With a history of a thousand years, the monastery of Rila is a favorite pilgrimage place for Bulgarians and a tourist attraction for foreign visitors. Pope John Paul II visited this monastery during his stay in Bulgaria. It is located in the SW of the country, near Blagoevgrad, south the capital Sofia, in the beautiful scenery of Rila Mountains, a part of Pirin Mountain chain.
The monastery was established by Ivan of Rila, sanctified later, and has the shape of a square fortress with monk cells on the three levels walls. The red and white brick walls look great and the same pattern can be seen on the outside walls of the church. The church is more recent, build about 170 years ago. The outside painting is very vivid, depicting the Holy Third, scenes of The Last Judgment and the temptations of the devil in naive painting style. The inside frescoes are superior in quality in a pure Orthodox style, and the iconostasis is the work of several artists (photographing inside is not allowed).