st ivan of rila


Before we went to the Rila Monastery, we headed up the mountain a little ways to the cave and chapel of St. Ivan of Rilski, the saint for whom the monastery was built. St. Ivan was Bulgaria’s first hermit, and he lived in this tiny cave, extremely dark and very very damp (it was too narrow and dark to take photos in!). There is a little holy spring by the cave, where people drink the healing water and leave notes and prayers in the cracks of the mossy rocks, and a small chapel with flowers and sprigs of grasses next to the icons in the lace-curtained windows.