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RILA MONASTERY was founded in the 10th century by the Bulgarian monk St John of Rila and was rebuilt in the 13th -14th century. From that time are the fortress tower (1334), the bishop's throne, richly carved doors and some manuscripts, icon-paintings and church plates. In the 15th century, when Bulgaria fell to the Ottoman Turks, the monastery was abandoned for a short time but in the second half of the same century it was restored to a new life. Later it was for several times plundered and ravaged. Its thorough renovation began in the early 19th century. It was then that the residential wings and the church of the Holy Virgin were raised (1834-1837). The Rila Monastery has been listed as a world monument of culture. In it there is a well-appointed museum.The most impressive monument from the Bugarian National Revival period rises amidst the rugged beauty of the Rila Mountain, just 120 km from Sofia. Having survived the times with the self-confidence of the most zealous guard of the Bulgarian spirit and language, it still fascinates present-day visitor with the pure and harmonious line of the buildings' exquisite colonnades, arches and vaults, spacious rooms richly decorated with murals and fretwork. The monastery's most treasured historic and artistic monuments include the 14th century Hrelyo Tower, the five-domed Birth of the Blessed Virgin Church and the original monastery kitchen from the 19th century. The monastery also houses a rich museum collection of valuable old manuscripts and documents, charters and icons, an ethnographic exhibition of fabrics, jewelry, carpets and wrought iron objects, and a library containing more than 16,000 books.

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