A view from a distance of Asen’s Fortress hill with the Churth of the Holy Mother of God. The entire hill has been affected by a total of five landslides in the past 2 months. Photo: Asenovgrad Municipality
Because of the landslide, which is the fifth in the area of Asen’s Fortress in the past two months, a 25-meter section of the one of the road’s two lanes has collapsed by about 100 meters.
Asen’s Fortress, which dates back to the height of the Second Bulgarian Empire (1185-1396 AD) and the Asen Dynasty (1185-1256 AD), and is a major archaeological and historical attraction for cultural tourism, is still accessible through the remaining lane of the road leading up to it.
Asenovgrad Municipality has informed Bulgaria’s Ministry of Regional Development and the Governor of Plovdiv District about the new landslide.
At the end of March 2015, because of the torrentialrains, three landslides affected the rocky hill where Asen’s Fortress is located. Another landslide, the largest one so far, emerged in April.
Asenovgrad Municipality needs a total of BGN 2.125 million (app. EUR 1.08 million) to cope with the landslides affecting the area of Asen’s Fortress.
For the time being, there has been no indication that the fortress itself is threatened but if the landslides keep eroding the rocky hill where it stands the unique historicalsite might be endangered.
Asen’s Fortress (Asenova Krepost) is a medieval Bulgarian fortress near the southern Bulgarian town of Asenovgrad (which takes its name from the fortress). It dates back to the height of the Second Bulgarian Empire (1185-1396 AD) and the Asen Dynasty (1185-1256 AD).
Asen’s Fortress is located on a 300-meter-high isolated rock, on the northern slope of the Rhodope Mountains. Its location features traces of Neolithic, Ancient Thracian, and Byzantine settlements. It was mentioned as Petrich (not to be confused with today’s town in Southwestern Bulgaria) in an 11th century statute of the nearby Bachkovo Monastery. Asen’s Fortress was conquered by crusaders from the Third Crusade.
It was renovated in 1231 AD during the reign of Bulgarian Tsar Ivan Asen II (r. 1218-1241) as a stronghold against the Crusanders’ Latin Empire (1204-1261). It is best known for the well preserved 12th-13th century Church of the Holy Mother of God, a two-storey cross-domed single-naved church with a wide narthex and a large rectangular tower, with 14th century murals.
Asen’s Fortress was captured by Byzantium after Tsar Ivan Asen II‘s death, and regained by Bulgaria in 1344 under Tsar Ivan Alexander (1331-1371). It was conquered by the Ottomans Turks during their invasion of Bulgaria at the end of the 14th century even though the church remained in use during the following centuries. According to some sources, the fortress was destroyed in the Ottoman Interregnum when Ottoman princes fought for the succession of the Ottoman throne (1402-1413 AD).