Bulgaria’s Kardzhali Signs Grant Contract for Restoration of Ancient, Medieval Rock City Perperikon

A view of the Perperikon Tower. Photo by Haskovo Tourist Information Center, haskovo-bulgaria.com

A view of the Perperikon Tower. Photo: Haskovo Tourist Information Center, haskovo-bulgaria.com

Bulgaria’s Ministry of Culture and the southern Kardzhali Municipality have signed a grant contract for the restoration of the medieval Bulgarian fortress of Perperikon, which also harbors a prehistoric, Ancient Thracian and Roman rock city, with funding provided from the European Economic Area (EEA) and Norway Grants.

The contract for the grant provided by the EEA and Norway development mechanism for the partial restoration of Perperikon, which is worth EUR 748,203, has been signed by Kardzhali Mayor Hasan Azis.

The grant is provided from the EEA/Norway Grants mechanism under a measure for the restoration, rehabilitation, and preservation of cultural heritage.

An EEA/Norway grant worth EUR 736,000 has also been provided to Pavlikeni Municipality in Northern Bulgarian for the restoration of an Ancient Roman ceramic factory at a Roman military veteran’s villa estate.

Kardzhali Municipality explains in a statement that the EEA/Norway funding will be used for the restoration of the southwest part of Perperikon’s acropolis.

“It is no accident that the Perperikon Archaeological Complex has its well-deserved place among the wonders of Bulgaria and Europe. The present project aims to restore, preserve, and promote it as part of the Bulgarian and European cultural heritage,” says the statement of the municipal authorities in the city of Kardzhali, which is located in the Rhodope Mountains, 15 km away from the ancient and medieval rock city and fortress of Perperikon.

The work on the partial restoration of Perperikon is planned to be completed by the end of April 2016.

In March, Bulgarian archaeologist Prof. Nikolay Ovcharov, who has been excavating the ancient and medieval rock city in the Rhodope Mountain in Southern Bulgaria since 2000, announced that a project for the partial restoration of Perperikon has won a grant, after being ranked fifth out of a total of seven projects approved for funding from the Norwegian government under the so called Norway Grants program.

The funding will be used exclusively for conservation and restoration of medieval structures from the megalithic complex of Perperikon.

In September 2014, the local authorities marked the completion of a project for excavations and improvement of the tourist infrastructure of the ancient and medieval rock city; the project was funded by the EU, and was worth a total of BGN 3.7 million (app. EUR 1.9 million).

However, no major restorations of any of the archaeological structures at Perperikon have been carried out to date. The funding from the EEA/Norway will be utilized to restore the medieval fortress tower of Perperikon, part of which is still standing, and to rebuild fully the northern wall of the citadel fortress and the walls of the former archbishop’s palace.

The restorations of ancient and medieval fortresses and castles, which are lavishly funded with EU money for the development of cultural tourism, have recently caused a heated public debate in Bulgaria over some cases of outrageously botched executions denigrating the historical monuments.

Prof. Ovcharov, however, has vowed to exert personal control over the restoration of the Perperikon fortress in order to preserve its authentic appearance, and that the structures will not be fully rebuilt, unlike the cases with some of the flawed restorations.

Some of the most exciting prehistoric, ancient, and medieval finds from the 2014 excavations at Perperikon have recently been presented during the 8th Annual Exhibit “Bulgarian Archaeology 2014″ in Sofia.

Background Infonotes:

Perperikon (also called Perperek or Perperik) is an ancient rock city located in the Rhodope Mountains in Southern Bulgaria, 15 km away from the city of Kardzhali. It is a large-scale archaeological complex including historical monuments from different ages. Those include a megalithic sanctuary dating back to the Neolithic Age, the 6th millennium BC, a Bronze Age settlement, and a holy rock city established by the Ancient Thracians later taken over by the Romans, Goths, and Byzantines, respectively. In the Middle Ages, especially during the time of the Second Bulgarian Empire (1185-1396 AD), it was the site of a strong fortress and a royal palace that Bulgaria and Byzantium fought over numerous times. Perperikon has been excavated since 2000 by Bulgarian archaeologist Nikolay Ovcharov who has found evidence that the mythical ancient Temple of Dionysius was located there. The rock city and fortress at Perperikon, not unlike the vast majority of the medieval Bulgarian fortresses, were destroyed by the invading Ottoman Turks in the 14th century.