Archaeologists Find Medieval Inn ‘with Brothel’ in Kastritsi Fortress on Bulgaria’s Black Sea Coast

The ruins of the newly found 14th century inn, which might have also been a brothel, in the Kastritsi Fortress on Bulgaria's Black Sea coast. Photo: Trud daily

The ruins of the newly found 14th century inn, which might have also been a brothel, in the Kastritsi Fortress on Bulgaria’s Black Sea coast. Photo: Trud daily

A large 14th century inn, which might possibly also have been a “brothel”, has been discovered during the 2016 summer excavations of the Kastritsi Fortress located close to the Euxinograd Palace, a residence of the Bulgarian government, on the Black Sea coast near Varna.

The ancient and medieval fortress of Kastritsi was a major and thriving sea port during the Late Medieval Ages.

The fortress and its buildings have been especially well preserved because it is inside the enclosed territory of the Euxinograd Residence of the Bulgarian government, which has been with limited public access since the end of the 19th century.

This has prevented treasure hunters and looters from damaging it, unlike what they have been doing to thousands of other archaeological and historical sites all over Bulgaria.

The newly discovered medieval inn in Kastritsi had an area of 450 square meters, and two floors, with 12 rooms on each floor, Prof. Valentin Pletnyov, Director of the Varna Museum of Archaeology, has told the Trud daily.

The inn had a gable roof as well as both inner and outer staircases. It is these staircases leading up directly to the rooms on the second floor that have led to the assumption that the inn might have been a brothel.

The report notes that brothels were probably common for all sea port inns in the Middle Ages.

“We have found a building, possibly an inn, with over 12 rooms on the first floor, with traces of the spots for climbing up to the second floor. The building had one long wall [inside] which was a joint wall for all rooms. Every room had a kiln, i.e. a fireplace built of stone. We have found pottery with graffiti and numerous coins and household artifacts,” Pletnyov has told Radio Focus Varna in an interview.

In his words, the most interesting finds include a hoard of 36 coins of Ottoman Sultan Bayezid I the Thunderbolt (Yildirim) (r. 1389-1402) who conquered what had been left of the Second Bulgarian Empire (1185-1396) in 1393-1396, and another hoard of silver coins of his father Emir (Sultan) Murad I (r. 1362-1389).

Other coin finds include coins of Bulgarian Tsar Ivan Alexander (r. 1331-1371) and Despot Dobrotitsa, ruler of the Dobrudzha Despotate (Principality of Karvuna) in Northeast Bulgaria (r. 1347-1385), and coins from Asia Minor, Egypt, Italy, Poland, and Wallachia.

Another find from the latest digs in Kastritsi, which is very rare for Bulgaria’s territory, is the so called Lydian stone which was used for testing the carats of gold and silver coins and other items, an instrument essential for making commercial deals.

Other newly discovered artifacts in the Black Sea fortress include a small anvil and a matrix for forging silver icons of the Holy Mother of God (Virgin Mary) Panagia dating back to the middle of the 14th century.

This is the second icon matrix of this kind to have been found there, with another matrix for forging icons of Jesus Christ the Pantrokrator having been discovered several years ago.

Inside the kilns of the medieval inn in Kastritsi the archaeologists have discovered bones from lambs, cattle, and pigs, as well as bones of tuna and turbot, and fish hooks, which have been examined with the aid of experts from the Fridtjof Nansen Institute of Oceanology in Varna.

The latest structures from the medieval inn to have been exposed are located in the southwestern part of Cape Yani. This is where Tsar Ferdinand (r. 1887-1918), ruler of the Third Bulgarian Tsardom (1878-1944/46), loved to observe the sea from a stone throne which was destroyed during the construction of a breakwater in the Communist period (1944/48-1989).

The 2016 excavations of the Kastritsi Fortress, which are about to be wrapped up, have been carried out with a total of BGN 17,000 (app. EUR 8,500) in funding from Bulgaria’s Ministry of Culture.

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Another view of the ruins of the 14th century inn "with brothel" in Bulgaria's Kastritsi Fortress. Photo: Trud daily

Another view of the ruins of the 14th century inn “with brothel” in Bulgaria’s Kastritsi Fortress. Photo: Trud daily

In addition to the Kastritsi Fortress, in 2016, the archaeologists from the Varna Museum of Archaeology are also working on the excavations of the 9th century Knyazheski (Royal) Monastery in the Karaach Teke area, in Varna’s Asparuhovo Quarter, the Ancient Roman and Byzantine city of Marcianopolis (Marcianople) in the today’s town of Devnya, the Late Antiquity fortress on Cape St. Athanasius in the Black Sea town of Byala, and the Petrich Kale Fortress in Varna’s hinterland.

The excavations of the Knyazheski (Royal) Monastery are set to start on August 15, 2016; they will be led by Prof. Kazimir Popkonstantinov, a specialist in Christian archaeology from Veliko Tarnovo University “St. Cyril and St. Methodius”, and will be funded with BGN 10,000 by the Bulgarian Ministry of Culture.

The resumed excavations of the Roman and Byzantine city of Marcianopolis (Marcianople) are funded by both the Culture Ministry and Devnya Municipality, and will be led by archaeologist Hristo Kuzov from the Varna Museum of Archaeology.

The digs at the St. Athanasius Cape Fortress in the Black Sea town of Byala are being led by Prof. Valeri Yotov from the Varna Museum of Archaeology, who has also been working on the excavations of the Thracian, Roman, and Byzantine city of Zaldapa.

The excavations of the Petrich Kale Fortress, a major stronghold from the Late Middle Ages, located near the town of Razdelna, are scheduled for September 2016, and will be funded with a total of BGN 15,000 (app. EUR 7,500) by the Ministry of Culture.

