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Thursday, February 4, 2010

Rila Monastery in Bulgaria

Rila Monastery is a glorious location that overlooks rivers and the serene mountain scenery. Rila Monastery not only is the largest Eastern Orthodox monastery in Bulgaria, but it boasts a pretty impressive history.

Ivan Rilski, the leader of the monastic colony, was legend to have healing powers. Even after his death, his bones were a precious commodity among medieval rulers. In fact, the bones were moved from Rila to Esztergom in 1183, and then, after the Bulgarian and Byzantine interventions they were returned to Rila Monastery in 1469.

The building themselves have been destroyed and rebuilt over the years. The current monastery dates back to the 1830's, and upon arrival, visitor's will revel in the grandeur and artistry of the structure.

The Nativity Church is the largest in Bulgaria and the walls are superbly decorated with checkered colonnaded balconies, a red tiled roof, and scattered dome impressionistic paintings.

Rila Monastery also contains a double sided crucifix and the Rafail's Cross, which is 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.

The frescoes, which were designed by Bansko, Samokov and Razlog, including the famous brothers Zahari Zograf and Dimitar Zograf, are appropriately painted depicting the different saved and sinner's scenes.

Rila was named a national monument by the Bulgarian government in 1976 and included in the World Heritage sites in 1983. Til this day, it still remains a working monastery and guests must stay in sparsely furnished rooms. In 2002, Pope John Paul II made a pilgrimage to Rila Monastery and was greeted by Bishop Ioan, who had been an observer at the Second Vatican Council.

Picture Sources


RS Wing said...

A very holy place indeed. Exquisite paintings and intriguing article. Great read and well written.

Rick (Ratty) said...

I can't even imagine what it would be like to be able to explore a place like this, but it's fun to try. I would love to be able to explore every inch of this place.

Tripzibit said...

Interesting place, especially Ivan Rilski's healing power. I wonder why they have to moved his bones from Rila to Esztergom?

Cruiselife & Co said...


I believe that the motivation for doing this was so every medieval ruler could get their hands on them. Considering that they were legend to have healing powers, they may have been used in accordance with sickly aristocrats.

Sheila @ A Postcard a Day said...

I hadn't realised quite how long the World Heritage Sites list had been going. I think they do a great job of bringing places like this to our attention, but then I'm not sure of the impact from the increasing number of visitors.

Cruiselife & Co said...


It's so hard to keep up with that list, you're right about that. As for visitors, I understand peoples need to see certain aspects of history of close, but I don't think they realize the effects.

Carl said...

I always so much enjoy comming here and reading you. Your site is endless for a newbee like me.:)I think you will quickly become one of my favorite reads. Incidently, thanks for visiting MaPromenade. I am glad you enjoyed it.:)A little diversion is always fun ..I reciently did a post on the "Chateau of Chambord" that you may find interesting.
Warm regards,

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