Rila Monastery

* This name is listed on the World Heritage List. ª The region is classified by UNESCO.

The Rila Monastery, also Rila Monastery ( Bulgarian Рилски манастир ) is a monastery in the eponymous mountain range in southwestern Bulgaria. The official ecclesiastical name of the monastery is the Monastery of Saint Ivan Rilski ( манастир " Свети Иван Рилски ").

The monastery is directly subordinate to the Patriarch ( Stauropegia ) of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church. Following the model of the Rila Monastery and not for older image programs following him Narthices other Bulgarian monasteries were painted. A leader in this field was the Samokower painting school with Zachary Zograph (1810-1852) and Dimitar Zograph (1796-1860) had its best-known representatives.

The Rila Monastery was since the 18th century until the liberation of Bulgaria from Ottoman Turkish rule (1878 ) the only functioning whole Bulgarian institution and was considered along with the monasteries of Zografou and Chilandar on Mount Athos, as one of the centers of the Enlightenment Bulgaria. Today the monastery is one of the most important Orthodox monasteries, and the largest in the country. It was included in the list of world cultural heritage by UNESCO. The plant - one of the 100 national tourist objects - is the most important center of religious tourism in the country and is considered a national shrine.


The Monastery of Saint Ivan Rilski is located about 120 km south of Sofia in the western part of the Rila Mountains and is located in a mountain valley at about 1147 m above sea level on the western bank of the mouth of the small creek Drusljawiza in the larger Rila, so that the monastery situated between the two rivers. The north side of the valley rises with steep slopes to 2729 m high mountain peak Maljowiza. On its north side, depending on the route 6-8 hours away, is the refuge Maljowiza. Other trails lead among other things, from the monastery of the " Seven Lakes " and the mountain hut " fishing lake " ( about three hours).

In the area, five to the Rila monastery belonging small monasteries and Metohija: Metochion Orliza, Metochion Pcelino, the grave of Saint Ivan of Rila, the Hermitage "St. Luke " from the 14th century and the church cemetery. They have all been rebuilt in the period from 17th to the 19th century.

The monastery is favored by its geographical position. About 20 km to the west passes the road Sofia -Thessaloniki; and about 30 km northeast of Istanbul on the road Plovdiv to Sofia ( → Via Diagonalis ). Both roads already existed in ancient times and were also used in the period of Turkish rule. In the 18th and 19th centuries, they had a special meaning for the travelers in the Ottoman Empire: they offered to travelers from Budapest and Vienna, as well as the pilgrims of the monasteries of Moldova and Russia the shortest route to the south - Thessaloniki and Mount Athos. In the interest of merchants from West Bulgaria was moved to the road end of the 18th century through the cities Dupniza and Samokov. So they brought them near to former monastery, and after that transfer, a street between the Rila Monastery and the trade route was built, which is still visible today.


Beginnings in the Middle Ages

The monastery was founded no later than the first third of the 10th century. According to biographies and local traditions of the Holy Ivan Rilski and his first followers lived in rock or tree trunk caves to different locations on the upper reaches of the Struma River in Vitosha Mountains and the Rila Mountains, where the "old hermitage " is today. After he had become known for the " miracle healings and exorcisms of evil spirits ", he found many disciples, with whom he founded the first Rila Monastery 927-941.

946 died Ivan Rilski and was probably buried in the "old hermitage ." Finds prove that here arose the first stone buildings and the first church. In the church it had. Due to the limited resources and the isolated location only a nave building, like the church of the Bachkovo monastery from the 11th century have acted From this founding period still date the ossuary and the Chapel of Saint Luke.

In the Middle Ages the monastery of pilgrims was richly rewarded and developed into a center of intellectual and cultural life in Bulgaria. 1335 was Sebastocrator Stefan Chrel Dragowoj ( called Chreljo ) a wall, build a tower and a small church in the monastery. About the appearance of this small church is not known. It was located directly on the Chreljo Tower and was called the " Mother of God Ossenowiza ".

From the Bulgarian Tsar Ivan Schischman the monastery received extensive privileges in 1378. Numerous writers, artists and builders left behind manuscripts, ecclesiastical and secular buildings, wall paintings, wood carvings, liturgical vessels and icons.

Certainly, the monastery was not destroyed during the conquest of Bulgaria by the Ottoman Turks 1393-1396, which could be related to the affiliation of the region to Despotat Welbaschd. Probably the region became Ottoman, when the ruler of the Despotate, Constantine Dragaš, after the Battle of Maritsa in 1371 vassal of the Ottoman Empire had become. According to some sources, the Despotate within the Ottoman Empire continued to exist. Thus, the despot of Welbaschd Yusuf is known that in 1402, the Ottomans suffered after the Battle of Ankara as a heavy defeat, rebelled and then restored the Despotate in its old boundaries. To 1427/28, by the autumn of 1431, however, the principality was re- Ottoman. The Ottomans destroyed its fortifications and built in the boundaries of the Sanjak of Kyustendil, one of the largest in the Ottoman province of Rumelia.

Busy 's just that with the conquest of Bulgaria by the Ottomans lost the monastery in the 14th and 15th centuries to influence and it was sacked in the second and third quarter of the 15th century and largely destroyed. Only the church and the Chreljo tower remained. Towards the end of the 15th century, the monastery was rebuilt. At that time the relics of John of Rila from the former Bulgarian capital Veliko Tarnovo were returned to the Rila Monastery solemnly. The procession is given in detail in the work Rila legend ( Bulgarian Легендата за Рила и Пирин ) by Vladislav Gramatik. Even under Ottoman rule the monastery enjoyed privileges similar to those in pre- Ottoman period. However, the letter of protection of the sultan in Constantinople prevented Opel ( now Istanbul, Bulg: Цариград / Tsarigrad ) attacks not complete. 1466, a contract for a partnership was announced between the Rila Monastery and the Monastery Saint Panteleimon in the Mount Athos.

