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Rila monastery Print E-mail
Thursday, 08 November 2007
 Among the bosoms of Rila at the altitude of 1147 m above sea level, on the right bank of the Rila River is situated the most outstanding monument of Bulgarian culture and architecture of the Revival period - the Rila Monastery, known also as the Holy Rila Retreat. For centuries on end it played an extraordinary part in Bulgarian history, in the struggle of our nation for spiritual and political freedom.

It was founded during the 10th century by Sveti Ivan Rilski (St. John of Rila) - patron of Bulgaria. The Monastery was built as it stands now by Bulgarian master builders in 1816-1847. Whilst on the outside it reminds one of a powerful Medieval fortress, inside, the beauty of the Bulgarian Revival Style emanates from the central Church “Birth of the Holy Virgin” and from the remaining monastery buildings, ornamented with colonnades, staircases and balconies.

The attention of the visitors is drawn to the first monastery kitchen (magernitsa) with its structure of octagons raising at the height of 22 metres crowned with a dome. In the middle of the monastery yard stands high the Hrelyo Tower - a powerful stone fortification, the sole preserved building of Medieval Times (1335). The Preobrazhenie (Transfiguration) Chapel housing mural paintings of the 14th century is on the top floor. The mural paintings in the remaining 3 chapels are remarkable, too, as well as the mural paintings on the arches of the yard facades, in the parlours, in the churches built in the areas surrounding the Monastery - all of them work of master builders from Samokov and Bansko Art School of the 19th century. Scenes from the Bible along with pieces of art of secular nature - the portraits of the founders of the Monastery are painted on the Cathedral. The enormous iconostasis in the Monastery Church “Holy Virgin” ornamented with open-worked wood-carving on walnut-tree wood, gilded later on, is a masterpiece of the art of wood-carving. The ceilings of the restored and furnished parlours, the interior of a monk’s cell of the end of the 18th century and the beginning of the 19th century, the permanent ethnographic museum collection, the monastery library housing 16 000 volumes of valuable and unique books are of interest, too.