Rila Monastery was founded in the tenth century by St John of Rila, a hermit canonized by the Orthodox Church. It is located in the Rila Mountains in Bulgaria, a spectacular location in the gorges of the river Rilski.
Housing for its ascetics and vaults became sacred places and were transformed into a monastic complex which played an important role in the social and spiritual life of medieval Bulgaria. Partially destroyed in the early nineteenth century, the complex was rebuilt between 1834 and 1862, the buildings spared by the fire having been preserved.
The monument is characteristic of the Bulgarian Renaissance (eighteenth and nineteenth centuries) and symbolizes the awareness of the Slavs of their cultural identity after centuries of Ottoman occupation. The Rila Monastery is inscribed on the World Heritage list of UNESCO since 1983.