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Rila Monastery: The Gem of Bulgaria


If you still haven't decided to visit Bulgaria after my 7 reasons to do so, this may be the right inspiration to come here. 

Rila Monastery
is the most gorgeous, peaceful and authentic place in Bulgaria I've been so far. It's a huge tourist attraction and during the summer it's crowded with tourists from all over the world. In my opinion the secret of the fame of the Rila Monastery is pretty simple – it's because the monastery is very photogenic. I'll prove you later in this article.


Rila Monastery is situated  in the highest mountain in Bulgaria and the Balkans – Rila. It is also one of the 9 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Bulgaria, designated in 1983.


As I said the monastery is a key tourist attraction in Bulgaria. In 2008 alone the monastery attracted 90 000 visitors.


Rila Monastery is founded in the 10th century by the hermit St. Ivan of Rila. He actually lived in a cave without any material possessions not far from the monastery's location. His students built the complex when they came to the mountains to recieve their education.


The Rila Monastery also preserved the Bulgarian language and culture in the ages of Ottoman rule.


The monastery has 24-meter stone walls which forms irregular pentagon.  The church has five domes, three altars and two side chapels. The gold-plated iconostasis is one of the most precious items inside the church. It is famous for its wood-carving, which took five years to be created by 4 handicraftsmen.


The main church “The Nativity of the Virgin” is covered inside and out by lots of paintings and frescos which show Biblical stories about the Baptism of Jesus Christ, the Day of Judgement, Adam and Eve.


 There is a museum located in the monastery – it has rich collections of icons, historical collection of 35 000 exponents, wood-carvings, cultural and ethnographical items and many more. The monastery has also its own, very rich library – about 250 manuscript books from 11th – 19th century, 9000 old-printed books, manuscripts and so on. 




Images (5)
  • Rila Monastery: Rila Monastery
  • Rila-Monastery: Rila Monastery
  • Rila-Monastery: Rila Monastery
  • Rila-Monastery: Rila Monastery
  • RIla-Monastery: Rila Monastery

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Comments (3)

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Hi, I agree entirely, this monastery is very well worth visiting.  I don't think you mentioned the cross inside with exquisitely carved very tiny figures all over it.  I heard much of it was carved with a needle and Rila went blind while doing it.  Whether I was told the truth or not, it is an amazing example of dedication, patience and devotion to your task ).

The striped pattern an archways remind me of what you see in the Mezquita in Cordoba, Spain. In Cordoba, the earlier portions get their color from different colors of stone, and the later ones were painted. Which way is it at Rila?


Thanks for the view!

The best part of every trip is realizing that it has upset your expectations

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