Bulgaria & Romania: Rila

May 22, 2019 – Rila Monastery / Plovdiv

Our group is very punctual leaving our hotel in Sofia at 9am sharp to travel about 2 hours into the mountains to visit the UNESCO World Heritage Rila Monastery. The views outside the bus just get progressively more exciting as we ascend to about 3,700 feet elevation.

Views on the drive to Rila Monastery.
We pass through wine country with vineyards on both sides.
The highest peaks still retain their snow pack.
Arriving at the monastery, we are breathless not from the altitude but from the indescribable splendor of the site and its surroundings.

The Monastery of Saint Ivan of Rila, better known as the Rila Monastery is the largest and most famous Eastern Orthodox monastery in Bulgaria.
Founded in the 10th century, the Rila Monastery is regarded as one of Bulgaria’s most important cultural, historical and architectural monuments.

The Monastery is also a fortress, designed to be able to defend against invaders.
It was inhabited by only a handful of monks, but with many levels of accommodations for visiting pilgrims.
Embellishment between the arches of the residential hostel for pilgrims.
A busy day for the icon vendor at the Rila Monastery
The exterior of the main church is covered with beautiful frescoes
The exterior paintings teach important spiritual lessons. Here is depicted the journey of the soul after death as it is tested by knowledge of the various sins committed during life, but balanced by an angel reminding of the good things the person has also done, hopefully achieving a balance before the final judgement.
A scene of the delights of paradise has beneath it images of the tortures of hell.
Fountain near the entrance to the main church
Looking through the doorway inside the church.
Of course no photos are allowed inside, but I managed a couple of stealth shots. Here to the right of the doorway is the final resting place of the saint who founded the monastery.
Icons and images to the left of the saint’s tomb.
Looking up to the dome where sunlight streams in.
We also visit the museum where various treasures are on display. Here is the bishop’s throne from the old monastery church in the 14th century. The icon of the Annunciation dates to the 18th century.
Orthodox churches from many places in Russia gave elaborate gifts to the Rila Monastery including this icon depicting the final repose of the founding saint.
Another valuable gift of a jewel-encrusted icon of the Mother of God.

After touring the Monastery and its museum, we go for a trout lunch along the river near the Monastery, and then commence a long drive to Plovdiv where we will be spending the next two nights.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *