Rila Monastery was established in the 13th century when a hermit's dwelling and tomb became a holy site that attracted a devotional community who built a monastic complex. The main buildings seen today date from the Bulgarian Renaissance (1830s and 40s). The earlier complex was destroyed by fire. Ten centuries of architectural styles have been preserved, giving the site Unesco World Heritage status.
There are rooms for up to 500 monks, but today there are only about 10 in residence. Still, the monastery bakery sells bread, honey and doughnuts. I bought a round loaf that I could have used to attack a hermit had I come across one (it made especially delicious toast that I lived on for the next two days). Some of the cells - I mean rooms - are available to stay in. You can choose to sleep in the style of the monks, on a wooden board bench without running water and electricity, or you can pay a bit more and have a modernised version. Our guide, Martin, warned us that the toilets in the complex are particularly unpleasant. Either monks don't do housekeeping or tourists are picky.
Traventuria. He's a graduate of music school doing a second degree at Sofia University in social experience. Here he is talking about the frescoes that decorate the outside of the church, and explaining that the chairs are for old monks.
|Gate to the bakery|
|Where the monks live|
|Ceiling frescoes outside church (no photos inside)|