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 centers in Bulgaria, where through the centuries intensive spiritual, educational, and creative activities have flourished. It was in close contact with spiritual centers 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.