History of the Rila monastary (1)
Favorite thing: The monk hermit John of Rila who lived in a stone cave not far from the monastery?s main complex founded the Rila Monastery in 927 AD. The originator of the Rila foundation, who lived during the reign of the Bulgarian Tsar Peter (927-968), was raised to sainthood by the grateful Christians in sign of homage to his life work. The disciples of John of Rila, who lived at that same time, should also be merited for the creation of the monastery. In the middle Ages the Bulgarian rulers showed great interest in the personality of the monk and the Rila cloister of which John of Rila's life history gives valuable evidence. All through the 12th-14th centuries there was an upsurge of the monastery's cultural and artistic activities. Talented writers, painters and master-builders have left fascinating manuscripts, church and residential buildings, frescoes of high artistic value, remarkable works of the applied arts, woodcuts, church plates and icon paintings. The fall of Bulgaria under the Turks at the turn of the 14th and beginning of the 15th centuries made the maintenance of the monastery's normal ways of spiritual life difficult, due to which it lost much of its power and influence in public life. (see history of the Rila monastary 2 for the rest)
History of the Rila monastary (2)
Favorite thing: Towards the mid-15th century the monastey was plundered, set on fire and destroyed. The monastic life declined. The turn of the 15th century witnessed the rebirth of the Rila establishment to a new spiritual and cultural life. The relics of John of Rila were transferred from the ruined royal city of Turnovo back to the Rila Monastery. When Bulgaria fell under Ottoman rule in the 15th century the Rila Monastery was subordinated to the authority of the Bulgarian and Turnovo Patriarchate. The National Revival Period in the 18th and 19th centuries gave a new impetus to the resurgence of the Rila cloister. Reconstructed, renovated and protected from the Turkish conquerors, the monastery turned into a center of spiritual, cultural and economic revival. Thousands of worshippers, donors, builders and painters made their way to it. Church-donors from Koprivshtitsa, Teteven,Sofia etc. gave financial support for the construction or furnishing of complete premises, presented painted decoration, icons and church plates, a proof of which are the many names and portraits that have come down to us. Maybe this history can be helpful, for, except for if you buy a booklet at the monastery grounds, there is only a little information about the monastery available in English, French or German, on the noticeboards nailed up at the entrances.
Favorite thing: The monastery grounds are open daily from 6 am till 10 pm. Admission is free. After 10 pm the gates of the monastery are closed, so if you stay inside the monastery, better be back then before 10 pm. (although guards will open the gate for you after 10 pm when you arrive a bit later, you cannot expect to get back there at 3 am!) You can take photo?s everywhere, but not inside the church. There are two gates: the eastern entrance is the Samokov gate, which opens to the direction of the hotels and restaurants that are situated next to the monastery. So, it is not as if the monastery is situated on its own in the mountains: only a few metres outside the monastery there are many places to sleep and to eat. You don?t have to back to the village of Rila then. (although it offers a graet deal on alternative accommodation). And: if you don?t have a place inside the monastery to sleep, you still will be able to visit the monastery in the early morning and late evening when you only staying a few metres from the building then.
The western entrance is the Dupnitsa Gate, where all the tourist busses come and go, and where you will find taxis or free rides to the village of Rila. There is no bank or ATM at the monastery of course and neither in the village, so bring enough cash with you. The monastery has a part open to the public and a part that is forbidden. The monastery has four levels with balconies, has some 300 cells and rooms such as a kitchen, storingrooms and a chapel. From the top balcony at the fourth floor you have the most impressive views of the cloister and the surrounding mountains
Fondest memory: no money to get the monastary, but the monastary is ON the money