"The Keeper of Bulgarian Faith and Idenitity" Top 5 Page for this destination Rilski Manastir by ger4444

Rilski Manastir Travel Guide: 88 reviews and 297 photos

Bulgarias most famous monastery is the Rila Monastary and it is I guess the most holy place in the country. In any time, it is a major attracktion for pilgrims (mainly Bulgarians) and of course for foreign tourists. Certainly, you can say this cloister is THE ultimate must see place in Bulgaria, since it is nearly on every postcard or tourist guide of Bulgaria. So, seeing Bulgaria without having visited this place, is not having experienced the country in a complete way. When you come to the monastery in summer, try to visit it between monday and friday, for during the week-ends it is overcrowded by tourists. The monastery is a place of inspiration for everyone: it is a place where you can escape ( except for the week-end ) from the hectic life of modern society, and get yourself back on trail again by experiencing the beauty, mystique and simplicity of this place. If possible, try to stay at least one night at the monastery, for there is that possibility for tourists to sleep inside the monastery and to experience how the Spartan life must be. Enough time for contemplation about the meaning of life, since there is not much else to do then. Unfortunately, (or maybe luckily) I arrived too late to get a room inside the monastery, so I stayed at a dorm outside the gate of the cloister. However, I had the advantage to have a classic evening with some Bulgarians at the pub of my dorm. The best time during the day to get the most Impressive Impressions of the monastery is during the early morning and during the evening. The yard and monastery grounds being freed from crowds of visitors, the early sun or late dissappearing sun providing a spectacular game of light and darkness, will surely give you a great time (at least it does to your camera). If you stay longer in the area, you can also opt for a hike in the surrounding mountains.

a sanctuary hidden in mistique

Founded in the 10th century by St. Ivan Rilski and after that, many times destroyed, rebuilt or reconstructed the Rila Monastery got its final form in the middle of the 19th century. The monsatery is the largest and most revered one in Bulgaria. This cloister is by many considered as THE most impressive monument from the Bugarian National Revival period The monastery is situated about 120 km to the south of Sofia, in the forests of the Rila Mountains. The Rila Monastery has managed to surive troughout the centuries as the most ardent guard of the countrys spirit, language, faith and indeed the Bulgarian identity. The beauty of the monasteries unique arches, colonnades and vaults is outstanding. The monastery has many spacious rooms that are decorated with fretwork and murals. The monastery's most historical and artistic monuments are the Birth of the Blessed Virgin Church, the 14th century Hrelyo Tower and the monastery kitchen dating from the 19th century. The monastery also has a museum which contains valuable old manuscripts, icons and charters. There is also an exhibition of carpets, jewelry and iron objects, and a library containing more than 16,000 books. So, it is not a surprise then that The Rila Monastery has been listed as a world monument of culture by UNESCO. The unique, mysterious surroundings and espacially the evening falling gives the place a special touch of mistique

monastary as the guard of identity

Indeed, the Rila monastery was and still is the guard or keeper of Bulgarian faith and Identity. Since the Bulgarians have been occupied by the Ottomans for considerable time, the Bulgarian culture (as develloped since the 5 th. Century) was about to fade away, because the foreign rulers did everything to oppress the Bulgarian cultural identity. So, if there had not been monks and other intellectuals, who managed to protect the Bulgarian cultural heritage, by saving all the jewels of Bulgarian culture within the monastriewalls, one can wonder wether Bulgaria had survived as a nation. One of the monastries that played such an important role in preserving the Bulgarian culture ( which of course was then strongly interlinked with the Orthodox Church ) is the Rila Monastrie. But the monks of these monasteries did more than preserving the Bulgarian culture; they also managed to make the Bulgarians aware of their Identity, by f.e. teaching the illiterate people about the glorious ( almost forgotten ) Bulgarian history, so that ( eventually ) they would feel the urge for an uprisal against the Ottomans. In this period ( called the National Revival Period ) Bulgarian art, music and literature started to flourish and in this way, culture could leave the monastries to get into the Bulgarians hearts and minds. It is manifest that the Rila monastery of course also got dressed up in the architectural style of the National Revival Period, as if it where to symbolize the uprising against the occupier or at least as a visual statement of self-consciousness of the Eastern Orthodox faith. As a symbolic revival of culture, and concequently, faith, the Rila monastery is indeed the keeper of the Bulgarian Identity. So, since the Rila Monastery is such a place of enormous interest to the Bulgarian people it is not supprising that already the history writer Paissi wrote: Of all the Bulgarian glory when there were so many large monasteries and churches in Bulgaria earlier the Lord has left only the Rila Monastery to exist in our times... Therefore, it is the duty of all Bulgarians to guard it

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:beautifull monastary especially after sunset
  • Cons:too many tourists in the week-end
  • In a nutshell:a beatifull place when there are no tourisists
  • Last visit to Rilski Manastir: Aug 2003
  • Intro Updated Mar 21, 2004
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Reviews (32)

Comments (4)

  • hunterV's Profile Photo
    Jul 7, 2014 at 3:50 AM

    Thanks for your story, Ger.....It was strange to know about those actors acting as priests....We do not have that anywhere....We seem to have enough priests and monks...

  • Hermanater's Profile Photo
    Jan 4, 2006 at 11:20 AM

    Happy Birthday...I really enjoyed your pictures and tips...happy travels

  • desert_princess's Profile Photo
    Sep 25, 2005 at 7:29 PM

    Wow ! Impressive page here !!! lots of useful and precise info , You are winning the points here,dutch guy...Even tho I don't agree they are hiring actors to pretend they are monks...

  • Jul 28, 2004 at 7:40 PM

    Hi Ger, you should be the next Ian Wright!!! Both of you have a lot in common ;-)


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