The Rila monastery is located in Southwestern Bulgaria, Kyustendil province, Rila municipality. It is established in the 10 – th century by st. Ivan Rilsky, at the Rilska river.
The monastery is one of the most valuable cultural monuments in the country, symbol of Bulgaria, included in the World Heritage List of UNESCO.
The now monastery is located near the village of Pastra: not far from it’s first establishment. This is the biggest monastery in Bulgaria: 5 floors, with visible 4 floors. This is because of the restrictions of the Ottoman rulers in 1834, when the nowaday buildings have been created. In the ground floor is situated the museum.
Sveti Ivan Rilsky monastery has been built between the years 927 – 941 by Ivan Rilsky (or accordingly to some authors by his disciples) in the Rila mountain. In the yard of the present monastery has been built defense tower and small church by the local ruler Hrelyo. The tower is the oldest existing building in the monastery complex and has the architecture of the Tarnovo art style.
Right after its foundation the monastery becomes educational center. Neofit Rilsky performs huge pedagogical work in the monastery, here rebellions like Vassil Levsky, Gotze Delchev, etc. find cover.
In 1778 the monastery was ruined in the flames of accidental fire. In 1784 it is rebuilt by the famous builder Alexy, who in 1816 – 1819 builds the Northern, Eastern and Western wings of the monastery. In 1833 a big part of the monastery is fired again; and the reconstruction is made agin by the builder and architect Alexy.
Today the monastery holds 8800 square meters of territory, the built territory is 5500 square meters. The monastery wings surround the yard from all sides forming a pentagon.
In 1961 the monastery is announced as National museum “Rila Monastery”. In 1968 the monks were returned in the building, and from 1983 is under the protection of UNESCO. The monastery contains a lot of letters, books and documents dating from 14 – th to 19 – th century.