Rila Monastery in Bulgaria

Tuesday, 16 May 2023 - 11:00 am (CET/MEZ) Berlin | Author/Destination:
Category/Kategorie: General, UNESCO World Heritage
Reading Time:  4 minutes

Main church 'Nativity of the Virgin Mother' © Daniel Petrov/cc-by-sa-4.0

Main church ‘Nativity of the Virgin Mother’ © Daniel Petrov/cc-by-sa-4.0

The Monastery of Saint John of Rila, also known as Rila Monastery “Sveti Ivan Rilski”, is the largest and most famous Eastern Orthodox monastery in Bulgaria. It is situated in the southwestern Rila Mountains, 117 km (73 mi) south of the capital Sofia in the deep valley of the Rilska River (“Rila River”) at an elevation of 1,147 m (3,763 ft) above sea level, inside of Rila Monastery Nature Park. The monastery is named after its founder, the hermit Ivan of Rila (876 – 946 AD), and houses around 60 monks.

Founded in the 10th century, the Rila Monastery is regarded as one of Bulgaria’s most important cultural, historical and architectural monuments and is a key tourist attraction for both Bulgaria and Southern Europe. In 2008 alone, it attracted 900,000 visitors. The monastery is depicted on the reverse of the 1 lev banknote, issued in 1999. The whole complex occupies an area of 8,800 m² and is rectangular in form, centred on the inner yard (3,200 m²), where the tower and the main church are situated.

West portico frescos © Raggatt2000/cc-by-sa-3.0 © Raggatt2000/cc-by-sa-3.0 Courtyard © Apostoloff/cc-by-sa-3.0 Courtyard © panoramio.com - AwOiSoAk KaOsIoWa/cc-by-sa-3.0 Fresco © Marcin Szala/cc-by-sa-3.0 Main church 'Nativity of the Virgin Mother' © Daniel Petrov/cc-by-sa-4.0
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Main church 'Nativity of the Virgin Mother' © Daniel Petrov/cc-by-sa-4.0
The main church of the monastery was erected in the middle of the 19th century. Its architect is Pavel Ioanov, who worked on it from 1834 to 1837. The church has five domes, three altars and two side chapels, while one of the most precious items inside is the gold-plated iconostasis, famous for its wood-carving, the creation of which took five years to four handicraftsmen: Atanas Teladur, Petar and Georgi Dashini and Dimitar Stanishev. The participation of Petre Filipovich- Garkata is questionable. The frescoes, finished in 1846, are the work of many masters from Bansko, Samokov and Razlog, including the famous brothers Zahari Zograf and Dimitar Zograf. The church is also home to many valuable icons, dating from the 14th to the 19th century. Porticos in the courtyard have Mamluk influence with the striped painting and the domes, which became more popular in the Ottoman Empire after the conquest of Egypt.

The four-storey (not counting the basement) residential part of the complex consists of 300 chambers, four chapels, an abbot‘s room, a kitchen (noted for its uncommonly large vessels), a library housing 250 manuscripts and 9,000 old printed matters, and a donor’s room. The exterior of the complex, with its high walls of stone and little windows, resembles a fortress more than a monastery.

The museum of the Rila Monastery is particularly famous for housing Rafail’s Cross, a wooden cross made from a whole piece of wood (81×43 cm). It was whittled down by a monk named Rafail using fine burins and magnifying lenses to recreate 104 religious scenes and 650 miniature figures. Work on this piece of art lasted not less than 12 years before it was completed in 1802, when the monk lost his sight.

Read more on Rila Monastery and Wikipedia Rila Monastery (Smart Traveler App by U.S. Department of State - Weather report by weather.com - Global Passport Power Rank - Travel Risk Map - Democracy Index - GDP according to IMF, UN, and World Bank - Global Competitiveness Report - Corruption Perceptions Index - Press Freedom Index - World Justice Project - Rule of Law Index - UN Human Development Index - Global Peace Index - Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Index). Photos by Wikimedia Commons. If you have a suggestion, critique, review or comment to this blog entry, we are looking forward to receive your e-mail at comment@wingsch.net. Please name the headline of the blog post to which your e-mail refers to in the subject line.




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