St. Ivan Rilski
The German monastery, “St Ivan of Rila”, is situated in a beautiful forestry area of the Lozen mountain close to Sofia. The monastery lies about 5km to the southeast of the village of German, which in turn is just 15km to the southeast of the city of Sofia.
It is believed that the German monastery was established in the 10th century, shortly after the dead of St Ivan of Rila. The image of St Ivan of Rila is present in many of the cloisters in the Sofia region, as he was widely honoured there. Yet it is only the German monastery and the cloister in Kurilo (close to Novi Iskar) that are dedicated to the saint. According to a legend, St Ivan of Rila lived for some time in the area surrounding the village of German before retiring into the Rila mountain. The German monastery is one of the oldest and is a part of the “Little Sveta Gora” as the Sofia region is nicknamed for the abundance of cloisters there. The monastery flourished until the late 14th century and has even been sent presents by the Byzantine emperor Alexius I Komnin during the Byzantine rule. It was destroyed by the Turks in the 14th c. but was rebuilt shortly afterwards (15th c.) by patriotic Bulgarians and became a true cultural centre by the 17th century. In the 18th century, however, a detachment of so-called Kurdzhalii plundered and destroyed the monastery. The monks that managed to flee as well as local people started rebuilding it already in the early 19th century. In 1818, a simple one-nave church that was half-hidden beneath the surface was built. Following the Bulgarians’ liberation from Ottoman rule in 1878, the then father superior, Nikifor and his brother Cyril decided to rebuild the monastery. In 1885, the old church was ruined down and a new, bigger one was erected over the same place. The church’s walls were built of carved stone and three layers of decorative brocks. The ceiling was covered with ceramic tiles. A new iconostasis with five large icons of St Ivan of Rila, St God’s Mother with Christ, Jesus Christ, St John the Precursor and St Nikolay Miriklijski the Miracle-Worker was also prepared while the icons were painted in the summer of 1886 by two famous brothers from the town of Samokov – Ivan and Nikola Dospevski. The old icons are currently kept with the Historical Museum of Sofia. In the late 19th century, the monastery was visited by Prince Ferdinand and Princess Maria Louise who planted two sequoias that are still standing up majestically at the northern gate. Since 1928, the German monastery and its properties have been officially owned and managed by the St Georgi Zograf of Athos, Greece after the former was given in financial support of the poor Bulgarian monastery in Athos. At present, the monastery is acting, and is well kept by its inhabitants.
The monastery does not offer food or accommodation.
The monastery is easily accessible by car. One needs to take the road to the village of German that starts from the Circle Road of Sofia. Then, at the very entrance of the village one has to take a left-hand road that leads straight to the monastery. The cross-road at which this road starts has a sign that shows the way to the monastery. The German monastery is some 5km up this decent asphalt road.