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Rila Monastery

Rila Monastery
map Rila Monastery

The Rila Monastery (Rilski manastir) is the largest and most famous Eastern Orthodox monastery in Bulgaria. It is situated in the northwestern Rila Planina, 117 km south of the capital Sofia, at elevation of 1147 m above sea level.

It is traditionally thought that the monastery was founded by the hermit St. John of Rila (Ivan Rilski), whose name it bears, during the rule of Tsar Peter I (927 Ц 968). The hermit actually lived in a cave not far from the monastery's location, while the complex was built by his students, who came to the mountains to receive their education. Throughout its centuries of existence the monastic complex played an important role in the spiritual and social life of medieval Bulgaria.

Destroyed by fire at the beginning of the 19th century, the complex was rebuilt between 1834 and 1862. The monument is a characteristic example of the Bulgarian Revival (18thЦ19th centuries) and symbolizes an awareness of a Slavic cultural identity following centuries of occupation.

The Rila Monastery is regarded as one of Bulgaria's most important cultural and historical monuments and on account of this it is also a key tourist attraction. The monastery complex was declared a national historical monument in 1976 and became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983.

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