Thursday Thoughts – Rila Monastery – More Than a Peek

Rilski Manastir – or Rila Monastery – I let you have a peek some days ago…now, let us go inside – hopefully you will love it as much as I did!

An old friend of mine left us a hint about it… and so we went for a day to the Rila mountains and the monastery. This turned out to be the most fantastic experience we had during our four days in Bulgaria.

The Rila Monastery is the largest and most famous Eastern Orthodox monastery in Bulgaria. 1,147 m (3,763 ft) above sea level, hidden inside Rila Monastery Nature Park. The monastery is named after its founder, the hermit Ivan Rilski, or Ivan of Rila, (876 – 946 AD), but today houses 8 monks only.

According to Wikipedia, and our guide, the Rila Monastery is regarded as one of Bulgaria’s most important cultural, historical and architectural monuments and is a key tourist attraction for both Bulgaria and Southern Europe.

The old doors of the monastery were huge, to protect them from intruders. No weapons or armor were tolerated inside, so visitors had to enter through a tiny door, unarmed.

This is what you will find when you enter through the door. Burnt down and ravaged through the centuries, the buildings have been rebuilt several times to its former glory.

The main church of the monastery was erected in the middle of the 19th century. Its architect is Pavel Ioanov. The church has five domes, three altars and two side chapels, while one of the most precious items inside is the gold-plated iconostasis, famous for its wood-carving. No photos allowed, of course… The beautiful frescoes, finished in 1846, are the work of many, for me unknown, masters from Bansko, Samokov and Razlog, including the famous brothers Zahari Zograf and Dimitar Zograf. The church is also home to many valuable icons, dating from the 14th to the 19th century. Porticos in the courtyard have Mamluk influence with the striped painting and the domes, which became more popular in the Ottoman Empire after the conquest of Egypt.

The Rila Monastery was re erected at its present place by Hrelyu, a feudal lord, during the first half of the 14th century. The oldest buildings in the complex date from this period -— the Tower of Hrelja (1334–1335) and a small church just next to it. The bishop’s throne and the rich-engraved gates of the monastery also belong to the time. However, the arrival of the Ottomans in the end of the 14th century was followed by numerous raids and a destruction of the monastery in the middle of the 15th century.

The museum of the Rila Monastery is particularly famous for housing Rafail’s Cross, a wooden cross made from a single piece of wood (81×43 cm). Magnificent – but No photos allowed of course. The cross was whittled down by a monk named Rafail using fine burins and magnifying lenses to recreate 104 religious scenes and 650 miniature figures. He worked for 12 years to finish the cross, and it was completed in 1802, when the monk lost his sight. Stock photos.

The monastery complex, regarded as one of the foremost masterpieces of Bulgarian National Revival architecture, was declared a national historical monument in 1976 and became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983.

On 25 May 2002, Pope John Paul II visited Rila Monastery during his pilgrimage to Bulgaria.

Seldom have I taken so many photos of one single building complex, but I also waited a long time…to finally catch one of the 8 monks on a photo!

My favorite fountain – and I would return to it at the end of the day…

Not to be forgotten is that this monastery is ”alive” and working. You can rent a room for the night  – simple or luxury – and we saw the laundry coming out and the gardener pruning his pot plants.

I had seen a golden bird sitting somewhere, in a broschure? – I was sure… The whole day I was on the lookout for this bird, but could not find it. Just before the car was taking us back to Sofia, I saw him. He was just a little one, perched on top of the fountain.

Saying my goodbyes…I almost think I heard him answer –


WPC: Peek

From Michelle at WordPress – a wish for a peek…something teasing you to want more…

High up in the Bulgarian mountains you will find the door to this gem…




The stunning Kilmacduagh monastery was founded by St Colman in the 7thCentury.

I loved everything about it – the serenity, the silence, the rural beauty of the area.

The round tower is dated from the 12th Century, and the tallest one in Ireland – Kilmacduagh is 34 meters in height with the doorway set 7 meters above ground level.
The tower also has quite a visible lean to it – said to be 0.5 meter from the vertical.

The biggest church building on the site is the cathedral ( Templemore Mac Duagh). dated between the 11th and 12th Century.

The Church of St John the Baptist (Teampuill Owen) is in the field next to the cathedral.
It dates from the 10th Century which would make this church the oldest building on the site.

The cemetary is still in use, and I do not think I have ever seen a thicker stone wall than this one.


On leaving, we finally got a closer look at the lovely cows – and they finally got a closer look at us…

The Enchanted Monastery

Monasterio de Santa Cristina (Ribas de Sil) in Galicia, Spain, originates from the 11th century, when monks came here to live in seclusion to meditate.

We had great difficulties in finding the hidden monastery, and had to follow winding roads for miles. Then a multitude of stone steps down…but, we were richly rewarded.

There is not much written about the monastery, or its church, but the very location and surroundings are enigmatic. I hope you noticed the stone faces watching us from above in the header…

Hidden in the forest, it was impossible to get an overview of the buildings. We walked up the layered paths, and the unreal feeling only escalated. Not many monks have ever lived here – but how did they survive? It seemed impossible that they would have grown anything in this stone paradise. No matter how green it was…

The old trees all seemed to be aware of us being there…and as I turned around on the path, one of them made my eyes wander up the trunk for his message…resting some four, five meters up…