The Rila Monastery was named after the saint who established it as his abode in the 10th century A.D. The mountain range, which surrounds it, is also called by the name of this saint – Saint Ivan of Rila (“Ivan Rilski” is the Latin transcription of his name is Bulgarian). The monastery in Rila is now an 8,800 square-kilometer-big complex worth visiting. Its history is rich enough to bring you back in time.
The monastery is located in a 120 km distance from the capital city - Sofia. Apart from being one of the oldest, still functioning monasteries, it is also the biggest in the country. One could even spend the night in one of the 300 chambers. The church in the middle of the complex is dedicated to Jesus Christ`s mother, Mary. There are other smaller churches and temples in the monastery complex, as well, with original frescos and mural paintings.
This monastery is our national symbol, and in 1983, it became a UNESCO heritage site. Its status had changed numerous times, but it was nevertheless always considered a place of high importance. Even during the 500 years under the Turkish occupation, the monastery was maintained and kept functioning. It used to be a hiding place for Bulgarian revolutionaries. Interesting enough, thanks to the Bulgarian wives of the Turkish, this place is nowadays the heritage site. They financed its development and actually played a big role in its preservation.
If you wish to embrace the holy atmosphere of this 1,000-year-old site completely, then you should visit the small monastery shop. After that, you could go to the southern part of the complex and enjoy different kinds of freshly baked bread in the monastery bakery. Next to the bakery, there is a hotel called “Tsarev Vrah”, which means “The king`s peak”. It was built by the monastery monks, and there one could rest or just enjoy a great meal with fresh local ingredients at the hotel-restaurant.
This complex, a more than 1,000-year-old historical site is a gem in the Bulgarian national cultural heritage. It represents the power of a nation, preserving its believes, traditions and its script. So, my advice is - visit the monastery in Rila and experience the journey back in time, which this holy place offers. You will be amazed not only by beautiful monastery buildings but also by nature that surrounds them!
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