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Bulgaria Presents New Monument at Mini-Europe

Source: Sofia News Agency (www.novinite.com)
Published Date: 27 May 2008

Mini-Europe is continuing to expand! In the presence of the Bulgarian Minister of Culture Stefan Danailov and Minister-President of the Walloon Community Rudy Demotte, Mini-Europe revealed the Rila Monastery from Bulgaria. After the Air France Airbus A380, the Millennium Tower of Magdeburg and the Thermal Baths of Szecheny, it is the fourth new miniature of 2008.

This new monument is intended to give the visitors of Mini-Europe an even more comprehensive picture of Europe, and the countries and cultures that compose it.

The Rila Monastery is not only Mini-Europe's first monastery, but also, for the first time, it represents the Orthodox religion to which a sizeable proportion of Europeans belong. The Orthodox religion forms the foundation of the Cyrillic alphabet, whose birthday is celebrated by Bulgarians every year on 24 May. The Rila Monastery is a perfect illustration of the Bulgarian spirit, since it has always been the cradle of the Bulgarian Orthodox tradition, particularly during the Ottoman occupation. Furthermore, the monastery is resplendent with its brilliantly decorated inner courtyard and a church dating from the nine-teenth century.

The Rila Monastery was founded in the tenth century by students of Saint John of Rila, a hermit who was later canonized by the Orthodox Church. In the tenth century, he left his life at the monastery in Rouen to move to the barren Rila Mountains, and settled in the vicinity of the spectacular deep valleys of the Rilski River. A monastic community formed around John, and they founded the monastery after his death in 946.

The accommodation for ascetics and the caves were sanctuaries, and were gradually converted into a monastery complex that played an important role in the social and spiritual life of Bulgaria during the Middle Ages. The monastery was partly destroyed by a fire in the early nineteenth century, and was rebuilt between 1834 and 1862, while the parts which escaped the fire remained intact.

The Monastery of Saint John of Rila is a symbol of the Slavic culture after a long period of occupation and oppression by the Turks, which made it a national place of pilgrimage for Bulgarians. It can be seen as the religious centre of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, and an expression of Bulgarian cultural identity. The monastery is also an example of the Bulgarian National Revival from the eighteenth and nineteenth century. Since 1961, the Rila Monastery has been a national museum and in 1983, it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Like all the other monuments at Mini-Europe, the monastery is built to a scale of 1/25th. The irregular lozenge shape of the monastery is 5.90 m long and 5.20 m wide.