More than 100 km to the south of Sofia, in a narrow, wooded valley, Rila monastery lies at an altitude of 1,150 m. Founded by the hermit Ivan Rilski in the 10th century, it was given its present-day appearance in the mid 19th century after having been destroyed several times. The entire site with its 2 m thick outer walls, that are up to 24 m high, covers an area of 32,000 m2. Although it looks like a fortress from the outside, it is now a place of congregation. The 23 m high Chreljo tower which dates back to the Middle Ages and the black-and-white painted decorations on the arches, domes and frescoes as well as the invigorating fountains in the inner courtyard leave unforgettable impressions on its visitors. To the day it is a monastery and a popular tourist destination.