NGO Starts Fundraising to Rebuild Fortresses, Palaces, Cathedrals in Medieval Bulgarian Empire’s Capitals
A newly founded NGO has started a fundraising campaign in order to rebuild some of the most impressive monuments in the capitals of the medieval Bulgarian Empire, Bozhidar Dimitrov, Director of Bulgaria’s National Museum of History, has announced.
The new NGO which has been initiated by Dimitrov himself has been announced at a public meeting in the northeastern Bulgarian city of Shumen, Bulgarian news site Top Novini Shumen reports.
The fundraising campaign aims to rebuild several major monuments from the glory days of the First Bulgarian Empire (632/680 – 1018 AD) and the Second Bulgarian Empire (1185 – 1396 AD) in order to restore Bulgaria’s national memory and boost cultural tourism in some of the provincial regions with rich historical heritage.
The archaeological monuments in question have been destroyed during or after the Late Middle Ages, primarily by the Ottoman Turks during their invasion and conquest of Bulgaria at the end of the 14th century when many Bulgarian cities were quite literally razed to the ground.
It has been announced in the northeastern city of Shumen precisely because of its proximity to today’s small towns of Pliska and Veliki Preslav (“Great Preslav”) where once the might of the First Bulgarian Empire was concentrated.
For more than 200 years, between 680 and 893 AD, Pliska was the first capital of Bulgaria south of the Danube (after the Ancient Bulgars expanded from their lands in the so called Old Great Bulgaria in modern day Ukraine).
Veliki Preslav, which is located nearby, was the capital of the First Bulgarian Empire in 893-970 AD, after the formal adoption of Christianity as a state religion (in 864-865 AD) ushered in the so called (First) Golden Age of Old Bulgarian culture and literature, and at the time of Bulgaria’s greatest military might during the reign of Tsar Simeon I the Great (r. 893-927 AD).
In addition to Pliska and Veliki Preslav, the new NGO will also direct its fundraising efforts towards Veliko Tarnovo (“Great Tarnovo”, or Tarnovgrad, as it was also known in the Middle Ages), the capital of Bulgaria during the entire more than 200-year period of the Second Bulgarian Empire (1185-1396 AD), and the Black Sea resort town of Sozopol.
Thus, in Pliska, the fundraising campaign will seek to restore the so called Large Basilica and the eastern fortress wall and gate of the Inner City.
In Veliki Preslav, the raised funding will be used for the restoration of the so called Golden Church.
In Veliko Tarnovo, the money to be raised will be channeled into the reconstruction of Trapesitsa Hill, which was one of the two major fortified locations of the Bulgarian capital in the High Middle Ages together with Tsarevets Hill. However, while the Tsarevets Hill fortress has been partly rebuilt (between 1930 and 1981), and is one of Bulgaria’s top historical tourist attractions, this has not been the case with nearby Trapesitsa Hill, which is still being excavated.
Thus, the new NGO will seek money in order to rebuild the palace of the House of Asen (Asenevtsi or Asen Dynasty, r. 1185-1257), and the fortress walls of Trapesitsa Hill.
In the Black Sea resort town of Sozopol, the raised funds will be used for the restoration of four Early Christian monasteries – St. John the Baptist Monastery on St. Ivan Island off the Sozopol coast where in 2010 Bulgarian archaeologist Prof. Kazimir Popkonstantinov made a stunning discovery by finding relics of St. John the Baptist; the St. Apostles Monastery; the St. Nikolay (St. Nikolaos or St. Nicholas) the Wonderworker Monastery; and Sts. Quriaqos and Julietta Monastery on the St. Cyricus (St. Kirik) Island.
The meeting in Shumen for the start of the fundraising campaign for the restorations has been attended by local businesspeople, and the mayors of the towns of Pliska, Veliki Preslav, and Kaspichan.
“I wanted the fundraising campaign to start in Shumen because the first Bulgarian capital Pliska boasted the largest Christian church in Europe in the Middle Ages,” National Museum of History Director Bozhidar Dimitrov told the participants in the meeting, adding that a local businessman, Iliya Popov, has already donated BGN 10,000 (app. EUR 5,100) and has been nominated to be in charge of the local chapter of the NGO.
“Everything will be accounted for publicly in order to avoid any doubts of abuse,” Dimitrov says, promising monthly reports about the money raised and spent as part of the NGO’s campaign.
The businesspeople who attended at the meeting were handed donation declarations where they can fill up the sum wish to donate if they decide to do so. They can also indicate which archaeological monument their donation should go to.
The head of Bulgaria’s National Museum of History points out that the idea for the restoration of some of the most impressive buildings from the medieval Bulgarian Empire goes back 15 years when another NGO called “Pliska” – after the first capital of Danube Bulgaria – was founded.
Its members have so far managed to finance the erection of a monument of Tsar (Knyaz) Boris I (r.852-889), who made Christianity Bulgaria’s official religion and patronized the development of the Bulgarian (Slavic) alphabets, the Glagolitc and the Cyrillic, located in the town of Pliska, and a monument of Gen. Konstantin Kavarnaliev (1866-1913), a hero from Bulgaria’s National Unification Wars (1885-1918), in the city of Shumen.
“It is our duty to restore Bulgaria’s historical memory. The restoration of the royal churches in Pliska and Veliki Preslav will help boost the development of cultural tourism in the region of Shumen,” Dimitrov argues.
He cited figures indicating that out of the 4 million tourists who made their holiday in the resorts on Bulgaria’s Northern Black Sea coast in 2014, about 800,000 visited the Hills of Tsarevets and Trapesitsa in Veliko Tarnovo, while only 26,000 visited Pliska. He has suggested this is due to Pliska’s lack of reconstructed archaeological monuments and tourism infrastructure.
Anybody who wishes to donate money for the reconstruction of the Large Basilica and the eastern fortress wall and gate of the Inner City of Pliska; the Golden Church in Veliki Preslav; the palace of the House of Asen and the fortress wall on Trapesitsa Hill in Veliko Tarnovo; and the four monasteries, St. John the Baptist, St. Nikolaos the Wonderworker, St. Apostles, and Sts. Quriaqos and Julietta in Sozopol, can do so to the following bank account:
Eurobank EFG Bulgaria
IBAN: BG47 BPBI 7939 1087 7828 01
Pliska and Veliki (i.e. Great) Preslav are two of the capitals of the First Bulgarian Empire. Pliska was the capital of the First Bulgarian Empire in 680-893 AD, and Veliki Preslav in 893-970 AD, at the height of the Bulgarian state. The state capital was moved from Pliska to Veliki Preslav, a new medieval city nearby, in 893 AD in order to seal Bulgaria’s adoption of Christianity and the Bulgarian (Slavic, Cyrillic) script. The ruins of both Pliska and Veliki Preslav can be seen today in the Shumen District in Northeast Bulgaria.