monastery complex


The main church “The Nativity of the Virgin”


The main church “The Nativity of the Virgin” is located in the formed frame of the monastery’s frame. It is in an unique symbioses with the medieval Hreliov’s tower. It has five domes which are a special architecture decision, taken by the master Pavel Ivanovich, who wanted to break up its size and built it in some follower wings. That was done, because the new church was bigger than the previous one and it didn’t fit with the other architectural forms.


The church is covered by lots of paintings and frescos which show Biblical stories about the Day of Judgement, Adam and Eva, the Baptism of Issus Christos. Inside there are also lots of frescos. The church consists of two chapels – the iconostasis of St. Nicola and the iconostasis of St. Joan Rilsky. The first one is considered to be taken by the old medieval church, built by Hrelio Dragovol. It is smaller then the iconostasis of St. Joan Rilsky and there are lots of traces of replacement and adaptation of the old one.


The wood-carving of the iconostasis in the chapel “St. Joan Rilsky” is exceptionally detailed and rich. The architectural composition consists of a line of the down tables, a line of the up icons, divided to tree parts.


The Hreliov’s tower.


However, the Hreliov’s tower gives us full notion of the character of the fortress building trough the whole period of the mature Bulgarian feudalism. It was built in 1334-1335 and devoted to St. Joan Rilsky and The Virgin Mother Osenovica. It is an evidence for the technical and artistic skills of the medieval masters.


The access to the inside of the tower is only to the first floor, where is the only one entrance – now you can get in there only with wood stairs, which firstly were step-ladder. The access inside is realized by wide stone stairs, built in thick walls. In that way each of the four floors has united cleared room. They were obviously considered for temporary living in defense from attacks. There were some convenience of the life as wood floors, a little day-light, place for sink (on the second floor).


The chapel on the fifth floor is the biggest interest of the scientists. It has lots of very beautiful and colourful frescos. The chaple “Transfiguration of God” is part of the oldest monastic chaples. Its frescos are dated from the 14 century and they are very valuable monument of the Bulgarian medieval art. What the other elements of the chapel were and in what purpose it was used we won’t know, because it was destroyed by a fire. However, we could consider that it wasn’t a place for a big religious services and it was accessible only for the monks and there was no effort it to be painted again.



Built as a fortress, the monastery relies to self-protection and has only two entrances, which are well safeguarded with thick and iron gates, which in case of attack make the monastery’s yard unreachable. However, its function is well hidden with beautiful decorations and the national purpose of the monastery is shown in these frescos. The gates of the monastery are widely opened for the people who believe and call them to get into the fireplace of the true Bulgarian faith and promise deliverance and happiness. 


The medieval church of Hrelio (XIV-XIX)


It is connected with the work of the Struma’s feudal Hrelio Dragovol, who did much to develop the place and the monastery and to make it independent feudal possession. He built the old church of the monastery (XIV), which was  broaden in 1770-1790 and exested to 1834 like a main monastic temple.


In spite of the absence of drafts and exact architectural description of that church, the story of Neophit Rilsky about its vision before its destruction gives us very interesting information that shows it was a typical example of the Bulgarian and monastic church building from the 14 century.



Also, we can suppose that the iconostasis in the South chapel was taken from the old church, where it was its main one. The traces of replacements and levellings in a purpose to make it suitable for its new place prove that supposition.


The Monastic apartments


The monastic apartments are about 300. They have unique architecture – spacious verandas, wood-carving decoration, paintings and furniture. They are organized and grouped in a way to satisfy the needs of the visitors of the monastery.



The best place for the different levels and different wings is found to ensure their best functions for: about 110 monk’s cells, each of it consists of a small anteroom, kitchen and bedroom and workroom; over 30 drawing-rooms, more of them are well-appointed and decorated with wood-carving roofs, frescos, colourful tapestries; a big dining-room, a room of the Father Superior, consisted of some rooms, a hospital, a sexton-room with library, a store for dishes; four big floor-chapels; lots of warehouses and kitchens (water-mill, kitchen for guests, small and big bakeries, dairy farm, wine-growing); the rooms of door-keepers are an arrest for the guilty people.

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