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Rila Monastery

Rila Monastery is a UNESCO World Heritage site in Bulgaria, located 117 km (73 mi) south of the capital, Sofia. The road up to it takes you through scenic mountain forests where it lies some 3763 ft above sea level.

This spectacular building which stands fortress-like, high up in the Rila Mountains dates from the 10th century. Its full name is The Monastery of Saint Ivan of Rila, named after its founder, the hermit Ivan of Rila. It is the largest and most famous Eastern Orthodox monastery in Bulgaria and has played an important role in the historical, cultural and architectural aspects of Bulgaria, and indeed of the Balkans.

On 25 May 2002, Pope John Paul II visited Rila monastery during his pilgrimage to Bulgaria. The main points of interest are the main church, the residential part and the monastery's museum. In the museum, not to be missed is the Cross of Rafail. It is made of a whole piece of wood (81x43 cm). Using magnifying lenses, Rafail (a monk) used very fine chisels, small knives and lentils to carve 104 religious stages and 650 small figures. It took him more than 12 years to carve and was completed in 1802. After completion, the poor monk lost his eyesight. Alas, the use of cameras in the museum is not allowed, so I do not have a photo of it below.

Further information on this external webpage: Rila Monastery

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