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Built on the banks of the River Danube in the town of Vidin in the northwestern tip of the country, Baba Vida Castle occupies a commanding position overlooking the town. The present castle is actually built upon the foundations of a Roman fortress known as Bononia which marked the Danubian Frontier of the Roman Empire from the first to the seventh centuries. Baba Vida Castle was actually built during the 10th century and is the only medieval fortress to have survived intact to the present day. The castle is protected by inner and outer walls and is ringed by a moat filled with water from the Danube. Today, the castle is host to a number of theatre productions during the summer and is often used as a historical film set. There’s also an onsite museum with exhibitions about the region’s history.
Asenova krepost (Асенова крепост, "Asen's Fortress") is a medieval fortress in the Bulgarian Rhodope Mountains, 2-3 km sout of the town of Asenovgrad, on a high rocky ridge on the left bank of the Asenitsa River.
The earliest archaeological findings date from the time of the Thracians, the area of the fortress being also inhabited during the Ancient Roman and Early Byzantine period. The fortress gained importance in the Middle Ages, first mentioned in the statute of the Bachkovo Monastery as Petrich in the 11th century. The fortress was conquered by the armies of the Third Crusade.
It was considerably renovated in the 13th century (more precisely 1231) during the rule of Bulgarian tsar Ivan Asen II to serve as a border fortification against Latin raids, as evidenced by an eight-line wall inscription. The foundations of fortified walls (the outer ones being 2.9 m thick and 3 m high), a feudal castle, 30 rooms and 3 water repositories have been excavated from this period.
The best preserved and most notable feature of Asenova krepost is the Holy Theotokos of Petrich Church from the 12th-13th century. It is a two-storey, cross-domed single-naved building with a wide narthex and a large rectangular tower, and features mural paintings from the 14th century. The church's reconstruction finished in 1991 (the whole fortress was destroyed after the Ottoman conquest in the 14th century) and it is a fully operating Bulgarian Orthodox temple.
Taken by the Byzantines after Ivan Asen II's death, the fortress was once again in Bulgarian hands at the time of Ivan Alexander in 1344 only to be conquered and destroyed by the Ottomans during their rule of Bulgaria.
The town of Asenovgrad takes its modern name from the fortress, formerly being named Stanimaka.
The Belogradchik Fortress (Bulgarian: Белоградчишка крепост, Belogradchiska krepost), also known as Kaleto (Калето, "the fortress" from Turkish kale), is an ancient fortress close to the northwestern Bulgarian town of Belogradchik and the town's primary cultural and historical tourist attraction, drawing, together with the Belogradchik Rocks, the main flow of tourists into the region. It is one of the best-preserved strongholds in Bulgaria and a cultural monument of national importance.
The initial fortress was constructed during the time when the region was part of the Roman Empire. The rock formations in the area served as a natural protection, as fortified walls were practically only built from the northwest and southeast, with the yard being surrounded by rock up to 70 metres high from the other sides.
Primarily, the Belogradchik Fortress served for surveillance and not strictly defence. Bulgarian tsar of Vidin Ivan Stratsimir extended the old fortress in the 14th century, building fortified garrisons before the existing rock massifs. During Stratsimir's rule, the Belogradchik Fortress became one of the most important strongholds in the region, second only to the tsar's capital fortress of Vidin, Baba Vida.
During the Ottoman conquest of Bulgaria, the fortress was captured by the Ottomans in 1396. They were forced to further expand the stronghold due to the intensified hajduk and insurrectionary activity in the region.
Considerable changes to the fortress were made in the early 19th century. These changed were typical for the Ottoman castle architecture of the period, a full reorganization being carried out, as well as additional expansion. Typically European elements were added to the Belogradchik Fortress owing to the French and Italian engineers that participated in the expansion.
The stronghold had an important role in the Ottoman suppression of the Bulgarian Belogradchik Uprising of 1850. It was last used in warfare during the Serbo-Bulgarian War in 1885.
The fortress' walls are over 2 m thick in the foundation and reaching up to 12 m in height. Three separate fortified yards exist that are connected with each other through gates. The fortress has a total area of 10,210 m². The Belogradchik Fortress was reconstructed to later become a proclaimed cultural monument. It is managed by the local historical museum authority.
