Centre of culture
The most impressive monument from the Bulgarian National Revival period rises amidst the rugged beauty of the Rila Mountains, just 120 km south of Sofia.survived the times with the self-confidence of the most zealous guard of the Bulgarian spirit and language, it still fascinates present-day visitors with the pure and harmonious line of the buildings, exquisite colonnades, arches, vaults, spacious rooms richly decorated with murals and fretwork.
The monastery's most treasured historic and artistic monuments include the 14th century Hrelyo Tower, the five-domed Birth of the Blessed Virgin Church and the original monastery kitchens from the XIX century. The monastery also houses a rich museum collection of valuable old manuscripts and documents, charters and icons, an ethnographic exhibition of fabrics, jewelry, carpets and wrought iron objects, and a library containing more than 16 000 books.
Rila Monastery is included in the UNESCO List of World Heritage.
One of the most famous Byzantine monasteries of Bulgaria is Rila (Rilski), situated south of Sofia in the Rila Mountains, and attracting a lot of tourists each year. Saint John of Rila (880-946), known to the Bulgarians as Ivan Rilski, was one of many ninth-century hermits and mystics who took to the wooded mountains of Bulgaria and Macedonia in search of solitude and enlightenment. After building a considerable consideration as a wise man with healing powers, he eventually gave in to the pressure of his followers and established a monastery high in the Rila Valley, where he could combine the virtues of an organized monastic community with the ascetic solitude he valued so much. It is said that he took steps to embalm himself before death by consuming large amounts of herbs and potions, and his dead body was thought to possess miraculous curative powers. As a result, Rila became famous throughout the Balkans as an important pilgrimage site.
In 1981 the monastery was declared World Cultural Heritage by the United Nations.
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