If you are drawn to Bulgarian history, it will be interesting for you to get to know the historical side of Bansko. The Bansko Mountain Resort can really offer a lot when it comes to Bulgarian historical and architectural sites. There are more than 120 cultural monuments in Bansko and one of them is the house-museum Neofit Rilski.

It is a place for everyone to learn more about the life and work of a prominent and talented Bulgarian and to know how the Bulgarians lived in the past in the Bansko region. In its role as a cultural heritage with national status, the birth place of Neofit Rilski enjoys a year-round interest from Bulgarians and foreigners.

Who is Neofit Rilski really?

The real name of Neofit Rilski is Nikola Poppetrov Benin and he is a famous Bulgarian Revival writer and enlightener with diverse interests who was both a monk, a teacher and an artist, an architect, a musician, a poet, which makes him one of the patriarchs of the Bulgarian enlightenment. He is the founder of the Bulgarian secular education and the first Bulgarian encyclopedist.

This prominent writer of the Bulgarian national revival created the first Bulgarian grammar book in 1835. The Bulgarian Konstantin Irechek described him as “patriarch of the Bulgarian teachers and scholars“. He was born in 1793 and died in 1811 as a descendant of merchants, diplomats.

He taught iconography at the Art School of Toma Vishanov-Molera in Bansko. He worked in the Rila Monastery, where he later became a monk. His birthplace in Bansko was transformed into Neofit Rilski House-Museum also known as Benina House. He lived there until 1811.

The famous writer of the Bulgarian national revival studied icon painting with the founder of the Bansko Art School, Toma Molera. He painted at Rila Monastery where he later became a monk and also an abbot of the monastery later. Throughout his life, Neofit Rilski is committed to progress.

Here is what his final words were before his death sounded like, which have turned into winged words:

“I am not afraid of death itself, but I am afraid that there will still be many unfinished things that are necessary for the enlightenment of the Bulgarians.”

What is the story of the home of the first Bulgarian encyclopedist and what can we see inside?

Къщата на първият български енциклопедист има богата история. През 1793 г. в нея е роден Неофит Рилски. Построена е през XVIII век в центъра на Банско от стария известен род на търговци Бенини и оттам е и името Бенината къща. Тя е типичен пример е за традициония стил на архитектурата на Банско през периода от края на 18 в. до началото на 19в.  Обявена е за архитектурно-строителен и исторически паметник на културата от национално значение.

The house of the first Bulgarian encyclopedisthas a rich history. Neofit Rilski was born there in 1793. The house was built in the XVIII century in the center of Bansko by the old and known merchant family Benini and hence the name Benina house. It is a typical example of the traditional style of Bansko architecture during the 18th century until the beginning of the 19th century.  It was declared an architectural and construction monument and a cultural monument ofnational importance.

The Neofit Rilski House opened doors in May 1981, as the 100th anniversary of the death of Neofit Rilski was celebrated. Until its opening as a permanent museum exposition, the house was managed by distant relatives of Neofit Rilski. The objects exhibited in it are in chronological order and give information about Neofit Rilski’s long-standing and diverse work for the benefit of the people.

The Neofit Rilski House Museum is located in a large courtyard, surrounded by massive stone walls and a massive wooden gate. When you look at the museum houseyou can immediately notice the characteristic architectureof Banskofrom the end of the 18th century.  during the period 1730 – 1750. Thestructure of the house is a typical example of how the fortified houses in Bansko looked like resembling the style of theRazlog-Chepino house-fortress.

It acquires the status of an architectural and building monumentin a news section of issue 87 of the State Gazette in 1967. The House Museum is a monument of national importance and is part of the 100 national sites.

Today there is an exhibition arranged in chronological form, showing materials that reveal the long-standing activity of Neofit Rilski. The museum offers documentary and ethnographic expositions, consisting mainly of writing material, pictures, letters. More than 400 material and documentary materials related to the great work of Neofit are presented.

The most special of all exhibits is Bulgarian grammar from 1835, excerpts from the unfinished Greek-Bulgarian dictionary and books from his personal library, transcript of Slavonic-Bulgarian History, tables for mutual learning. The seal of Neofit Rilski from the time when he was an abbot of the Rila Monastery was preserved.

What are its style and structure?

The house-museum can be defined as a miniature fortress because there are many tunnels and hidden exits (total of four outlets), and, luckily for us, the authentic appearance of Neofit Rilski is very well preserved. Its four outer walls are surrounded by an additional circle of walls, between them, and there is a hiding place leading to the exits of the house outside.

