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January 19, 2012

A Monastery Made of Six-Million Matchsticks

Michelangelo spent only three years carving David. Da Vinci’s depiction of The Last Supper required just three. This giant model of the Rila Monastery by Bulgarian artist Plamen Ignatov demanded 16 years of dedication.

Officially known as the Monastery of Saint Ivan of Rila, it is Bulgaria’s largest Eastern Orthodox Monastery. It was founded in the 10th century — reportedly growing from a cave that housed the monastery’s founder. After being rebuilt at the end of the 15th century, it long served as a repository for Bulgarian culture during times of foreign occupation — including nearly 500 years of Ottoman rule. The Rila Monastery is now protected as a UNESCO World Heritage site and receives nearly a million visitors annually.

The model is currently on display in the Bulgarian capitol of Sofia at the National Archaeological Museum.