This monastery is a holy place for all Bulgarians, for it has preserved their pride, national identity, faith and hope through the centuries. It was founded in the 10th century 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 have flourished. It was in close contact with spiritual centres abroad. After a devastating fire, the monastery was completely rebuilt in the 19th century. 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-carvers and 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 14th century, can be seen in the yard.