Only cosmetic repairs have been carried out in its structure. On its outer side there is an additional line of walls designed to provide a hiding place and an escape route for the family living in the house.

The native home of Neofit Rilski is on two floors with a ground floor and a residential floor, and in the western part there is the fortified main part, typical of the Bansko house. It is located in a closed courtyard with a massive gate with entrances for people and for a team of horses opposite the staircase of the house-museum. The reinforced main part and the surrounding walls are stone-built and the partitions are frame-built – filled with a mass clay solution. Its floors are thick clay-isolated planks.

There is a double iron door to enter the hiding place itself. In the past, it was also connected to the fortified part of the floor used as residential and which is located above it, with a movable wooden staircase, hidden beneath the columns that supported the first floor.

On the second floor there is an anteroom, adapted monastery school, kashchi (a large bedroom that operated as a living room, partly kitchen, dining room and bedroom), the reception room of the priest Peter, a female room used for childbirth, a living room.

The outside terrace of the house is linked to the former farm buildings through a large balcony that leads to the agricultural part of the house, which is currently a documentary exposition.

Bansko houses are characterized as having two floors, and the doors have a low upper threshold, so that the person passing through them could bow to the master of the house and pay tribute to them.  This style of doors originated during the Ottoman rule, prompting a Turk who entered the home of a local Bulgarian to bow down his head.

The house-museum has a ground floor, which houses a two-parthiding placefor the whole family (a small room with a furnace), a living room, a kneading room called a mesilnik or brashnenik, farming and service rooms, a kitchen with a double furnace which cannot be found in the other old houses of this period, a storage room for winter and food supplies, a small window.

Close to the kitchen is the so called podnik. It is an animal room now covered with frescoes representing the Neofit Rilski family tree. Todor Tsonev is the man who drew the frescoes. The image of Neophyte Rilski as Little Nikola (Nikolais the secular name of Neofit) can be seen in the middle of the fresco, and on his both sides are painted his parents Katerina and Peterwho was a priest and a monastery teacher. Neofit had one brother and two sisters.

The home of Neofit Rilski suffered a series of restorations. In 1810 the house was burnt down, after which it was restored, new rooms and farming premises were built and in 1981 it was already ready for visits. At the house-museum can be seen preserved open-air decorative trimmer joists, built-in cupboards and shelves, fireplace, cupboards, a bed.

The museum dedicated to the famous Bulgarian writer of the Bulgarian national revival is housed in its native house, known among the people of Bansko, as it is situated in the historical center of Bansko, just opposite the impressive St. Trinity churchwith its 30-meter clock tower and bell tower. The house is a typical representative of the traditional Bansko residential architecture of the 18th and 19th centuries.

The Benina House was turned into a museum in 1981 on the occasion of the 100th anniversary from the death of Neofit Rilski. In this house he was born in the distant 1793. He lived here until 1811. In the following decades, the house was owned and managed by close relatives and their heirs, keeping its almost intact authentic appearance, namely the typical two-story Bulgarian Renaissance house.

On the first floor there is another room that served as abarn for domestic animals. Now its walls are painted with frescoes representing the Neofit Rilski family tree. The painter Todor Tsonev portrayed little Nikola (the secular name of Neofit Rilski) with his mother, Catherine, on one side, and his father, Peter, a local priest and a teacher at the monastery school, on the other.

From the large wooden balcony, in front of the house, you can go directly to the agricultural part. Now it has been reconstructed in a documentary part of the museum with a very interesting exposition, containing materials about the rich patriotic enlightenment and folk-life activities of the great writer of the Bulgarian national revival with his encyclopedic activities and interests.

The Neofit Rilski Museum, which is also known as the Benina House, is located in the town of Bansko. It was opened for visits in 1981, when 100 years had passed since the death of Neofit Rilski. Following the chronology, the museum has an exhibition presenting his long-standing activity in the sphere of science, culture and education. A significant place in it is dedicated to the Bulgarian Grammar created by the writer in 1835. And same as the Velyanova House was declared a national monument of culture.

How to find it?

Neofit Rilski House-Museum is located in the historical center of Bansko very close to the St.Trinity church. The address is ul. Pirin 17, working hours are 9:00 AM – 12:00 PM, 1:00 PM – 5:30 PM. The museum is closed on Tuesday. Every first Monday of the month the entry is free of charge.