Rila monastery – the most impressive monument from the Bulgarian National Revival, lies in Rila Mountain, at 1,147 meters above sea level. It is situated 120 km away from Sofia to the south, and is no doubt the most popular tourist site among all monasteries in Bulgaria equally for its size, natural surroundings, architecture, wall paintings and ancient history.
It was founded in the 10th century by the Bulgarian monk St. Ivan of Rila and was rebuilt in the 13th -14th century. From that time are the famous Hrelyo tower (1334), the bishop’s throne, richly carved doors and some manuscripts, icon-paintings and church plates.
The monastery complex is stretched on an area of 8 000 sq.m. and has an unique architecture. Outside, the monastery looks like a fortress. It has 24-meter high stone walls which forms irregular pentagon.
The entire complex is quite impressive for its size. The 4-floor residential part consists of no less than 300 monks’ cells, 4 chapels, an abbot’s room, a kitchen, a library and guestrooms for donors.
Once in the complex, it is worth visiting the monastery’s museum, which hosts a unique work of art, namely The Raphael’s Cross. The cross is made of a whole piece of wood (81cm x 43cm) and is named after its creator.
The monastery complex, regarded as one of the foremost masterpieces of Bulgarian National Revival architecture, was declared a national historical monument in 1976 and became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983.