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The Tsarevets fortress

The Tsarevets fortress embodies the greatness of the medieval Bulgarian state and is today fully recovered and pronounced architectural-museum reserve.

Tsarevets is the main citadel of the Old Bulgarian capital, isolated as the core of the whole fortification system. A powerful wall encircles the 100.000 nr fortification on every side. The fortress has three entrances. The main western entrance is built on a narrow and steep rock isthmus, additionally secured with a swing-bridge and three consecutive gates with towers. The second entrance is to the northwest side of the fortress and used to establish a connection with the New Town quarter and Trapezitsa. The third gate is to the southeast - the Frankhisar gate, which connected Tsarevets with the quarter of the franks (the western merchants). Within the fortification walls stand the centers of the worldly and religious power - the Royal Palace and the Bulgarian Patriarchy.

The palace of the Bulgarian kings spreads on 4,872 m2 and includes the king's chamber, residential areas and representative buildings. The palace church of "St. Paraskeva" is also located here, once decorated with marvelous mosaics and elegant mural paintings. The patriarchal complex spreads on 3,000 m2. It consists of the patriarch's palace and the main patriarchal church "The Holy Ascension of Jesus", which is located on the highest point of the hill. The temple was fully renovated in 1981 to honor the 1300-year anniversary of the establishment of the Bulgarian state and was turned into a museum. It was painted by the artist Teofan Sokerov with modernistic frescoes, representing the political and cultural history of medieval Bulgaria.

The space between the two complexes is thickly built-up with residential areas with preserved traces of houses, churches and inns. The remains of 22 churches, once richly decorated in the traditions of the Tarnovo art school, have been uncovered on the territory of the Tsarevets hill. To the north, sinisterly overhanging the Yantra River, is the Execution Rock, from where national traitors were thrown in the abyss on command of the rulers. A shady path leads from here to Baldwin's tower, located in the southeastern part of Tsarevets. This tower used to guard the Frank Hisar gate and the large reservoir near Yantra. The tale says that the Latin emperor Baldwin I of Constantinople was kept prisoner in the tower, after being captured by the Bulgarian Tsar Kaloyan near Edirne in 1205. The tower reveals a panoramic view of the Sveta Gora hill to the south, which was named after the Holy Mount Athos in Greece.

During medieval times numerous churches and monasteries were built upon the hill and it formed as the spiritual centre of the Second Bulgarian kingdom. The biggest monastery "Virgin Mary Hodegetria (The Wayshower)" hosted the famous Tarnovo literary school, related to the activity of the famous enlightener and ecclesiastic Patriarch Euthymius of Tarnovo. Today the monument of Patriarch Euthymius and the Veliko Tarnovo University "SS. Cyril and Methodius" are located on the Sveta Gora hill. To the west of Tsarevets another important fortress of the capital Tarnovgrad is revealed before the visitor - "the glorious town of Trapezitsa", located on the right bank of the Yantra River. It is fortified with its own walls following the natural rock relief, and it has 6 gates leading inside it. Here were located the residences of the notorious Bulgarian noblemen. 17 churches have been uncovered, which once kept the relics of famous saints - St. Ivan Rilski, St. Paraskeva (St. Petka), St. Gabriel Lesnovski, etc. The Tsarevets hill also faces the Momina Krepost hill, where other sets of fortification walls, towers and gates have been uncovered. There were fortification walls that also encircled the numerous quarters of Tarnovgrad, formed at the foot of the hills. The biggest quarter was the New Town, spreading on terraces on both banks of the Yantra River. Some of the most beautiful medieval churches have been preserved there, bearing an incredible historical and architectural value - "St. Demetrius of Thessaloniki", "SS. Forty Martyrs", "SS. Peter and Paul", "St. Ivan Rilski" and "St. George".

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