Trapesitsa Fortress in Bulgaria’s Veliko Tarnovo to Welcome Visitors as Cultural Tourism Site in 1 Year
The Trapesitsa Hill Fortress, which is one of the two citadels together with the Tsarevets Hill Fortress, of Tarnovgrad (today’s Veliko Tarnovo), capital of the Second Bulgarian Empire (1185-1396 AD), will be ready to welcome tourists as a cultural tourism site in a year.
The Trapesitsa Fortress is presently being partly restored, as the archaeologists continue to excavate and research various sections of one of the two major strongholds inside the late medieval Bulgarian capital.
However, in one year or less, the site is going to welcome its first visitors, Veliko Tarnovo Municipality has announced, as cited by local news site Top Novini Veliko Tarnovo.
The partial archaeological restoration of the Trapesitsa Hill Fortress has become a criticized and controversial project because it will be funded with EUR 1.2 million by the Heydar Aliyev Foundation of the government of Azerbaijan.
The Bulgarian government has been criticized by independent journalists for accepting a donation by the Foundation because of the human rights and media freedom record of Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev, while some NGOs have criticized the plans for the restoration of several archaeological structures over their “hastiness” and “lack of transparency”.
At the same time, however, the Azerbaijani government funding has been warmly welcomed by the administration of Veliko Tarnovo Mayor Daniel Panov.
The President of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation is Mehriban Aliyeva, the First Lady of Azerbaijan. The foundation has sponsored several projects in Western Europe including renovations at the Louvre Museum and the Palace of Versailles, an EUR 40,000 donation for stained-glass windows in France‘s Strasbourg Cathedral, and an EUR 50,000 donation for the reconstruction of the Berlin City Palace in Germany.
The Azerbaijani-funded project provides for the restoration of a 400-meter section of the western fortress wall of Trapesitsa; building a 700-meter alley linking a panoramic elevator with the reconstructed southwestern gate of Trapesitsa leading to the Tsarevets Hill Fortress; setting up a museum and visitor center displaying archaeological artifacts found during the excavations; restoring and displaying three churches with preserved fragments of medieval murals and frescoes; rehabilitation of the road leading to the Trapesitsa Hill.
“Trapesitsa is a fortress which is connected not just with the history of Veliko Tarnovo, but also with the history of all of Bulgaria. We strive not only to preserve and protect our cultural and historical heritage but also to open [for tourists] new sites and attractions that will extend the tourists’ visits,” Veliko Tarnovo Mayor Daniel Panov is quoted as saying.
Thus, in addition to the partial archaeological restoration of the Trapesitsa Hill Fortress, Veliko Tarnovo Municipality is going to expand the so called Tsarevgrad Tarnov Multimedia Visitors’ Center dedicated to the Second Bulgarian Empire.
It will add two more floors (an additional area of app. 1,000 square meters) to the Center’s exhibition space.
Other upcoming measures for boosting Veliko Tarnovo’s cultural tourism potential include the reconstruction of 36 streets, squares, and museum buildings in the city’s Old Town, and the setting up of a new archaeological park in the Asen’s Quarter. These projects will be executed with EU funding under Operational Program “Regions in Growth”.
The partial restoration of the Trapesitsa Fortress was originally supposed to be completed before October 26, 2015, when Veliko Tarnovo and all of Bulgaria will celebrate the 830th anniversary since the Uprising of Tsar Asen I and Tsar Petar IV, which restored the Bulgarian state in 1185 AD, after it had been conquered by the Byzantine Empire in 1018 AD.
Also check out our other recent stories about the archaeological discoveries and developments connected with the Trapesitsa Hill Fortress and Bulgaria’s Veliko Tarnovo:
The Trapesitsa Hill is one of two main fortified historic hills in the medieval city of Tarnovgrad, today’s Veliko Tarnovo, in Central Northern Bulgaria, the capital of the Second Bulgarian Empire between 1185 and 1396 AD. Together with the Tsarevets Hill, Trapesitsa was one of the two fortresses of the inner city acropolis of Tarnovgrad (Veliko Tarnovo). The Trapesitsa Hill is a natural fortress on the right bank of the Yantra River, and is surrounded by it on three sides. It is located northwest of the Tsarevets Hill. The Trapesitsa Fortress had four gates, the main one being its southern gate, which was also connected with the Tsarevets Fortress with a bridge across the Yantra River. There are two hypotheses about Trapesitsa’s name. The first one is that it comes from the Bulgarian word “trapeza” meaning a “table” or “repast”, possibly referring to the receptions of the medieval Bulgarian Tsars; the second hypothesis is that the word comes from “trapezium” because the hill is in fact is a trapezoidal plateau.
The first archaeological excavations on the Trapesitsa Hill Fortress in Bulgaria’s Veliko Tarnovo between 1884 and 1900 revealed the foundations of 17 medieval Bulgarian churches with fragments of rich murals, colorful mosaics, and beautiful floor tiles. The documented artifacts discovered there include crosses, necklaces, coins, rings, earrings, vessels. The churches on Trapesitsa were richly decorated with various architectural forms such as pilasters, niches, blind arches, colored slabs, among others.
The largest preserved church on the Trapesitsa Hill known as “Church No. 8” is named after the 10th century AD Bulgarian saint, St. Ivan Rilski (St. John of Rila) (876-946 AD); it was surrounded with other buildings which are believed to have been part of a monastery complex. It is known that in 1195 AD, Bulgaria’s Tsar Asen I (r. 1189-1196 AD) transported the relics of St. Ivan Rilski from the city of Sredets (today’s Sofia) to Tarnovgrad (today’s Veliko Tarnovo), and had them placed in the specially constructed church on the Trapesitsa Hill. The Bulgarian archaeologists believe that a room in the southern part of Church No. 8 was the reliquary for St. Ivan Rilski’s relics. The relics of St. Ivan Rilski (St. John of Rila), who is Bulgaria’s patron saint, were kept in Veliko Tarnovo until 1469 AD when they were transported to the Rila Monastery where they are kept to this day in what became a major event for the Bulgarians during the early period of the Ottoman Yoke (1396-1878/1912), as the Second Bulgarian Empire had been conquered by the invading Ottoman Turks in 1396 AD. The numerous and richly decorated small churches indicate that the Trapesitsa Hill harbored the homes of the medieval Bulgarian nobility, the boyars, and the supreme clergy. More recent excavations, however, also indicate that the imperial palace of the early Bulgarian Tsars from the House of Asen (the Asen Dynasty, r. 1185-1257 AD) was in fact located on the Trapesitsa Hill, and the imperial seat was possibly moved to the nearby Tsarevets Hill only later, during the reign of Tsar Ivan Asen II (r. 1218-1241 AD). In the recent years, the Trapesitsa Hill has been excavated by Prof. Konstantin Totev from the Veliko Tarnovo Branch of the National Institute and Museum of Archaeology of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, and by Prof. Hitko Vatchev from the Veliko Tarnovo Regional Museum of History.