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The town of Turnovo became the capital of the revived Bulgarian kingdom in 1186 and established itself as a royal and religious centre of the state.

The mediaeval town was built on three hills. Between their steep slopes meandered the River Etur (Yantra). On them were erected three separate fortresses: Tzarevets, Trapezitsa and Momina fortress (Devin grad). The best fortified one was Tzarevets. One could enter it passing through gates with towers. On the top of the hill rose the royal palaces, the church of the Patriarch, the Patriarch's palace and the residences of the nobles. In two of the towers were discovered deep wells, which supplied the fortress with water. Rope bridges hung over the precipice and the river. Trapezitsa and Momina fortress were also surrounded with fortification walls. Within them were built the residences of part of the nobility and other prominent citizens. In the skirts of the hills spread the quarters of the ordinary people - "Assenova mahala", "The Jewish quarter", "The town of the Franks". In addition, many craftsmen's workshops and other buildings were arranged along the narrow streets. The entire area of Turnovo was surrounded by a fortification wall.

Many churches and monasteries were built in Turnovo itself and around it. South of the town, on "Sveta gora" hill, stood the monastery "Holy Trinity". At some distance were the Preobrazhene monastery and the Kilifarevo monastery. The three of them were Christian centres of religious and literary life. Some of the best pieces of Old Bulgarian literature, ordered by the King and the aristocracy, were created there.

Churches existed in all quarters of Turnovo. On Tzarevets alone were discovered the ruins of 20 churches. Among them stood out the Patriarch's church "God's Ascension", called "the mother of churches in the Bulgarian kingdom". The church buildings in the capital were small in size. Inside they were full of icons and multicoloured frescos. The local painters, with their masterpieces of the 13th - 14th c., founded the Turnovo School of painting. On the outside the walls were made of several layers of stone, brick and variegated ceramic figures. A new element for the Bulgarian churches of the 13th c. was the church tower, which was erected for the first time in the Turnovo church "Forty Holy Martyrs".

The beautiful and well-fortified town impressed with its magnificence not only Bulgarians but many foreigners as well. In mediaeval literature the capital Turnovo was glorified as "the big town", "the great town", "the king's town", "the God-protected royal town", "the queen of towns", "wonderful town", "glorious royal town", "new Constantinople" and so on. The mediaeval capital was depicted in miniatures and frescos.

After the capture of Constantinople by the Latins in 1204, Turnovo rose as a second capital of Orthodoxy on the Balkan Peninsula. The kings moved there the relics of many Orthodox saints, thus turning it into a town protected by God. The protector of the town was St. Petka of Turnovo. In 1393, after the fall of Turnovo under the Ottoman Turks, the relics of the saints were moved to Vidin, then to Belgrade. In 1521 they were taken to Istanbul. After 1641 the holy relics of Petka of Turnovo were taken to Yash (today in Romania) where they are still kept.

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