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…


Back to Ireland – Ruins and Cows

Looking through my photos from Ireland – I found an old abbey I had not posted on. I am convinced there were not many visitors, as we only saw it from the car. We were looking for a nice place to have our evening picnic – I wanted cows and my husband wanted ruins – and we found the perfect place!

To get there, we had to park at the church, climb some fences and walk a straight gravel road over the meadows with grazing cows. Just my thing.

I wondered how this abbey had looked when new – it was still impressive out there in the middle of all the green. Not much sun, but we had our fruit and sandwiches sitting on the ground against the wall. The Irish landscape offers never-ending glory.

The farewell was accompanied by the most gracious crowd (in the header), and lastly by a lone beauty standing by the road. I really have to go back to Ireland – soon.


What is Your Story?

This is still one of my my favourite stories – (and favourite characters…) and so it was for my children as well. I guess most of you know them…? How do you remember their impact if you read them as a child?

Black&White Sunday: Traces of the Past

Traces of the past...for Paula this Sunday – the Gateway to the monastic city of Glendalough, Ireland. said to be founded by Kevin in the 6th century.




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…

A Peaceful Walk in Belfast

Murals in Northern Ireland, are strong symbols and depicting the region’s past and present political and religious divisions. There is peace now, but 1968-1998, ”the troubles” between working class protestants and catholics were very severe. I remember hearing and reading of them as a young girl. The IRA bombings made black headlines in our papers. In my first teaching classes I remember using a text called ”The Sniper” – about Northern Ireland. It was a ”must” to see these murals in reality.

In Belfast, it is estimated that there are approximately 300 quality murals on display,  These murals are mainly to be found in two streets – Shankill Road (protestant) and Falls Road (Catholic) in western Belfast.

The themes of murals can range from the 1981 Irish hunger strike, with strike leader Bobby Sands,  to murals of fallen heroes and international solidarity with revolutionary groups. For example we found Cuba’s Fidel Castro and South Africa’s Nelson Mandela.

After walking these two famous streets, we went to the Peace Wall. This wall goes all the way along this street, and most of the paintings are very neatly done. If you look closely, every letter and separate painting is covered in texts on peace. Imagine how wonderful it must have been to participate in the making! Finally, ”War is Over”!