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THE RILA MONASTERY
"Of all the Bulgarian glory when there were so many large monasteries and churches in Bulgaria earlier, the Lord has left only Rila Monastery to exist in our times... It is of great use to all Bulgarians. Therefore, it is the duty of all Bulgarians to guard it, and to give alms to the sacred Rila Monastery...".
Paisii of Hilendar, Slav-Bulgarian History (1762)
The chronicle of this monastery reflects the entire history of the Bulgarian State and the Bulgarian people, the defence of their spiritual and cultural nature.
In 1983 Rila Monastery was included in the UNESCO List of World Heritage. It was founded in X c. by followers of the Bulgarian hermit saint Ivan Rilski. The monastery is one of the most significant cultural centres in Bulgaria, where through the centuries intensive spiritual, educational and creative activities flourished. It was in close contact with spiritual centres abroad. After a devastating fire, the monastery was completely rebuilt in the XIX c. It is the biggest renaissance monument in Bulgaria. It is an architectural - artistic composition of enormous dimensions, an apogee of the work of the renaissance craftsmen, icon - painters, wood-carved, artisans in the artistic area where architecture and the decorative and monumental painting of stone, wood and metal are combined. The defensive tower of Khrelio, built in the XIV c., can be found in the yard. The Monastery is still in use. There is a sumptuous library, a historical museum and a few thematical museum exhibition. The church was painted by the most famous representatives of the Bulgarian renaissance artistic school.
Festivals and Fairs
The Great Koprivshtitza Folklore Festival
The Great Koprivshtitza Folklore Festival is Bulgaria's largest gathering of traditional musicians and singers and is a cross between a pop festival and a medieval fair. It is a sight that knows no equal: thousands of musicians and singers making the hillside above the picturesque village of Koprivshtitza their home for a few days. Coupled with this you have the colourful stalls of the traders and the thousands of visitors who come for the festival.
This is Bulgarian music as it was always played, played by the ancestors of those who first played it. But perhaps it is what happens on the periphery that is the most authentic. Strolling players or soloists, simply playing for the sheer enjoyment. forming new bonds with other musicians or just letting their music ring out over the hillside.
The Bourgas International Folk Festival
The Bourgas International Folk Festival, held annually, attracts a host of Bulgarian and international artists and is held in the second half of August.
The Kazanluk Festival
The Kazanluk Festival of the Roses is held annually in early June, and has grown from a local to an international event. Not only are the roses, Kazanluk's main industry, in full flower. but the town itself blossoms while visitors enjoy the "Rose Picnic" and all the fun of a folklore festival, with its costumes, songs and dance. Should you still have the energy left, you can always visit the old factories where the rose oil is extracted.
St. Trifon's Day
In the agricultural calendar, St. Trifon's Day celebrates the pruning of the vines, and is held on February 14.
On the first Sunday before Lent, Kukerov Den celebrates the start of the agricultural year, and all over Bulgaria you can witness processions led by the dancing. leaping Kukeri dressed in colourful masks and costumes.
Baba Marta is celebrated on March 1 when peasant house-holds brush out the winter cobwebs with a traditional spring clean. and people offer each other tokens of good luck called martenitsas.
Like western countries. the Bulgarian calendar is dotted with important feast days and festivals. The festival of the Kukeri re-enacts ancient surovaki rites to ward off evil spirits and Kukeri fertility rites. Although only held once every five years, it brings together dancers from all over Bulgaria in a rainbow of colours and styles.
St. Lazarus Day
Lazaruvane is also celebrated in spring on St. Lazarus Day, and here village girls considered fit for marriage perform ritual songs and dances.
St. Konstantin and St. Elena Day
The coming of summer is traditionally celebrated on St. Konstantin and St. Elena Day on May 21, and in some of the remoter villages in the Stranzha hills fire dancing, dancing on heated coals, is still practised in celebration of summer's arrival. Ethnologists have suggested that this practice is directly descended from Dionysina rites of the ancient Thracian.