Rila Monastery is located at 1300 m. altitude in the middle of the forests and peaks of Rila mountain.
Apart of being a holly place for the Orthodox church, the monastery is also a spiritual, cultural and religious centre for all Bulgarians.
During the 5 centuries when Bulgaria was under Othoman domination, the Rila monastery has been preserving the christianity and the culture of the country. It has also served as shelter for the persecuted revolutionaries and educational centre for all Bulgarians.
In the centre of the complex yard are located the main church “The Nativity of the Virgin” and the tower of Hrelio.
The monastery is also famous for its library where lots of important Bulgarian written records are kept safe: about 250 manuscripts from XI-XIX century, 9000 old-printed books and others.
The monastery complext has also a history museum with intruiging exposition – a historical collection of 35 000 exponents, rich collections of icons, wood-carvings, cultural and ethnographical items.
The museum's most unique item is the Cross of Rafail. It is made of one whole piece of wood (81-43 centimeters) and it has been named after its creator - monk Rafail. He used fine chisels, small knives and lentils to carve 104 religious stages and 650 small figures. It took him more than 12 years to complete his work and it was done in 1802 when its creator lost his eyesight.
Rila monastery was first built and
founded in the X century.
Destroyed, rebuilt and reconstructed
many times, it has always been
the biggest and most respected
The main church “The Nativity of the Virgin”, the tower of Hrelio, the history and ethnografical museum, the traditional monastic cells and the monastery kitchen are the main buildings in the Rila monastery complex.
St. Ivan of Rila (or St. Ivan Rilski) is
the most praised saint of Bulgaria and founder of Rila monastery.