Even relations with the Orthodox Church in Russia were made. In 1558, many monks of the monastery emigrated to Russia. In the 16th and 17th centuries, relations with the Orthodox Churches of the neighboring countries Serbia, Romania and Greece expanded.

The monastery church was the end of the 18th century a new look: 1777 Ostraum was converted into a apse and the central space in a Naos 1784 it was expanded to include a narthex and two side chapels. These were decorated with wall to 1794 icons. From the description of the Monastery of Neophyte Rilski, however, no conclusions can be drawn to the imagery of the old church. Because of the enlargement of the monastery church ordered 1792 Wali ( governor) of Sofia to control the guerrillas of Dupniza the monks of the Rila Monastery constantly.

The construction of the first residential building began in 1816.

New in 1834

In the winter of 1832/33 a major fire destroyed the monasteries to the Chreljo - tower and the chapel. In the epoch of the Bulgarian Enlightenment of the reconstruction to a project of national importance was. With donations from the people, the buildings were restored, expanded and renewed. Shortly after the fire first agreed to the rich merchants and Stojan Walko Tscholakowi from Kopriwtschiza willing to co-finance the start of the new building. In March 1833 the ecumenical patriarch in Constantinople Opel, Constantine I began with a collection campaign for the monastery. In July of the same year a planning application was submitted. The local Turkish authorities recommended and approved by the Sultan a firman ( decree ) only repairs and additions in the old dimensions.

Even before the reconstruction in 1834, the monks decided to completely ablate the chapel and replace them with a larger one. Under the direction of Igumen ( Abt) Jossif the monastery complex was finally rebuilt in its present form. The new monastery church Sweta Bogorodiza consists of two parts, the three-aisled naos and narthex which, built at the same time. During construction, two periods can be distinguished: the first from 1834 to 1837, when the church was created; and the second, from 1838 to 1860, when the interior was completed. The reconstruction was entrusted to the architect Alexi, who had already passed the conversions in the 1770s. Architect of the new monastery church Sweta Bogorodiza was Pavel Ivanovich from Krimin, a then well-known builder.

According to the construction of the monastery of conduct church began on May 1, 1834 was completed on 26 October 1837, and consecrated in July 1838. The narthex was completed in 1835. Work on the interior of the church began in 1838 and ended in 1860. During this period, the soil was covered with marble, the frescoes were painted and the work of the covering of the dome were started, with limited resources originally with lead. This lead roofing was replaced in 1870 by copper.

The new building in the era of Bulgarian Enlightenment in the late 18th and especially the 19th century gave a new impetus to the Rila Monastery. It once again became the destination of thousands of pilgrims, from founders, builders and artists. In the struggle for an independent Bulgaria, the monastery served as a refuge for many freedom fighters, including Vasil Levski, Iljo Wojwoda, Gotse Delchev, Jane Sandanski and others.

Administrative hierarchy

Originally, the monastery was placed under the bishops of the environment, probably first Bishop of Serdica. Jordan Ivanov believes that the monastery at the time of the first and second Bulgarian Empire (679-1018 or 1184-1393) was independently stauropegial and thus belonged to the jurisdiction of the Bulgarian Patriarch. During the Byzantine rule (1018-1184) was placed under the Archbishopric of Ohrid the monastery.

It is believed that the monastery does not directly after the conquest of the Second Bulgarian Empire and the associated resolution of the Bulgarian church was in 1393 placed under the Serbian Patriarchate of Peć. Thus, from the year 1466 of the above- mentioned agreement of the abbot of Rila Monastery, David, known to the Russian Panteleimon Monastery on Athos. In the agreement, the two monasteries their unit, but separate administrations laid firmly.

After the abolition of the Patriarchate of Peć in 1766 the monastery of the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople Opel stauropegial was assumed (directly). Since gaining independence of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church in 1870, the monastery was initially (now Maxim ) assumes stauropegial the Bulgarian Exarch and later the Patriarch.


The Rila Monastery Church now owns the extensive painted decoration of the 19th century. However, the wall paintings in the narthex of the Rila Monastery is the oldest of the Bulgarian National Revival. However, the composition scheme seems to be a blend of almost all iconographic possibilities and is highly valued as an image of the then Bulgarian art.

The monastery buildings and valuable asset

The main church is a building with five semi-circular domes over the apses and two side chapels. The interior is decorated with frescoes of religious scenes and a monumental iconostasis. The many icons were designed by the greatest Bulgarian painters of that time, including Zachary Zograph.

From the former Chreljo Church today is only the same defense tower from 1334, which is an example of the architecture of the Second Bulgarian Empire, the School of Tarnovo. At this tower a small bell tower was built in 1844.

The buildings on the monastery area accommodate approximately three hundred elaborately decorated rooms. They offer a tremendous variety of architectural details, but especially on walls and ceiling paintings, which are based on the vernacular. The images are representations of everyday scenes from the Gospel or Stifterbildnisse. The east wing of the monastery, a museum was established in the 20th century. Here the door of the Chreljo tower is preserved, the collections also include old weapons of the monastery sentry, certificates Bulgarian Tsars, jewelry, old coins and sacred objects. A room contains icons that were made to the monastery from around the world to the present. The museum treasures also include major woodcarving as Raffails cross. On the 81 cm x 43 cm large wooden cross 104 religious scenes and 650 small figures are shown. One Bulgarian legend, the monk carving is blind over the years in this work. Since 2011 a number of vaults on the ground floor have been made available in the north wing that housed the former monastery kitchen and the oven and were fitted with an exhibition of monastic and rural utensils, including a manual fire engine.