Upon this, his celebrity grew even more and he was joined by his disciples who began building their own shelters around his place of retirement. This is how the most famous Bulgarian monastery was set up.
The anchorite died in 946 at the age of 70. Soon after his death the Tsar was visiting Sofia again and by his order the saint's relics were transferred to that town. Naturally, the case containing Ivan Rilski's relics had wonder-working power. The Greek writer John Skilitisa witnessed the healing of the Byzantine Emperor Michael I Comnenus (1143-1180).
During a war in 1183, the Hungarian King Bela II conquered Sofia and sent the saint's relics to his capital of Estergom. Because the local Catholic archbishop argued he knew nothing of such a saint, Ivan Rilski punished him by striking him dumb. The archbishop recovered his speech only when he bowed down before the case with the relics and asked forgiveness. Awe-stricken by this miracle, in 1187 the Hungarians brought back the saint's relics to Sofia.
Several years later, in 1194, the Bulgarian Tsar Assen ordered that the relics be moved to the capital city of Veliko Tarnovo. They miraculously survived the devastation of the city after its seizure by the Turks in 1393. By Sultan Murad II's permission, the relics were sent back to the Rila Monastery in 1469.
The transportation of the relics was a major event of its time. To this date the Orthodox Church commemorates it.
Ivan Rilski is revered as the patron saint of the Bulgarian people.
Of course, he is held in reverence by all other Orthodox Christians
too. Some centuries ago his cult spread as far as Siberia.
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