Also check out our other recent stories about the archaeological excavation of the Kastritsi Fortress in Euxinograd:

Archaeologists Find Coins of Mamluk Sultanate of Egypt in Kastritsi Fortress near Bulgaria’s Varna

Archaeologists Find Medieval Procession Cross, Bulgarian, Ottoman Coin Treasure at Black Sea Fortress Kastritsi

Bulgarian Archaeologists Unearth Entire Residential Quarter in Medieval Fortress Kastritsi on Black Sea Coast

Background Infonotes:             

The Late Antiquity Byzantine and medieval Bulgarian fortress and city of Kastritsi is located to the northeast of the Bulgarian Black Sea city of Varna, in the Euxinograd Residence of the Bulgarian government on the northern coast of the Bay of Varna. It occupies the St. George (St. Yani) Cape. The fortress of Kastritsi was built by the Byzantine (Eastern Roman) Empire in the 5th century AD, and was expanded in the 6th century AD. It was destroyed in the barbarian invasions of the Slavs and Avars in the early 7th century AD, and was abandoned. The Kastritsi Fortress was restored in the middle of the 13th century AD by the Second Bulgarian Empire (1186-1396 AD), and emerged as a medieval Black Sea city. The preserved medieval fortress walls rises to up to 3 meters. The outer fortress wall has a total of 5 rectangular fortress towers with a diameter of 5.5 meters, and a three-meter wide gate. The fortress’s keep is a rectangular multi-story tower located in its western corner. The inside of the fortress features the ruins of a city from the High and Late Middle Ages, including an entire densely populated residential quarter of stone-masonry homes, and a one-nave, one-apse church.

It is believed that Kastritsi is one of the Late Antiquity Byzantine fortresses on the Black Sea coast described by the 6th century AD Byzantine chronicler Procopius of Caesarea (ca. 500-ca. 560 AD) though its name was not mentioned. The Kastritsi Fortress was described in the early 14th century by cartographers from Genoa as in the High and Late Middle Ages it had thriving commercial relations with the Italian city-states Genoa and Venice. Kastritsi’s fortifications protected an area of 20 decares (app. 5 acres). The discovered skeletons of men, women, and children indicated that the city’s population was slaughtered by the invading Ottoman Turks who conquered the Second Bulgarian Empire at the end of the 14th century AD. The Turks settled Kastritsi briefly but abandoned the city in the 15th century (the most recent coins discovered there are from 1404 AD). Some Bulgarian archaeologists have hypothesized that the Ottoman Turks might have vacated the fortress of Kastritsi because of the raids of the Vlachs (Wallachians) from the north.

In the Late Middle Ages, Kastritsi was a typical medieval city with narrow streets and large homes. The archaeological remains of the medieval homes, streets, churches, and fortifications of Kastritsi are very well preserved allowing the Bulgarian archaeologists to discover lots of pottery vessels, metal tools, decorations, and over 2,500 coins. If it is researched more thoroughly, conserved, and exhibited, Kastritsi has the potential to show a fully preserved medieval Bulgarian city with a major potential for historical and cultural tourism, according to archaeologists.

The Kastritsi City and Fortress north of Bulgaria’s Varna is especially well preserved because it is inside the enclosed territory of the Euxinograd Residence of the Bulgarian government, which has been with limited public access since the end of the 19th century, meaning that treasure hunters and looters could not do damage to it, unlike what they have done to thousands of other archaeological and historical sites all over Bulgaria. The Euxinograd Residence was built on lands that the first ruler of Liberated Bulgaria, i.e. the Third Bulgarian Tsardom, Knyaz Alexander I Batenberg, received as a gift from the Greek Bishopric in Varna after Bulgaria’s Liberation from the Ottoman Empire in 1878. Thus, access to the site has been limited since 1890, and Kastritsi is said to be the only Bulgarian medieval city with a preserved port which has not seen any construction after the Late Middle Ages.

The Kastritsi Fortress and City was first excavated in 1899 by Czech-Bulgarian archaeologist Karel Skorpil, who, together with his brother Hermann Skorpil, is the founder of modern-day Bulgarian archaeology. Its most recent archaeological excavations have been conducted every summer since 2004 by archaeologists from the Varna Museum of Archaeology led by its Director, Prof. Valentin Pletnyov. The recent archaeological discoveries there include a treasure of 166 silver coins of Bulgarian Tsar Ivan Alexander (r. 1331-1371 AD) and his son Mihail Asen, who was declared a “Co-Tsar” by Ivan Alexander in 1331 upon the latter’s assumption of the Bulgarian throne. Mihail Asen died in a battle against the Ottoman Turks near Sredets (today’s Sofia) in 1355 AD. The treasure in question is one of the largest medieval Bulgarian treasures discovered in recent years. In addition to these and many other Bulgarian coins, other0 treasure finds from Kastritsi include Byzantine, Tartar, Vlachian, Moldavian, Venetian, and Ottoman Turkish coins. These include a treasure of silver coins of Ottoman Sultan Bayezid I the Thunderbolt (r. 1389-1402 AD) and of Wallacian ruler Mircea the Elder (Mircea I of Wallachia (r. 1386-1418 AD) who held the region of Dobrudzha (today’s Northeast Bulgaria and Southeast Romania) in the early 15th century. The finds also include a rare gold coin from the Antiquity minted in the Ancient Greek colony of Callatis (today’s Mangalia in Romania) during the reign of Lysimachus (r. 306-281 BC), one of Alexander I the Great’s generals, and one of his diadochi (successors) who became King of Macedon, Thrace, and Asia Minor.

The Bulgarian archaeologists have excavated more than one-fifth of the territory of the Kastritsi Fortress, have started some conservation efforts, and have opened part of the site for tourists.

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