The stronghold of Cherven (Bulgarian: Червен, 'red') was one of the Second Bulgarian Empire's primary military, administrative, economic and cultural centres between the 12th and the 14th century. The riuns of the fortress are located near the village of the same name 30-35 km south of Rousse, northeastern Bulgaria.
The town was a successor to an earlier Byzantine fortress of the 6th century, but the area has been inhabited since the arrival of the Thracians. Cherven was first mentioned in the 11th century in an Old Bulgarian apocryphal chronicle. It gained importance after 1235, when it became the seat of the medieval Bulgarian Orthodox Bishopric of Cherven. It was affected by the Mongol Golden Horde raids in 1242 and was briefly conquered by Byzantine troops during the reign of Tsar Ivailo (1278-1280).
During the second half of the 14th century, the stronghold's area exceded 1 km² and had intensive urban development, including a fortified inner city on vast rock ground in one of the Cherni Lom river's bends, and an outer city at the foot of the rocks and on the neighbouring hills. The town had complex fortification system and was completely built up. Cherven grew to become a centre of craftsmanship in the 14th century, with iron extraction, ironworking, goldsmithing, construction and arts being well developed. The town was an important junction of roads from the Danube to the country's interior, which also made the town a key centre of trade.
Cherven was conquered by the Ottoman Turks in 1388, initially retaining its administrative functions but later declining in importance. The modern village of Cherven located close to the ruins of the fortress has, as of September 2005, 302 inhabitants.
The remains of the medieval town of Cherven are an archaeological site of great importance to the research of Bulgarian culture of the Middle Ages. The first excavations were carried out in 1910-1911 under professor Vasil Zlatarski, while regular research on the site began in 1961.
A large feudal palace, fortified walls reaching up to 3 m in width, two well-preserved underground water supply passages, 13 churches, administrative and residential buildings, workshops and streets have been excavated. The 12 m-high three-storey keep from the 14th century has also been fully preserved and was even used as a model for the reconstruction of Baldwin's Tower in Tsarevets, Veliko Tarnovo, in 1930. The site is a national archaeological reserve since 1965 and also a popular tourist object with well-developed infrastructure.
Storgosia was a road station of Ancient Rome located in the vicinity of Pleven, northern Bulgaria, in the modern Kaylaka Park. It accommodated detachments of Legio I Italica's Novae (modern Svishtov) garrison. The station grew to become a fortress in Late Antiquity due to Gothic and other Barbarian raids after 238. 31,000 m² were fortified in the beginning of the 4th century with a 2.20 m-wide defensive wall. Archaeological excavations have also discovered two gates and three defensive towers, as well as residential buildings, a large 4th-century basilica (45.20 by 22.20 m) and a public granary.
The fortress existed until the end of the 6th century, when the settlement of the Slavs apparently led to its destruction.
Tsarevets (Bulgarian: Царевец) is a mediaeval stronghold located on a hill with the same name in Veliko Tarnovo in northern Bulgaria. It served as the Second Bulgarian Empire's primary fortress and strongest bulwark from 1185 to 1393, housing the royal and the patriarchal palaces, and is a popular tourist attraction.
The earliest evidence of human presence on the hill dates from the 2nd millennium BC. It was settled in the 4th century and a Byzantine fortress was constructed near the end of the 5th century, on the grounds of which the construction of the Bulgarian stronghold was begun in 12th century. After the Vlach-Bulgarian Rebellion and the establishment of the Second Bulgarian Empire with its capital in Veliko Tarnovo, the fortress became the most important one in Bulgaria, often compared with Rome and Constantinople in magnificence. In 1393, the stronghold was besieged by Ottoman forces for three months before finally being conquered and burnt down on 17th July, which marked the fall of the Bulgarian Empire.
The restoration of the complex began in 1930, when the first of the three gates of the main entrance to the fortress was reconstructed.
The whole stronghold is girdled by thick walls (reaching up to 3,6 m) and was served by three gates. The main gate was at the hill's westernmost part, on a narrow rock massif, and featured a draw-bridge. The second gate is 18 m away from the first one and the third one, which existed until 1889, is 45 m further.
The palace is located on the hill's central and plain part, which was a closed complex encircled by a fortified wall, 2 towers and 2 entrances, a main one from the north and one from the south. It featured a throne room, a palace church and a royal residential part and encompassed 4872 m².
