Rila Monastery

Rila Monastery


The Rila Monastery, founded in the 10th century by St. Ivan Rilski, is situated in the Rila Mountains, on the upper reaches of the Rila River. It is the largest and most revered monastery and one of the most important cultural monuments in Bulgaria. The convent has five floors, though only four of them are visible. ”Hreliova kula” Tower (eng: Hrelyu's Tower) rises in the middle of the cobblestone paved courtyard - it's the oldest building in the monastery complex and belongs to the architectural style of the renowned Tarnovo Artistic School. On top of the tower there’s a chapel - "Holy Transfiguration" with valuable frescoes from the 1330s.

Since it was founded, the cloister has been an important center of worship, education and enlightenment. During the Bulgarian National Revival era, Neophyte Rilski /a famous Bulgarian scholar/ founded a monastery school  and carried out his educational activities here. The monastery had provided shelter to some of the great Bulgarian public figures, revolutionaries and men of letters, including Vasil Levski, Ilyo Voivoda, Gotse Delchev, Peyo Yavorov and others. In 1778 the convent was burnt to the ground, but was restored six years later by Alexi of Rila. At present the monastery occupies a total area of 8800m2. as the built-up area alone is 5500m2. Four-five storey monastery wings, built in different periods, surround the courtyard from all sides, forming an irregular pentagon.


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