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  • Writer's pictureKelly

A night in Rila Monastery, Bulgaria

Updated: Jan 23, 2020

Rila Monastery is one of the most special places in Orthodox Christianity in Bulgaria. It was founded in the 10th century by the students and followers of the revered hermit, Saint Ivan Rilski.

Remarkably, it remained a central place of Bulgarian religion and culture even during the country's 5 centuries of Turkish rule.

We were privileged to visit and stay overnight in the monastery's guestrooms.

Simple but functional (€15).

View from bedroom balcony

The monastery is extremely well-visited but once all the day-tourists had left, it was as if the place breathed a sigh of relief and peace rested again in the grounds.

Walking around in the late afternoon sun was a beautiful experience and really allowed the beauty of the architecture and paintings to sink in to your very being.

There is a little museum which hosts irreplaceable religious treasures, one being the carved cross of Father Rafail which depicts 36 Biblical scenes and over 600 hundred figures. The cross took 12 years to complete and Father Rafail apparently lost his eyesight after finishing it in 1802. What dedication.

I was in genuine awe at this almost super-human accomplishment - pictures don't do the Cross justice because Rafail's artistry is so minuscule and detailed.

This two day visit to appreciate Bulgaria's religious history was one of the most profound experiences of all my travels. Its church was the highest level of religious extravagance I've ever encountered: every inch of wall and ceiling was guilded, painted or covered with an icon. Very impactful indeed.

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