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Destination Details

Bulgaria

The Rila Monastery is one of Bulgaria’s symbols and a popular touristic destination. The monastery is set deep in the heart of Rila Mountain, between Rilska and Drushliavitza Rivers, at 1147 metres (3760 feet) above sea level. It is situated 120 kilometres south of Sofia.


The monastery was found in the first half of the 10th century AD. Its history is directly connected with the first Bulgarian hermit, Saint John of Rila, or ‚Ivan Rilski’, who chose this site to pray in seclusion. Through the ages the Rila Monastery served as a spiritual, educational and cultural centre for the Bulgarians. Most of the present complex of the Rila Monastery dates from the nineteenth century. The oldest building here is the Hrelyova Tower. Every inch of the principal church here, Nativity of Mary is covered by frescoes, work of the most renowned Bulgarian Renaissance painters.


From the end of the nineteenth century onwards the Rila Monastery has a museum with historical exhibits from the region. The exposition includes important examples of Bulgarian and foreign art from the fifteenth to the nineteenth centuries. The most precious exhibit is the finely carved wooden cross, work of Father Rafail. The cross represents 36 Biblical scenes, eighteen on each side, with over 600 miniature figures.

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