July 26, 2010

The Curious Crucifix of Rila Monastery

One of the curious attractions of the Rila Monastery is the wooden crucifix, which took the Monk Rafail 12 years to carve during the eighteenth century. The relic has a place of honor among the artefacts displayed in the smallish museum.

Engraved on the half-a-metre tall cross, there are 140 Biblical scenes with over 1,500 participants, some of which are the size of a rice grain. The microscopic figures cover both sides of the entire cross. The monk, in an inhuman display of patience, carved out the relic with a needle and, as a result, lost his sight.

The monastery’s museum also contains interesting church plate samples, documents certifying donations from Tsarist Russia and personally from Ivan the Terrible, as well as a fingerprint machine imported from Vienna. The images of devils trying to spoil people’s good deeds may not have great artistic value, but they are quite fun to look at.