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Rila Monastery

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.

 

The monastery yard The monastery yard
The monastery yard
The monastery yardThe imposing Courtyard ensamble.
The Rila Monastery The Rila Monastery
The Rila Monastery
The Rila MonasteryThe Rila Monastery houses a rich collection of old manuscripts and icons, more than 16 000 books, and an ethnographic exibition.
The rocky guard The rocky guard
The rocky guard
The rocky guardNature makes wonders playing with rocks and stones! Bulgaria is rich in amazing figure-like stone rocks... The “Cross” rock stands as a quiet guard on the road to the monastery.
The coniferous forests The coniferous forests
The coniferous forests
The coniferous forestsThe Rila Monastery is hidden in the sweet-smelling coniferous forests of the Rila Mountains.
The monastery entrance The monastery entrance
The monastery entrance
The monastery entranceThe entrance to the largest monastery in Bulgaria. According to the legend, the Rila Monastery was found in the 10th century, by the hermit-monk Ivan Rilski (also known as John of Rila) and his successors.
Softness and harmony Softness and harmony
Softness and harmony
Softness and harmonyHaving been the most zealous guard of Bulgarian spirit and language, the Rila Monastery still fascinates present-day visitor with the pure and harmonious line of the buildings' exquisite colonnades, arches, vaults, and spacious rooms, richly decorated with murals and fretwork. 
The five-dome church The five-dome church
The five-dome church
The five-dome churchThe three-nave five-dome “Birth of the Blessed Virgin” monastery church.  
The open gallery The open gallery
The open gallery
The open gallery muralsThe church's interior is extremely impressive. The murals were painted between 1840 and 1848 by some of the finest artists of the time.
The impressive nature The impressive nature
The impressive nature
The impressive nature as an inspirationThe impressive nature around the monastery must have inspired the icon masters who painted the amazing murals.
The murals The murals
The murals
The murals in the open galleryDisplay of murals inside the open gallery of the “Birth of the Blessed Virgin” monastery church - part of the murals were painted by the eminent Revival period icon masters Aachary Zograph, Toma Vishanov, Stanislav Dospevsky, Hristo Dimitrov, Dimitar and Simeon Molerov.
The church entrance The church entrance
The church entrance
The church entrancePart of the impressive murals on the outside walls.
The residential wing The residential wing
The residential wing
The residential wing"Of all Bulgarian glory, from the times when there were so many large monasteries and churches, the Lord has left only the Rila Monastery to exist until our times. It is of great importance to all Bulgarians. Therefore, it is the duty of all Bulgarians to guard it and preserve it, and sacrifice for it.” Paisii Hilendarski, 1762.
Enlightenment centre Enlightenment centre
Enlightenment centre
The monastery as an enlightenment centreThroughout the long centuries of its existence, the monastery had been an important centre not only of religion but also of cultural activities and enlightenment - a place that had provided shelter to many religious and public figures and men of letters.
The“Hrelyo’s Tower” The“Hrelyo’s Tower”
The“Hrelyo’s Tower”
The “Hrelyo’s Tower”The five-storey fortification turret called “Hrelyo’s Tower”, built in 14th century
The verandah kiosks The verandah kiosks
The verandah kiosks
The verandah kiosksThe picturesque verandah kiosks, used for contemplation of the beauty around, located on the fourth floor of the yard-facing verrandahs.
The monastery museum The monastery museum
The monastery museum
The monastery museumThe monastery museum exhibition keeps unique and exquisite samples of the old masters’ art.
The Birth of Christ The Birth of Christ
The Birth of Christ
The Birth of ChristOne of the scened carved on the Rafail’s Cross – the Birth of Christ in the Bethlehem cave.
The monastery cellar The monastery cellar
The monastery cellar
 The monastery cellarHere, under ground, you can feel the secrets of the monastery life – past and present…
The Rila Mountain The Rila Mountain
The Rila Mountain
The Rila MountainThe Rila Mountain - the highest mountain on the Balkan Peninsula (highest peak Musala, 2925 m.) The Rila monastery is located in the skirts of the mountains, 40 km away from the city of Blagoevgrad. It is 250 km southeast of Plovdiv, and the road (Plovdiv – Pazardzhik – Velingrad – Yundola – Yakorouda – Razlog – Simitli – Blagoevgrad – the town of Rila) goes through stunning scenery.  
The Rafail’s Cross The Rafail’s Cross
The Rafail’s Cross
The Rafail’s CrossThe wooden cross, hand-made for a period of 12 years, by the monastery monk called Rafail (dated before 1802) – it is 81 cm high and 43 cm wide. It features 104 scenes from the Bible and 650 separate figures.