The Rila Monastery St.Ivan of Rila
photo by Boby Dimitrov
In the Rila mountain range lies the most outstanding monument of Bulgarian architecture and art – The Rila Monastery. Its foundation is associated with the life and ministry of the Bulgarian hermit St.Ivan of Rila (10th century), called the greatest of all Bulgarian Orthodox Church. The monastery was built at its present location in the 14th century. It is a survivor of the Ottoman invasion, being completely burnt down in a violent fire in 1833, the monastery was rebuilt in its present form between 1840 and 1851 without a chief master builder or a prior planning.
The murals in the main monastery church were painted between 1840 and 1848 by the best Bulgarian Revival fine arts painters of that time.
There are around 300 rooms in the monastery, 100 of which are monastic cells.
Hrelyo’s Tower, the oldest building in the holy cloister was built in the 14th century (1335). It was the monastery’s fortress and also the place where monks dwelled in times of trouble. At present Hrelyo’s Tower is open for visitors in the summer.
The Birth of the Virgin Mary main church of the monastery was built in 1834 – 1837. It is a five-domed, cross-in-square building. The wood-carved iconostases and the wall-paintings by masters from Samokov and Bansko are impressive.
In 1976 the monastery was declared a National Historical Reserve and in 1983 it was included in the List of World Cultural Heritage of UNESCO. Read more: bulgariatravel