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Medieval Strongholds

A lot of Medieval strongholds have been preserved on Bulgarian territory.

The Tsarevets Stronghold

The Tsarevets Stronghold is situated in the picturesque town of Veliko Tarnovo. It used to be the main Bulgarian fortress during the Second Bulgarian Kingdom (1185-1393). At that time the hill slopes were covered with houses, craftsmen’s workshops and many churches and monasteries, organized into sections. The excavation works have discovered more than 400 houses, over 22 churches and 4 monastery complexes.

Tsarevets conquers you with its magnificence and size. Strong fortress walls belt the historical hill from each direction, and the tall rocks make it a naturally unconquerable stronghold. Once, you could get into the fortress through three entrances. The main entrance was at the farthest western part of the hill. There used to be a mobile bridge in front of it. The second gate is 18 meters away from the first one, and the third - 45 meters away from the second one. The Palace Complex was located in the central part of the hill. It is an architectural ensemble surrounded by an inner stone wall, war towers and two entrances - from the north and from the south. It had a Throne Hall, a Palace Church and king’s chambers.

The Pliska Stronghold

For two centuries - from the foundation of the Bulgarian State in 681 to 893, the town was the main Bulgarian political, military, cultural and economic center. Situated on a crossroad in the middle of a huge hilly area, Pliska was protected by powerful fortress walls. Three defensive rings had to protect the town from possible attackers. The outer ring consisted of deep ditches, the middle one - of thick stone walls reaching up to 12 meters of height, and the third ring was made of walls built from clay bricks.

The explorers of the ancient Bulgarian capital have noted three stages in its building. Khan Krum’s palace is among the most remarkable monuments of the first stage. The secret entrances are quite intriguing -dwellers were able to leave the town unnoticed. The palace had a big water depository and spa buildings that were quite modern for those times. The second stage of the building of Pliska is connected with the name of Khan Omurtag. The fortress walls, the so called “small palace” with houses of the Khan’s family members, the new spa buildings with an elaborate heating installation, two pagan temples and the extremely magnificently decorated Throne Hall: those are only some of the monuments of Khan Krum’s rule. The third building stage has left for us early-Christian religious buildings with imposing sizes. The most remarkable architectural monument of that period is the Big Basilica. It used to be the biggest Christian church on the Balkan Peninsula.

Besides being the first capital of the Bulgarian State, Pliska is the town where Bulgarians were converted in the Christian faith. Here, in 886, Tzar Boris I welcomed the students of Kiril and Methodi - the creators of the Slavonic letter.

Veliki Preslav

The town of Veliki Preslav is situated at the foot of the Preslav Mountain. In the beginning of the 9th century, the building of a well-fortified center was started here. During the first century of its existence, the town grew bigger, it was surrounded by a strong fortress wall, it was supplied with water and urbanized. After Christianity was accepted as the official religion by Tsar Boris (864), a lot of temples were built here. Later Preslav became the second capital of the Bulgarian State. The town went through a remarkable blossoming, turning not only into a political and diplomatic center, but also into a center for a number of art crafts, remarkable architectural achievements, active literature and educational activity.

Assenova Krepost (Assen's Fortress)

What is most impressive about the Assenova Krepost, is its compactness. It is amazing that this small spot at the top of the peak, where the fortress was built, has been built up optimally, and everything is arranged with a remarkable architectural thrift and pragmatism.

Judging by the position of the ruined walls, a conclusion can be made that the fortress consisted of two parts - an upper (central) part and an outer part. The central part has an area of about 10 dca, and it is more difficult to reach. The main tower used to be there - a quadrangular construction made of unprocessed stones, soldered with white mortar. No building remains can be seen in the outer part, but most probably outhouses and barracks were situated there, separated from the central fortress by an additional wall.

The best-preserved part of the fortress is the Holy Virgin Pertichka Church. It was partially restored during the 20th century. Inside you can see frescoes from the 14th and 19th centuries.

