A temptation to travel Bulgaria to see the Monastery and its unique architecture
Travel Bulgaria – The Rila Monastery – unity of spirituality, culture and nature…
Situated in the stunningly beautiful Rila Mountain, at a sea level of 1147 m, the Rila Monastery had always been the spiritual, educational and cultural centre of the whole Bulgarian nationality and played a very important role in the forming of the nation of Bulgaria. It’s one of the symbols of Bulgaria and tourists travel Bulgaria, make sure they visit it. The Rila Monastery is about 120 km away from the capital of Bulgaria – Sofia and 93 km from another favourite, among tourists, destination – Bansko.
The Monastery has a unique architecture and takes about 8800 sq.m. When looked from outside, it resembles a fortress. Due to its 24-metre stone walls, the Monastery has the shape of an irregular pentagon. Once the visitor is in, though, they are impressed by its architecture: arches and colonnades, covered wooden stairs and carved verandas…
It is traditionally thought that the monastery was founded by the hermit St. Ivan of Rila, whose name it bears, during the rule of Tsar Peter I. The hermit actually lived in a cave without any material possessions not far from the monastery’s location. The long history of the buildings in the Rila Monastery goes back to late 10th century when the monastic community that the Rila hermit had founded put up the first buildings not far from the cave which he occupied. St. Ivan Rilski’s death was the beginning of his legendary fame as a protector of the Bulgarian people.
In the XIV century, after changing its settlement several times, the monastic community eventually settled in the fortress of Hrelyo – a feudal lord under Serbian suzerainty. The oldest building in the complex date from this period — the Tower of Hrelyo (1334–1335). It was the monastery’s fortress and also the place where monks dwelled in times of trouble. There was also a small church built next to Hrelyo’s Tower. The influence of the Monastery grows bigger and its fame spreaded far away from the borders of Bulgaria. New buildings were built to meet the needs of the already big enough monastic community.
However, the arrival of the Ottomans in the end of the 14th century was followed by numerous raids and a destruction of the monastery in the middle of the 15th century. Thanks to donations, the Rila Monastery was rebuilt in the end of the 15th century by three brothers.
The complex – the Rila Monastery, acted as a depository of the Bulgarian language and culture during the ages of foreign rule. During the time of the Bulgarian National Revival (18th-19th century); it was destroyed almost completely by fire that broke out at night. That was a national tragedy and very soon donations started arriving from the whole country.
Thousands of masons, carpenters and auxiliary workers worked for the restoration of the monastery for free, without getting paid. Three Bulgarian master builders were in charge of the construction works. They were Alexi from the village of Rila, called Alexi Rilets, Milenko from the village of Radomir and Pavel from the village of Krimin. The present Rila holy cloister, as we know it today, dates back to that time – the XIX century. And only the new part of the eastern wing of the monastery was built in the XX century.
Travel Bulgaria to feel the magic of the masterpiece called Rila Monastery
The efforts, thoughts, faith and will of the thousands of people; who took part in the restoration of the holy cloister. Inspired the architecture of the Rila Monastery with what we call today ‘the spirit of the Revival’. This same architecture becomes the material token of people’s desire for beauty, freedom and self-approving. This and not the architectural shape of the monastery holds the magic of this masterpiece called the Rila Monastery. Magic that not only in the past but today also leaves the visitors breathless. Many places in Bulgaria have the magic to make your travel Bulgaria worth remembering.
The church of the Nativity of the Virgin is the monastery’s main church and the core of the architectural ensemble. Its construction began in 1835. This church building is unique in the Balkans. The wall paintings in the Church of the Nativity of the Virgin were made by the most prominent Bulgarian painters at the time.
A museum which exhibits items providing information about the history of the monastery throughout the centuries was established in Rila holy cloister at the end of the 19th century. The museum is particulary famous for housing Rafail’s Cross, a wooden cross made from a whole piece of wood (81×43 cm). The master wood-carver – a monk named Rafail used the finest chisels and tools and worked not less than 12 years before he finally finished his masterpiece in 1802 and he lost his sight. The Cross depicts 104 religous scenes and 650 miniature figures.
Rila Monastery National Museum
In 1961 Rila Monastery was declared Rila Monastery National Museum. It was declared a National Historical Reserve in 1976. And in 1983 it was included in the List of World Cultural Heritage of UNESCO. In 1980 the International Federation of Travel Writers and Journalists (FIJEST) distinguished the Monastery with Golden Apple, the highest award for familiarization and cultural tourism. Decree of the Council of Ministries of the Republic of Bulgaria reinstated the monastic status of the Rila Monastery in 1991, so today it is again the largest religious centre in the Bulgarian lands.
The Rila Monastery depicts a whole century. It’s an emanation of the artistic experience of the Bulgarian people, of the mythology deeply rooted in their attitude to the world.
Not far from Sofia or Bansko, the Rila Monastery and the Rila Mountain, among the best Bulgaria tourist attractions; attract many Bulgarian and foreign tourists with their serenity, peacefulness, beauty and last but not least; of course – the history that lays behind this magnificent holy cloister – the Rila Monastery.
Travel Bulgaria and feel the magic!