Friday, October 21, 2011

Rila Monastery, Bulgaria

From Sofia, it is about a two hour drive (120 km / ~75 miles) south to the Rila Mountains and the St. Ivan of Rila Monastery.

It is the largest and most famous monastery in Bulgaria. The Eastern Orthodox monastery was founded in 927 AD.

Ivan (John) of Rila was a hermit who founded the monastery. The monastery was built by students who came to be taught by him.

The cave he lived in is about a 30 minute walk from the monastery. It's a nice place to do a little hiking.

The outer walls of the main church are decorated with Bible scenes. Inside the church are various relics on exhibit. I don't have any pictures from inside the church because there is a strict no photography rule. Near the main church, in the middle of the inner courtyard, is the stone Tower of Hrelyu which is the oldest structure in the complex.

The residence has cells for 300 monks. There are also four chapels, an abbot's room, a kitchen and a library.

The monastery was restored in the 15th and 19th centuries. During periods of foreign rule the monastery acted as a depository for Bulgarian culture and language. In 1976 it was declared a national historical monument and in 1983 it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site.

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