Baba Vida Fortress

"Baba Vida" is the only thoroughly preserved Medieval castle in Bulgaria. It rises on the River Danube bank, in the north-eastern part of the town of Vidin. It has a history of over 2000 years. The fortress has a square shape and takes an area of 9.5 dca. There is a protective trench around it, with a width of 12 meters and a depth of 6 meters.

The fortress is surrounded by two walls - an inner and an outer one. The inner wall is tall, with a width of 2.2 meters, with 9 towers; the outer wall is shorter. An outside yard forms between the two walls. The area, outlined by the inner wall, is built up with arched premises, attached to it. This used to be the residential part of the castle. The premises are positioned on two floors. The access to the upper terrace is provided through winding stairs and a platform for pulling out cannons, as well as through wooden ladders to some of the towers.

The castle-fortress is reachable only from the north, where the entrance tower is situated. There used to be a mobile bridge above the protective trench, filled with water from the River Danube. After you pass through the entrance tower, you get into the first patio. In the Middle Ages a church used to rise there, a building of massive construction and a two-part frame-built cottage. Those buildings were destroyed during the construction of warehouses and guard-buildings in the end of the 17th - the beginning of the 18th century.

The Shoumen Fortress

The Shoumen Fortress is situated 3 km away from the center of the town of Shoumen. It is very well-preserved, and is the most significant historical and archaeological monument in the region. According to the archaeologists, it was built on four platforms during the early and later antiquity, and in the Middle Ages it was expanded. During the Avar and Slav invasions, the fortress was destroyed. Later the Bulgarian Khan Omurtag restored it. In the 11th century the fortress was conquered by the Byzantines.

The fortress is one of the best-studied archaeological sights in the country. Its fortress and religious architecture, its residential and economic buildings, and the thousands of monuments, testify about its various functions during the different epochs, mostly during the time of the Second Bulgarian Kingdom. Today the Shoumen Fortress is exhibited as a museum in the open.

The Kaleto Stronghold near Mezdra

The Kaleto Stronghold is situated near the town of Mezdra, upon a high rocky massif hanging over the River Iskar bed. The stronghold used to guard the access to the passages of Stara Planina. A village was spreading to the north, and over its ruins the modern town of Mezdra was built. This is where, in ancient times, passed the road which linked the Roman city of Eskus to Serdika.

The bases of the stronghold walls of Kaleto are raised upon remains from the Halkolite Epoch. A Byzantine defensive point was built upon the Roman fortress. Later, the stronghold was repeatedly broadened and fixed. Now, on the unreachable rock massif, you can see the fortress walls, built during the Roman Epoch, the Byzantine Era and the Bulgarian Middle Ages. The archaeological excavations reveal remains from different periods - houses, objects, parts of the street net. The objects, discovered during the archaeological researches, testify of the wealth and prosperity of the ancient town's citizens.

Recently, a defensive tower from the Roman Epoch was discovered here. It was destroyed in the middle of the 3rd century, and below its floor remained the food supplies that obviously used to be held there.

The Medieval Town of Cherven

The Medieval town of Cherven is situated on the right bank of the Cherni Lom River, about 30 km away from Rousse. The stronghold was raised in the 6th century by the Byzantine Emperor Eustinian I. Later on these lands were conquered by the proto-Bulgarians. In the 13th century, during the Second Bulgarian Kingdom, the Medieval town was one of the most significant military, religious and economic centers of Bulgaria.

Cherven consisted of two parts - the town itself and the Citadel. The Citadel is situated on the higher part of the plateau. The houses of the distinguished citizens were built there, as well as the churches. One of the interesting places is a rectangular tower, which was probably four floors high. A mobile bridge used to stand on one side; it was the connection between the town and the Citadel.

Cherven was burned to ashes by the Ottoman Turks in 1388. Today we can see the castle remains, part of the stronghold wall, the tower, the embrasure, the two gates and the bases of the churches.