The RILA MONASTERY is the most imposing sample of Bulgarian architecture and art. That is the oldest monastery in our lands. It is also the most important center of literacy and education in Bulgaria during the period of the Ottoman rule. Rila monastery was founded in the 10th century by the Bulgarian monk St. Ivan Rilski (St. John of Rila, 876-946 г) and was rebuilt at today’s place in the l3th -l4th century. The Fortress tower (1334), the Bishops throne, the richly carved doors and some manuscripts, icon-paintings and church-plates are dated from that time. The history of the Rila Monastery is connected to Ivan Rilski, later canonized as a saint. On each July 1st, the Bulgarians honour the removal of his relics - from the former capital of Turnovo to the Rila Monastery (that happened back in 1469 during the reign of the Sultan Murad II). He is honoured as the Patron Saint of the whole Bulgarian nation, and is considered the founder of that most impressive Bulgarian monastery - the Rila Monastery.
The most important period in the development of the monastery is 1816-1870, when funds had been gathered by all the nation, and due to the hard work of many master-builders, wood carvers, icon-painters, sculptors and painters, the most imposing among our monasteries was built – preserved in its best even today. Ever since the 15th century, the monastery became education centre. Lots of eminent Bulgarian clergymen and men of letters created some of the most valuable works of the Old Bulgarian literature. The monastery kept close connection with spiritual centers in neighboring countries.
The museum exposition, displayed in the ground floor of the monastery, is one of the richest and most valuable collections on the Balkans. The Rila Monastery has been listed as a UNESCO World Monument of Culture. Today the monastery is still acting as a monk monastery. It is located in the Rila mountain, some 120 km southwest of Sofia, 4 km from the town of Rila.