Hidden in the deep valley of the river Rilska and between the forests of the surrounding National Park, the Rila Monastery rises majestically in front of you!

Founded in the 10th century by the holy hermit Saint Ivan Rilski, it has become the most famous monastery in Bulgaria and as such is considered the Treasure of Bulgaria.

It is considered not only the most famous but also one of the oldest, the largest and still functioning monasteries, in short, the National Bulgarian pride, which according to its inhabitants represents the strength of a nation.

With the preservation of its faith, traditions and Cyrillic writing, it is no wonder that it was recognized as a UNESCO world heritage site in 1983.

With an area of 8800 square meters and enormously colourful architecture and collections of religious art, it is logical that this energetic location has been the spiritual centre for 1000 years.

Visit the elegant colonnades with their black, red and white striped arches.

In the centre is the main church with its bright yellow domes and is called "The Birth of the Virgin Maria”.

It is covered inside and outside with many paintings and frescoes that show biblical stories about the Baptism of Jesus Christ, Judgment Day, Adam and Eve. Some might recall the apocalyptic work of the medieval painter Hieronymus Bosch.

Behind the church is the museum, with as its showpiece Rafail's cross, a wooden crucifix, made out of óne piece of wood.

The monk, Rafail, used lenses to imitate the 104 religious scenes and 650 miniature figures. The work on this piece of art took no less than 12 years before it was completed in 1802, after which Rafail almost symbolically lost his sight.

You will also find an extensive historical collection of 35,000 icons, carvings, cultural and ethnographic objects.

The majestic monastery, built in a pentagon, with its 2 iron gates, beautiful architecture, covered wooden stairs, sculpted verandas, arches and colonnades, and 300-400 monastic cells has withstood its turbulent history astonishingly.

Even during the 500 years under the Turkish occupation, the monastery was maintained and functioned as a refuge for Bulgarian revolutionaries.

Embrace the sacred atmosphere of the monastery and end your experience with a visit to the monastery store and bakery where you can enjoy the homemade mekitsa and banitsa.





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