Medieval Asen’s Fortress in Bulgaria’s Asenovgrad Accessible Only by Foot over Collapsing Road
One of Bulgaria’s most famous archaeological and historical landmarks – Asen’s Fortress (Asenova Krepost) in the southern town of Asenovgrad – is accessible for tourists only by foot, after the local authorities have failed to fix the road leading up to it, which has been damaged by a landslide.
The area of Asen’s Fortress, which 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, has been affected by three landslides since March 2015.
Asenovgrad Municipality is still expecting an aid of BGN 2.15 million (app. EUR 1.2 million) from the Bulgarian government for the propping-up of the road leading from Asenovgrad to the town of Lyaskovo and to Asen’s Fortress, the municipal administration has announced.
At the end of last week, the local authorities tried to prop up the affected road on their own, and managed to restore traffic in both lanes for about 4-5 hours, after which the road collapsed once again.
As a result, only one of the lanes is kept open but only for emergency purposes such as providing food supplies and medical aid to the three small mountain towns – Lyaskovo, Yavrovo, and Dobralak – for which this is the only road. Any tourists who wish to visit Asen’s Fortress need to park their cars or buses at a distant spot, and walk about a mile on foot to reach the archaeological monument.
The landslide affecting the road to Asen’s Fortress has an area of about 200 decares (app. 50 acres), and unless it is propped up soon, the road might collapse further. The archaeological and historical monument itself is said not to be in danger.
In addition to the landslide, Asen’s Fortress together with its 12th-13th century Church of the Holy Mother of God was faced with another issue, after a personal plea by Archimandrite Simon, the Father Superior of the Bachkovo Monastery, one of the most famous Bulgarian Orthodox monasteries, which is located near the town of Asenovgrad and Asen’s Fortress (Asenova Krepost), with Prime Minister Borisov for transferring the ownership of the archaeological site from the Asenovgrad Municipality to the Monastery.
The Bulgarian Cabinet, however, has snubbed Bachkovo Monastery’s request as “absurd”.
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 Crusaders’ 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-nave 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).