Rila Monastery

Rila Monastery is one of the symbols of Bulgaria. Rila holy cloister was founded in the first half of the 10th century. Its history is directly related to St. Ivan of Rila, the first Bulgarian hermit, who settled in the region and devoted his life to fasting and prayers. Throughout the centuries Rila Monastery has always been the spiritual, educational and cultural centre of Bulgaria. During the Bulgarian Revival Period (18th – 19th centuries) Rila Monastery set up approximately 50 metochions in the large Bulgarian towns and villages where some of the most well-educated Rila monks performed their religious rites, established schools, and brought pilgrims to the monastery. It is included in the List of World Cultural Heritage of UNESCO. Hrelyo’s Tower, the oldest building in the holy cloister was built in the 14th century (1335). It was the monastery’s fortress and also the place where monks dwelled in times of trouble. The total area which the holy cloister takes, together with the church, the residential, and the farming buildings, is 8800 sq m. The monastery courtyard, the Birth of the Virgin Mary Temple, Hrelyo’s Tower, the museum, the residential and the farming buildings are surrounded by 22 m-high stone walls. The Birth of the Virgin Mary main church of the monastery was built in the place of an old temple in 1834 – 1837. The wood-carved iconostases and the wall-paintings by masters from Samokov and Bansko are impressive. The church preserves the coffin with the relics of founder of the monastery St. Ivan of Rila, the 12th century Virgin Hodegetria wonderworking icon, the 17th century St. Ivan of Rila wonderworking icon, and many other iconostasis and icons for believers to kiss from the 19th century. A museum which exhibits items providing information about the history of the monastery throughout the centuries was established in Rila holy cloister at the end of the 19th century. The museum exhibition comprises valuable examples of Bulgarian and foreign art from the 14th – 19th centuries. The most valuable exhibit is the wooden cross decorated with exquisite miniature wood-carvings by Father Rafail. The master wood-carver used the finest chisels and tools and worked for many years until he finally finished his masterpiece in 1802, when he lost his sight as a result of the hard toil. It depicts 36 biblical scenes – 18 on each side, and over 600 miniature figures.

Where to stay near Rila monastery

Additional information

The monastery is open for visitors from
7.00 am to 8.00 pm
Hrelyo’s Tower
(open only in the period between 1 June and 30 September)
Ethnographic Museum and Revival Period Guestrooms, Farming Equipment of the Monastery, Church-History Museum:
1 June – 30 September
8.30 am – 7.30 pm
open every day
1 October – 31 May
8.30 am – 4.30 pm
open every day

Church-History Museum:
Adults – BGN 8.
Students – BGN 1.
Families (two parents with children)
BGN 3 for one adult and BGN 1 for one child.
Hrelyo’s Tower, Ethnographic Museum and Revival Period Guestrooms, Farming Equipment of the Monastery
Adults – BGN 5.
Students – BGN 1