Going back more than a thousand years, the Rila Monastery in Bulgaria is one of its tourist attractions, known for its cultural and historical past that are further accentuated by the architectural splendor of its monuments. It is at a height of 3700 feet above sea level on the banks of the Riska River in the Rila Mountains 73 miles from the capital Sofia.
This monastery was built by the students of the hermit, St. Ivan of Rila who came to him for education. The hermit himself lived in a cave nearby. The monastery has always been supported by the rulers of Bulgaria and became a spiritual center for all Bulgarians. The present complex was rebuilt in the 14th century with the Tower of Hrelyu and a church among the buildings from that era still in existence. A number of other buildings were destroyed by the Ottomans when they captured that country.
The present main church of the Rila Monastery was erected in the middle of the 19th century and contains many icons from earlier years. There is also a residential part in this monastery that has over 300 chambers. The library holds many rare manuscripts. Its fortress like appearance with high walls and small windows is a throwback to the times when Rila Monastery was raided and destroyed.
The museum here has the Rafail’s Cross, a cross made from a single piece of wood that has 104 religious figures and 650 miniature figures that took over 12 years to make and work on it only stopped when the monk working on it, Rafail, lost his sight.
Tourists are allowed to stay at the monastery and the area around this monument has developed into a tourist center that offers all amenities to them. Mountain trout from the river is one of the offerings that tourists do not miss.