ‘radical’ interpretations of the archaeological/textual/pictorial data set. I believe that intellectual engagement by advocates from both ends of the spectrum would serve to enhance our understanding of the past. In addition, such discussions would serve to bring Archaeology to a wider audience as well as to stimulate their interest, curiosity, and critical thinking of such issues.

(Source: ancient-origins.net; December 4, 2020; https://tinyurl.com/y4zwzb9s)
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