On the top of the hill is the patriarchate, a complex with an area of about 3000 m², whose church, built on the grounds of an Early Christian one, was reconstructed in 1981 and painted in 1985. The frescoes inside depict the glorious and tragic moments of the Second Bulgarian Empire.
Baldwin's Tower (Балдуинова кула), a modern reconstruction of a medieval tower modelled after the tower in Cherven and built in 1930, is located in the southeastern part of the fortress. It is located at the place of the original medieval tower where Latin Emperor Baldwin I of Constantinople found his death as a prisoner of Kaloyan of Bulgaria.
During the Middle Ages, residential buildings, craftsman's workshops and numerous churches and monasteries were situated on the slopes of the Tsarevets hill. Archaeologists have discovered 400 residential buildings, differentiated in quarters, over 22 churches and 4 monasteries.
The Sound and Light (Звук и светлина, Zvuk i svetlina) audiovisual show is an attraction carried out in the evening that uses three lasers, variegated lights, dramatic music and church bells to tell the story of the fall of Tarnovo to the Ottomans, as well as other key moments of the history of Bulgaria. The large-scale show has been organized at Tsarevets since 1985, when the 800-year anniversary of the Uprising of Asen and Peter was celebrated. It was designed and planned by a Bulgarian-Czechoslovak team led by Valo Radev and Jaromir Hnik.
Ancient fortress in Montana
The ancient fortress is situated on the hill “Kaleto” or “Gradishteto” in the southwest from Montana, at about 40 m. elevation above city level. As a result of archeological excavations, a city gate and a big tower have been uncovered – a brilliant example of III – IV century fortress construction. Few more military and civil buildings have been uncovered too, basilica and masonry from the Roman empire, buildings from the stone – copper age in the lowest cultural layers, as well as Slavic dwellings and a sanctuary.
The first settlement at this strategic and easy to protect elevation, with its rich water spring, is from the stone – copper age (IV millenium B.C.). A Thracian village, which has been fortificated with a massive wall (with preserved thickness of more than 1 meter), following the outline of the area and dating back to the end of the early iron age.
The significance of the hill has been appreciated by the Roman authority. The fortifications have probably been built with the very beginning of the Roman occupation (The First Sugambrian cohort, which took part in the Thracian uprising suppress from 26 A.D.). A village starts growing around the military camp (first mentioned in an epigraphic document from 134 A.D.), and the ancient sanctuary near the water spring. In 160 – 161 the village is given municipal right – i.e. a statute of a town with surrounding territory. The name of the town – Montana has been saved in a manuscript from the II century.
The economic and cultural advance of Montana from the II – IV century is interrupted in the middle of the III century by the Gothic invasions. At the threat of new barbarian invasions, building of a fortress has been started. When this invasions become more frequent in the IV or V century, a second fortress wall has been built to the south and east.
The fortress is destroyed in VI – VII century in one of the Avarian or Slavic raids. A Slavic village has been built lately over the ruins.
Perperikon (also known as Hyperperakion or Perperakion) is located in the Eastern part of the Rhodopi mountain range, about 15km away from the town of Kurdzhali. Perperikon perches some 470m above sea level, with the village of Gorna Krepost lying beneath it. Nearby the village, the gold-bearing river of Perperishka has long watered a fertile land of total area of some 30-40km2. This generous land has attracted inhabitants for many centuries, which explains the numerous archeological finds of ancient remains in the region.
No doubt, the most imposing of these is Perperikon – a medieval fortress built in the place of an ancient Thracian sanctuary, related to the cult towards the Thracian equivalence of the Greek god of wine and feasts, Dionysius (known as Zagrey among the Thracians). According to some of the explorers of the site, this grandiose religious centre was built some 3,500 years ago and was used for ritual sacrifices of animals and people, as well as for religious orgies of young men and women worshipping Zagrey.
The remains of the later medieval Perperikon reveal 15 graves carved in rocks, as well as the foundations of fortress walls and parts of an octagonal tower, built of big rectangular stones. Noteworthy, the complex also preserves the remains of a water reservoir, carved in a monolithic rock. This is 6m deep and of total area of 60m, representing one of the biggest artificial water reservoirs in the Rhodopi region. The stones of Perperikon also uncover graffiti paintings of human bodies and various geometrical figures, which are connected with the religious beliefs of another ancient tribe, the Protobulgarians.