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  • Rila monastery
v. Pastra. Municipality Rila. State Kiustendil.

The Rila monastery is an orthodox monastery, situated in the north-west part of Bulgaria - Rila mountain. It is found in the 10 sentury by St. Ivan Rilski, near the upper stream of the Rila river. The Rila monastery is one of the cultural monuments of Bulgaria, included in the list of the world cultural inheritance of UNESCO.

The Rila monastery is situated 1,147 meters above sea-level. It is definately one of the most popular tourist destination among the monasteries in Bulgaria. The monastery is very large and has beautiful surrounding, arhitecture, wall-paintings and ancient history. The monastery is surounded by the small mountain rivers Rilska river and Drushliavitsa river and it is only 4 hours far away from Maliovitsa peak. There is the highest peak on the Balkans - Musala peak (2925 meters above sea level), not far away from the Rila monastery. There is a splendid view towards the surrounding peaks and the complex itself is a very well developped tourist place.


It is considered thath the monastery is founded by the hermit Ivan Rilski in the 10 century, during the reign of tsar Petar (927 - 968). St. Ivan Rislki has lived in a cave which is situated 30 minutes far away from the present complex. The remains of St. Ivan Rilski are exhibited in the main church of the monastery. The monastery is build by the students of Ivan Rislki.

The monastery has had a big respect and privileges since its creation. All our tsars - Ivan Asen II (1218-1241) to the downfall of Bulgaria under Turkish slavery during the reign of Ivan Shishman (1378), has been making big donations to the monastery. This is witnessed by the Donation Act of tsar Ivan Shishman. The official support helped the monastery in these times to become in a cultural and spiritual center. The monastery reaches its culmination from the 12th to the 14th century, and its progress is broken with the coming of the ttoman invaders in the end of the 14th century. This is fallowed by assaults and destruction of the monastery in the middle of 15th century.

The reving of the monastery starts in the end of the 15th century. It happens with the help of the Russian Orthodox church, that makes donations to the monks by giving them books, money and church properties. The reviving process in the 18th and 19th century gives an additional push to the restoring of the monastery. In these times the complex is reconstruced and is renewed with the help of rich Bulgarians from the whole country (Koprivshtitsa, Teteven, Chirpan, Stara Zagora, Samokov, Sofia).

In its present view the monastery dates from the 19th century. The building of the residential structures has began in 1816. In the middle of the yard there is the oldest building in the complex - an impressive stone tower, that is created by the local feudal lord - Sevastokrator Herliu in 1334-1335. Right next to it there is a little church, that is only a few years younger (1343). In the most recent years (1844) to the tower is added a belfry. Approximately in the same period is built the main monastery church "Rojdestvo Bogorodichno". It is build by the master Pavel Ivanovich (1 of May 1834 - 26 of October 1837). This is witnessed by the marble plaque that is built in the cornice of the open gallery in front of the church. The temple has three altar recesses and two side chapels. One of the most precious things is the iconostasis with its incredible wood-carving. The wall-paintings are finished in 1846 and they are made by many mastes, but only the famous Zahari Zograf is signed under his paintings. There is a huge number of valued icons created between the 14th and the 19 century.

The present appearance of the monastery buildings is made of the first Bulgarian architecton Aleksi Rilets. He projects the architecture plan and directs the building of the east and the north wing. This is witnessed by the three plaques over the mill, above the Samokov's and the Dupnica's gates. There are also the names of the abbots Iosif and Teodisii. After the devastating fire in 1833 he directed the recovery of the burned wood part of the monastery with the help of 3000 masters - builders that succeeded to recover it only in 10 months. The finish of the recovery work is marked with the inscription built by Krastio Debyrliata in April 1934. The building of the south wing of the monastery (1846 - 1847) is in the style of the architecton Aleksi Rilets and is directed of the master Milenko. There is a brick inscription under the cornice of the western wall of this wing: "1847 Milenko Oustabashi, Radomir".


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