The Bulgarian Orthodox Church celebrates Saturday, August 18, the assumption of Saint Ivan Rilski, honored as the patron of the Bulgarian people.
St. Ivan Rilski was the first Bulgarian recluse. He was revered as a saint when he was still alive and the legend says wild animals were coming to him and birds were landing on his hands.
His followers founded the Rila Monastery as well as many churches in his honor. One of these churches, “St Ivan Rilski” was inaugurated in 2008 in the city of Veliko Tarnovo.
St. Ivan Rilski is honored today as the patron of Bulgarian people and one of the most important saints of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church.
St. Ivan Rilski died in 946 AD in the seclusion of the monastery, and was canonized right after his death. Remembered for his miracles, he is one of Bulgaria’s most influential spiritual leaders.
Shortly after the saint’s death, his remains, which were thought to have wonder-working powers, were transferred to Sofia during the reign of Peter I. After Magyar King Bela III conquered Sofia in 1183, Saint Ivan Rilski’s remains were sent to the Hungarian capital Esztergom and stayed there for 4 years before being returned to Sofia in 1187.
In 1194, Bulgarian Tsar Ivan Asen I ordered the remains to be moved to his capital, Veliko Tarnovo. Surviving the Turkish conquest of the city in 1393, they were returned to the Rila Monastery in 1469 with the permission of Sultan Murad II.