Bulgaria-0583 - Rila Monastery - UNESCO Site
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Rila Monastery was founded in the 10th century by St. John of Rila, a hermit canonized by the Orthodox Church. His dwelling and tomb became a holy site and were transformed into a monastic complex which played an important role in the spiritual and social life of medieval Bulgaria. Destroyed by fire at the beginning of the 19th century, the complex was rebuilt between 1834 and 1862.
The Monastery of Saint Ivan of Rila, better known as the Rila Monastery is the largest and most famous Eastern Orthodox monastery in Bulgaria. It is situated in the southwestern Rila Mountains, 117 km (73 mi) south of the capital Sofia in the deep valley of the Rilska River at an elevation of 1,147 m (3,763 ft) above sea level. The monastery is named after its founder, the hermit Ivan of Rila (876 - 946 AD).
The whole complex occupies an area of 8,800 m² and is rectangular in form, centered around the inner yard (3,200 m²), where the tower and the main church are situated.
The main church of the monastery was erected in the middle of the 19th century. Its architect is Pavel Ioanov, who worked on it from 1834 to 1837. 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, the creation of which took five years to four handicraftsmen.