Rila Monastery

Rila Monastery is located some 130 km from Sofia, tucked away in the Rila mountain at 1150 meters above sea level.

The Rila Monastery was founded in the 10th century by the followers of the hermit monk Ivan Rilski (St. John of Rila). It soon became one of the centers of medieval monasticism in Bulgaria. It expanded in the 14th century, and prospered, but was attacked and partly burnt down during the Ottoman conquest. Redevelopment began during the 15th and 16th century, in association with the Russian Orthodox monastery of St. Panteleimon on Mount Athos. In 1469 the relics of John of Rila the founding saint were returned to the monastery from Veliko Tarnovo. The reconstruction started in 1818 and continued throughout the 19th century. It was a favoured residence of the Bulgarian monarchs after the Liberation.

Things to see:
The Rila Monastery is a must on every visitor’s agenda. Featured in the UNESCO Heritage List, the monastery’s most treasured historic and artistic features include the 14th century Hrelyo Tower, the five-domed Church “Birth of the Blessed Virgin” and the original monastery kitchens from the 19th century. Of interest are also the rich museum collection of valuable old manuscripts, documents and icons, an ethnographic exhibition of fabrics, jewellery, carpets and wrought iron objects. The monastery library contains more than 16,000 books. Some of the works of art in the church are created by the country’s most favoured artists at the time. Unlike most churches built under Ottoman rule, this one is richly ornate, the exterior arcades depicting religious scenes in bright colours. The intricately carved and gilded central iconostasis is considered a masterpiece by Atanas Teladour. You are free to wander around the monastery which still functions. The most remarkable exhibit in the museum is the double-sided cross, carved by a monk from a single piece of wood and depicting in miniature 104 religious scenes and 650 figures. Not far from the monastery, approximately 40 minutes on foot, is the Church of the Assumption of Ivan Risky. It is near the cave where the hermit is said to have lived. People believe that If you squeeze your way through a hole in the rocks here, you will be cleansed of your sins.

Photos from Rila Monastery

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