Monday, August 10, 2009

Day 64, Rila Monastery,Bulgaria

We are now going to Bulgaria........

Wow, there are several UNESCO world heritage sites here we have chosen to visit just one.....the Rila Monastery........

Our very well informed tour guide has given us enthusiastically shared a wealth of information with us........
The monastery was founded in the 10th century as a colony for hermits.

Ivan Rilski is one the greatest Bulgarian saints. He was born about 867 in village of Skrino near Dupnitsa town. He was a shepherd and at the age of 25 he went in "St. Dimitar" monastery in Osogovo Mountain. He got his ecclesiastical education here and became a monk but soon he left the monastery and became a hermit.

At last he settled in the marvelous Rila Mountain where he
lived to the end of his life. He started healing the locals and preached the words of God in a way that anyone could understand.

The Rila monk became popular and soon the rumour spread all over, and even the Bulgarian king Petar I came from the capital Preslav in Rila to see him. But Ivan Rilski just bowed to the king from a distance. He didn't accept the gold that king Petar I send him as well.

le started to respect him even more and other monks and hermits came to him to be his disciples. They built hovels around and thus the foundation of the most famous Bulgarian monastery was laid.

Later it became one of the centers of early mediaeval culture. It declined during the 11th century, but with the foundation of the Seco
nd Bulgarian State great care was taken of it. The vicissitudes of time forced its location to be changed on several occasions. It has been destroyed by fire and abandoned by the monks.

Its present-day place, 119 km South of Sofia, is the one in which it stood during the 14th century, when the protosebast Dragovol H
relyo settled in the monastery as an independent ruler.

In 1335, he built the five-storey defence tower, topped by the transfiguration Chapel, fragments of whose murals can still be seen today. By the end of the 14th century, the Rila Monastery had turned into a powerful feudal entity, with many villages, lands and properties. Tsar Shishman alone, the last Bulgarian ruler, donated it over twenty villages in different districts.

The monastery's unquestionable authority influenced the Turkish sultans who confirmed the rights granted by the Bulgarian kings by special firmans. Irrespective of this, the monastery was devastated around the mid-15th century. It started rising again after the relics of John of Rila were brought from Veliko Turnovo here in 1469, passing through the whole of Bulgaria as a nationwide patriotic procession.

The fate of the monastery became the concern of the entire Bulgarian nation.

A new center was needed for the cultural life, which had declined or was transferred abroad. Many of the time's most outstanding men of letters gradually started gathering in the monasteries. The first links with Russian monasteries were established.
A charter of Tsar Ivan the Terrible, kept today at the Monastery Museum, allowed the Rila monks unlimited access to the Moscow Principality.

The Rila Monastery was burned and pillaged on several occasions. The construction of the present-day monastery buildings, which stretched over 30 years, started in 1816, with money collected from the entire people.
The courtyard facades offer one of the most perfect use of the verandahs system which lent very much warmth and coziness to the place.

The large monastery kitchens are located in the Northern wing, and are a unique example of building and architecture - a 24-meter cone passing through all floors by means of ten rows of arches topped by a small cupola.

The Holy Virgin main church was built from 1834 to 1837 in the place of the old burned-down church.

The interior is extremely impressive. The murals were painted between 1840 and 1848 by some of the finest artists of the time: Ivan Nikolov - The Iconpainter, Kosta Valyov, Zahari Zograph, Dimiter Zograph and his sons - all from Samokov, Dimiter Mollerov from Bansko and his son Simeon.
The icons of the main altar were painted by Ivan Obrazopissov from Samokov.The twenty donors' portraits in the church mark the beginning of Bulgarian secular painting of realistic portraits.

Thus the Rila Holy Virgin Church became an example of the new trend which revived 19th century religious painting. This gallery of art was enriched by the murals in the churches and chapels outside the monastery: St. Lucas, Virgin's Shroud, The Assumption of St. John of Rila - Above his grave, the church of the Orlitsa cloister, and the graveyard church. Some of them feature another two of the main individual styles of the time: of Toma Vishanov and Nikola Obrazopissov, founder of the Bulgarian genre painting.

Thirty-six figural scenes, the figures of the Old Testament Kings, apostles martyrs, an exceptionally rich ornamentation of flowers, birds and stylized figures - this, in short, is the "subject-matter" of the main carved altar of the Holy Virgin Church fashioned by four masters over a period of 5 years.

The museum contains a multitude of gold and silver church plates, collection of coins, weapons, jewelry, gold-weave nateruals and embroidery. Stunningly carved is the entrance gate of the already existing church of Protosebast Hrelyo, preserved today in the monastery's museum of history.

A truly unique masterpiece is the carved cross of the monk Raphael. The cross is made of a whole piece of wood (81cm x 43cm) and is named after its creator. The monk used fine chisels, small knives and magnifying lens to carve 104 religious scenes and 650 small figures into the cross. The cross was finished in 1802 after the monk worked on it for no less than 12 years, losing his sight upon completion.

The library's 16,000 volumes include 134 manuscripts from the 15th and 19th century, numerous incunabula and documents.

A characteristic example of the Bulgarian Renaissance (18th–19th centuries), the monument symbolizes the awareness of a Slavic cultural identity following centuries of occupation...........very impressive.

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