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24 July 2019

As centres of the community, monasteries often hold insights into traditions and exemplify architectural styles of a particular period.

5 of the World’s Most (Visually & Historically) Interesting Monasteries

by Olivia Nicholds



Jvari Monastery, Georgia


It is thought that the origins of the Jvari Monastery date back to the 4th century when a wooden cross was erected over a pagan site on a mountaintop in rural Georgia. This was extended upon a century later in the form of a cruciform church visible from the city of Mtskheta, signifying the rise of a new Christian faith over the country’s previous pagan beliefs. With no roof in places, the current condition of the monastery and its interior decoration has deteriorated due to the adverse weather conditions and inadequate maintenance. The damage was so vast that the church was listed in 2006 on the World’s Monuments Watch list in an effort to protect what remains.


Our Churches & Monasteries of Armenia & Georgia tour visits the Jvari Monastery in September 2019:



 Rila Monastery, Bulgaria


The Rila Monastery, which sits in the Bulgarian Mountains near to Sofia, was founded in the 10th century by the hermit, Ivan of Rila, who lived in a cave close by. However, its Bulgarian National Revival architecture was soon under threat by the Ottomans who destroyed many of the complex’s structures, and the monastery was later damaged throughout history by unfortunate fires, conflict and the removal of relics. As the Rila Monastery is such a large complex many fantastic features still remain, including elaborate interior frescoes, vast detailed courtyards and beautiful portico frescoes.


Our Bulgarian Monasteries tour visits the Rila Monastery in October:


Mileseva Monastery, Serbia


King Vladislav I of Serbia founded the single-nave Mileseva Monastery in the 12th century. It is home to one of the most recognisable frescoes in Serbia, the White Angel, which is often considered a masterpiece of the European Middle Ages. Dating back to 1235, the fresco depicts an angel dressed in white pointing towards Jesus’s empty tomb. As a symbol of peace and civilisation, an image of the White Angel fresco has even been transmitted into space in an attempt to communicate with any extra-terrestrial life forms.


Our Serbian Monasteries tour visits the Mileseva Monastery and is coming soon in September 2020. Contact the office for more information or register your interest here.


Trinity Lavra, Russia


As a prominent symbol of Russian Orthodox Christianity, the Trinity Lavra of St. Sergius monastery was founded in 1337. The monastery started as a wooden church built in honour of the Holy Trinity; over the course of history, due to conflict and ambitious kings, the structure was adapted and expanded to become the monastery that it is today, now home to over 300 monks. The monastery is the burial site for many notable Russian figures, including Tsar Boris Godunov and his family. His son and successor, Feodor II of Russia, died aged 16 just after he took to the throne. Enemies of the Godunov family wanted to remove the family from power and murdered him and his mother. He was succeeded by Dmitry I, an impersonator of the youngest son of Ivan the Terrible who reigned for 11 months.


Our Orthodox Christmas in Moscow tour visits the Trinity Lavra Monastery in January 2020:

And the Monastery will also feature in our Russia's Golden Ring tour in August 2020 which will be released in September 2019. Contact the office for more information or register your interest here.



Petra Ad Deir ('Monastery'), Jordan


As the second most visited site within the Petra Archaeological Park, 'The Monastery' was first constructed in 3 BC and is one of the most impressive structures built in the Nabataean style. Petra, upon which building commenced in approximately 9000 BC, later became the Nabataean capital due to its location close to trading routes. It was at one point home to 20,000 inhabitants. Although orginally built in 3 BC as a pagan temple, the Ad Deir (which means 'monastery' in Arabic, as described by the locals who discovered inscribed crosses inside) has had various purposes throughout history, including religious, social and funerary.


Our Jordan tour visits the Ad Deir Monastery in October 2020: