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Published: July 14th 2015
Sometimes you find a spare half hour and as I am about to leave for the aiport this is a quickie just to show a few photos from yesterday's visit to the World Heritage site of Rila Monastery and the ancient church of Boyana.
Unfortunately it is not allowed to,take photos inside the churches ... One point is any flash light can damage the precious frescoes but also it is not appropriate in the place of worship so one must be respectful... No sneaking a pic.
At Boyana church about 10 km from Sofia the tiny church has been built in 3 stages , 10th 12 th and 18th centuries with some destruction at certain periods and following that restoration. The frescoes inside are layered and so there are 12 th C on top of 10 C. Only 8 people at a time are allowed in for 10 mins our breathing can also cause damage so humid,try and temperature is carefully controlled. It's beautiful to see all the surfaces covered and some of the faces on the paintings are so real.
Then on to Rila Monastery ... A couple of hours drive ( I was on an organised
tour in a small mini bus only 7 of us ...perfect ) from Sofia passing fields and fields of sunflowers, maize , vineyards and other crops with the forested hills and mountains in the distance .. Some patches of snow on the higher mountains. Our excellent guide told us that about a third of the country is forested so that is good news for the environment!! The last part of the journey is a beautiful steady climb about 10 km up a river valley with steep rocky wooded slopes on either side and then you are there at the monastery. Over a thousand monks would have lived here at one time but there are on,y a few there now and we saw some of them and we're lucky to be allowed into one of the monks rooms... They have two rooms one for the master monk and one for his serving monk who had all sorts of rules to abide by... Actually they were quite cosy and not as Spartan as you might think.
Anyway you must of course be respectful and have arms and shoulders covered and no short shorts.... a couple of our ladies from Oz had
no idea about this and so out came my spare big Indian scarf for one of them and our group leader found his fleece on the bus for the others one... It would have been rather hot for her but at least she was allowed in.... MOTTO of this story is always carry a big scarf or pashmina if you are visiting sensitive sites ... It is quite common in Southern European countries like Spain, Italy , Malta to be asked to cover up if you are entering a church.
All the walls and ceilings outside and inside were covered with the most beautiful paintings .. Many telling the stories from the bible and of course what might happen to if you were tempted by the devil!! I try to imagine what this must have been like for ordinary peasant folk ...their drab day to day life would not have been colourful so I am sure to come and see this must been magnificent.
In the Eastern Orthodox Church you stand inside , but along the walls are some wooden seats where those who are disabled or elderly may sit. here from the domed ceiling hung fabulous gold
incense burners and chandeliers and other massive golden structure around them. So being rather "elderly" myself I allowed myself to,sit and gazed in wonder at the ceilings and walls and the golden screens and the front of the altar.. Sorry no photos😇
There was a very good modern museum in one section of the monastery walls which showed many beautiful artefacts ancient books, and beautifully embroidered church clothing and golden objects ...many of them gifts to the monastery from Russia. The crowning glory there is the Rafrail wooden cross about 50 cm high intricately carved out of one piece of wood .. It took 12 years working every day for this to be completed by the monk and really is an awesome artefact .
And then our tour guide got us a key and we went to see the monk's cell. Apparently you can stay here too, costs 7 leva which is about £2 and that's a room with no water or electrics.... But only men can stay of course. There was a convent further down the mountain for the nuns and it was said that there was a tunnel between the two ...in case of emergency like
an attack on the monastery ... But you can read into that whatever you like !!
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