Departure from Sofia. Rila Monastery is the largest monastery in Bulgaria, founded in the 10th century by a monk hermitage by Saint John of Rila, the patron and protector of Bulgaria. Through the ages the Rila Monastery served as a spiritual, educational and cultural centre for the Bulgarians. During the Bulgarian Revival (eighteenth-nineteenth century) the monastery opened about fifty metohia – small convents located in the bigger settlements on Bulgarian territory and its monks frequently went there to officiate, educate and popularize the monastery among the laymen. Most of the present complex of the Rila Monastery dates from the nineteenth century. The oldest building here is the Hrelyova Tower. Every inch of the principal church here, Nativity of Mary is covered by frescoes, work of the most renowned Bulgarian Renaissance painters.
From the end of the nineteenth century onwards, the Rila Monastery has a museum with historical exhibits from the region. The exposition includes important examples of Bulgarian and foreign art from the fifteenth to the nineteenth centuries. The most precious exhibit is the finely carved wooden cross, work of Father Rafail. He worked on his masterpiece for years, using the finest chisels and tools, and completed it in 1802, losing his eyesight due to the strenuous work. The cross represents 36 Biblical scenes, eighteen on each side, with over 600 miniature figures.
The sightseeing tour includes a visit to the monastery, the main church and the monastery museum. Dinner.
After lunch, wine tasting in the wine cellar of Medi Valley.