The Amazing Rila Monastery in Bulgaria

So we are now in Bulgaria, staying at the capital city of Sofia. The first morning we did a walking tour of Sophia and in the afternoon we chose to take the extra tour to The Rila Monastery. None of us had even heard of The Monastery or even seen any photos of it, so we were in for a surprise. The Monastery was only a nearly two hour drive, but the day before we had traveled from Ohrid to Sofia, and it ended up an all day trip. The roads were kind of windy (curvy) and some of us felt like we had a little motion sickness going on in our heads. Not the kind that makes you feel sick but the kind that gives you a woozy head, even on land. Now the trip to The Monastery, as I said, is nearly two hours, but we have to come back to Sofia and that totals another big day of traveling… on a bus… and including windy roads! We were thinking that this Rila Monastery better be worth the trip!

Tour of the Balkans - Sofia to The Rila Monastery

Tour of the Balkans – Sofia to The Rila Monastery

On the bus again but we have the back row to ourselves!

On the bus again but we have the back row to ourselves!

The drive to the Monastery was broken up with a stop at Kocherinovo to see the nesting Storks.

These Storks obviously aren't real but they have become a bit of an icon for the town, so advertising them is very useful for the tourist trade :-)

These Storks obviously aren’t real but they have become a bit of an icon for the town, so advertising them is very useful for the tourist trade 🙂

See the Stork nest on top of the building?

See the Stork nest on top of the building?

And another one

And another one

We also stopped for lunch. A lovely meal of fried trout, tomatoes, shredded cabbage and potatoes… yum! And the view was so relaxing.

The restaurant was by a mountain stream with a path leading down to it

The restaurant was by a mountain stream with a path leading down to it

Happy at lunch with an amazing view behind us

Happy at lunch with an amazing view behind us

Two very happy men as well

Two very happy men as well

So that good break in the traveling was such an great idea! Next stop was the Monastery. Reader prepare to be amazed when you look at the photos! It’s a wonderful place to see!

Going in to the Monastery

Going into the Monastery

As we enter, we were all just speechless! The view was outstanding!

As we enter, we were all just speechless! The view was outstanding!

The amazing stone courtyard

The amazing stone courtyard

Residential area

Residential area

Residential part of the Monastery

Residential part of the Monastery

The mountains behind

The mountains behind

These porches look amazing... all three stories

These porches look amazing… all three stories

Can you see us?

Can you see us?

Looking out to the hills beyond

Looking out to the hills beyond

And here we have Judy in front of one of the monks!

And here we have Judy in front of one of the monks!

Judy posing at a door that is a side entrance to the church

Judy posing at a door that is a side entrance to the church

Robin sitting under the porch at the church

Robin sitting under the porch at the church

And sitting on the monks chairs with beautiful mosaics behind

And sitting on the monks chairs with beautiful mosaics behind

the mosaics were on all walls of the porch in front of the church

the mosaics were on all walls of the porch in front of the church

Mamluk influence with the striped painting and the domes

Mamluk influence with the striped painting and the domes

Fabulous Mosaics. We couldn't believe our eyes!

Fabulous Mosaics. We couldn’t believe our eyes!

A Mosaic in a ceiling dome!

A Mosaic in a ceiling dome!

Just look at that Mosaic

Just look at that Mosaic

Mosiacs in the church porch

Mosiacs and a fountain in the church porch

A fountain in the porchway

A fountain in the porchway – looking out

the outside arch window

the outside arch window

Looking through the arch window

Looking through the arch window

Outside the monastery

Outside the monastery

Outside the monastery but still part of the grounds

Outside the monastery but still part of the grounds

Part of the exterior buildings

Part of the exterior buildings

Above one of the entrances

Above one of the entrances

Going in from the lower entrance

Going in from the lower entrance

Now for all the details about the monastery. I’m going to let Wikipedia tell you all about it….

The Rila Monastery is the largest and most famous Eastern Orthodox monastery in Bulgaria and occupies an area of 8,800 m². It is situated in the southwestern Rila Mountains, 117 km south of the capital Sofia in the deep valley of the Rilska River at an elevation of 1,147 m above sea level. The rectangular monastery is named after its founder, the hermit Ivan of Rila (876 – 946 AD). It is regarded as one of Bulgaria’s most important cultural, historical and architectural monuments and is a key tourist attraction for both Bulgaria and Southern Europe. In 2008 alone, it attracted 900,000 visitors. It was destroyed by fire in 1833 and then reconstructed between 1834 and 1862 with the help of wealthy Bulgarians from the whole country.

The main church of the monastery has five domes, three altars and two side chapels, while one of the most precious items inside is the gold-plated wall of icons and religious paintings. The church is also home to many valuable icons, dating from the 14th to the 19th century. Porches in the courtyard have Mamluk influence with the striped painting and the domes, which became more popular in the Ottoman Empire after the conquest of Egypt. It is truly a remarkable sight to see.

The four-storey (not counting the basement) residential part of the complex consists of 300 chambers, four chapels, an abbot’s room, a kitchen (noted for its uncommonly large vessels), a library housing 250 manuscripts and 9,000 old printed matters, and a donor’s room. The exterior of the complex, with its high walls of stone and little windows, resembles a fortress more than a monastery.

Yes we traveled nearly an extra four hours, two hours there and back. Was it worth it? definitely. I am very happy to say that we have been there. That I have seen that wonderful place with my own eyes. Ahhhhhh! What a pleasure it was! Looking at the photos do you agree? Let me know by adding your comments 🙂

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2 Responses to “The Amazing Rila Monastery in Bulgaria”

  1. Robin says:

    Another great post Pam. I agree, it was worth the effort. I wonder if the woozy head was due to us being in the back seat for that trip?

  2. Ken and Ann Arthur says:

    I am thoroughly enjoying reading all your comments and looking at your photos. Great to see how we all take different photos and find different things.
    Keep up the good work.

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